School of Human and Community Development (Journal Articles)

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    The Role of Social Sciences in Advancing a Public Health Approach to Violence
    (Handbook of Social Sciences and Global Public Health, 2023-03-02) Brodie, Nechama; Bowman, Brett; Ncube, Vuyolwethu; Day, Sarah
    The public health approach maintains that violence is shaped by a range of risk factors that can be altered, mitigated, or even eliminated. onceptualizing violence as a type of “preventable disease” has provided important insights and interventions but also introduces limitations that may not be sufficiently acknowledged or understood within this perspective, particularly in the Global South. This chapter briefly outlines the history of the public health approach to violence in South Africa before describing its yields and limits. It then draws on recent studies, which suggest that the integration of interdisciplinary approaches emerging from a strong social science tradition can mitigate many of the conceptual limitations of the public health approach. The chapter concludes by demonstrating how approaches to violence grounded in these sorts of frameworks promise to deliver context-rich explanations of violence alongside the socio-ecological accounts for violence favored by a public health approach.
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    The second wave of violence scholarship: South African synergies with a global research agenda
    (Elsevier, 2015) Bowman, Brett; Stevens, Garth; Eagle, Gillian; Langa, Malose; Kramer, Sherianne; Kigua, Peace; Nduna, Mzikazi
    Violence is a serious public health and human rights challenge with global psychosocial impacts across the human lifespan. As a recently classified middle-income country (MIC), South Africa experiences high levels of interpersonal, self-directed and collective violence, taking physical, sexual and/or psychological forms. Careful epidemiological research has consistently shown that complex causal pathways bind the social fabric of structural inequality, socio-cultural tolerance of violence, militarized masculinity, disrupted community and family life, and erosion of social capital, to individual-level biological, developmental and personality-related risk factors to produce this polymorphic profile of violence in the country. Engaging with a concern that violence studies may have reached something of a theoretical impasse, ‘second wave’ violence scholars have argued that the future of violence research may not lie primarily in merely amassing more data on risk but rather in better theorizing the mechanisms that translate risk into enactment, and that mobilize individual and collective aspects of subjectivity within these enactments. With reference to several illustrative forms of violence in South Africa, in this article we suggest revisiting two conceptual orientations to violence, arguing that this may be useful in developing thinking in line with this new global agenda. Firstly, the definition of our object of enquiry requires revisiting to fully capture its complexity. Secondly, we advocate for the utility of specific incident analyses/case studies of violent encounters to explore the mechanisms of translation and mobilization of multiple interactive factors in enactments of violence. We argue that addressing some of the moral and methodological challenges highlighted in revisiting these orientations requires integrating critical social science theory with insights derived from epidemiology and, that combining these approaches may take us further in understanding and addressing the recalcitrant range of forms and manifestations of violence.
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    Bridging risk and enactment: the role of psychology in leading psychosocial research to augment the public health approach to violence in South Africa
    (2014) Bowman, Brett; Stevens, Garth; Eagle, Gillian; Maztopoulos, Richard
    In the wake of apartheid, many in the South African health and social sciences shifted their orientation to understanding violence. Rather than approaching violence as a criminal problem, post-apartheid scholarship surfaced violence as a threat to national health. This re-orientation was well aligned with a global groundswell that culminated in the World Health Assembly’s 1996 declaration of violence as a public health problem. In response, researchers and other stakeholders have committed to the public health approach to violence in South Africa. Despite some unquestionable successes in applying this approach, violence remains a critical social issue and its recalcitrantly high rates signal that there is still much work to be done. One avenue for more focussed research concerns understanding the mechanisms by which upstream risk factors for violence are translated into actual enactments. We argue that South African psychology is well placed to provide greater resolution to this focus. We begin by providing a brief overview of the public health approach to violence. We then point to three specific areas in which the limits to our understanding of the way that downstream psychological and upstream social risk factors converge in situations of violence, compromise the theoretical and prevention traction promised by this approach and chart several basic psychosocial research coordinates for South African psychology. Steering future studies of violence by these coordinates would go some way to addressing these limits and, in so doing, extend on the substantial gains already yielded by the public health approach to violence in South Africa.
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    Confessing sex in online student communities
    (Elsevier, 2017) Dominguez-Whitehead, Yasmine; Whitehead, Kevin A; Bowman, Brett
    In this paper, we examine Facebook “Confessions” sites associated with two large universities (one North American and one South African) to investigate the ways in which students interactionally negotiate normativity in discussions initiated by confessions relating to sex. The research is grounded in a Foucauldian framework that emphasizes the centrality of sex and sexuality. Our findings focus on two interrelated aspects of the data. The first concerns the features of the initial (anonymous) confessional posts, and the second relates to subsequent comments on the initial post. Close examination of initial posts offers insights into participants’ orientations to sexual acts, situations and beliefs that are treated as either normative or transgressive. Subsequent comments posted by participants reveal ways in which the “confessability” of confessions is interactionally ratified or contested. The findings thus demonstrate some ways in which normative sexuality is (re)produced, ratified, and contested within student online communities.
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    Producing, ratifying and resisting support in an online support forum
    (Sage, 2016) Kaufman, Samantha; Whitehead, Kevin A
    Previous research examining online support forums has tended to focus either on evaluating their effectiveness while paying limited or no attention to the details of the interactions therein, or on features of their social organization, without regard to their effectiveness in fulfilling their stated purposes. In this paper, we consider both the interactional features of a forum and participants’ treatment thereof as being effective (or otherwise), thus adopting a view of effectiveness grounded in participants’ proximate orientations and actions. Our analysis demonstrates some ways in which participants produce ratified displays of empathy in response to troubles expressed by another, as well as considering some designedly supportive actions that are treated by their recipients as unsupportive or antagonistic. Our findings indicate some structural features of such forums that facilitate the production of support, while suggesting that claims of knowledge tend to treated as a basis of resistance to ostensibly supportive actions.
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    Moving Forward by Doing Analysis
    (Sage, 2012) Whitehead, Kevin A
    In this paper, I address some of the issues for the analysis of categorial features of talk and texts raised by Stokoe’s ‘Moving forward with membership categorization analysis: Methods for systematic analysis.’ I begin by discussing a number of points raised by Stokoe, relating to previous conversation analytic work that has addressed categorial matters; the implicit distinction in her paper between ‘natural’ and ‘contrived’ data; and ambiguity with respect to the (possible) relevance of categories in particular practices or utterances. I then discuss how my own previous work could be located in light of Stokoe’s discussion of debates and divergences between CA and MCA, and argue that being bound by the integrity of the data on which an analysis is based (Schegloff, 2005) should take precedence over attempting to characterize the analysis as exemplifying either a CA- or MCA-based approach. I conclude by calling for a commitment to doing analysis, and pointing to the value of the resources Stokoe offers in this regard.
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    Producing and Responding to –isms in Interaction
    (Sage, 2015) Whitehead, Kevin A; Stokoe, Elizabeth
    We provide an introduction to some of the conceptual and methodological debates with respect to the focus of this special issue on –isms (a term used to refer to phenomena such as racism, sexism, and heterosexism), focusing on the definition and identification of these phenomena. We offer an overview of the different approaches to research in this regard, and conclude by summarizing the contributions to this special issue.
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    Everyday Antiracism in Action: Preference Organization in Responses to Racism
    (Sage, 2015) Whitehead, Kevin A
    This paper examines features of preference organization in disaffiliative responses to possibly racist actions, drawing on a corpus of over 120 hours of recorded interactions from South African radio call-in shows. My analysis demonstrates how features of dispreferred turn shapes provide producers of possibly racist actions with opportunities to withdraw or back down from them. In cases where these opportunities are not taken up, subsequent responses may progressively include more features of preferred turn shapes. Responses may also include features of preferred turn shapes from the outset, thereby treating the prior actions as unequivocally racist. Responses that treat prior actions as such, however, also recurrently exhibit features of dispreference, thereby displaying speakers’ orientations to “cross-cutting preferences” in responding to racism, with disaffiliative responses being “dispreferred” actions in some senses but “preferred” actions in others. I conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for everyday antiracism in interactional settings.
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    Race trouble: Attending to race and racism in online interaction
    (2014) Durrheim, Kevin; Greener, Ross; Whitehead, Kevin A
    This article advocates the concept of Race Trouble as a way of synthesizing variation in racial discourse, and as a way of studying how social interaction and institutional life continue to be organized by conceptions of “race” and “racism”. Our analysis of an online discussion at a South African University about the defensibility of a characterization of (black) student protesters as “savages” revealed a number of familiar strategies: participants avoided explicit racism, denied racism, and denied racism on behalf of others. However, the aim of analysis was not to identify the “real” racism, but to show how race and racism were used in the interaction to develop perspectives on transformation in the institution, to produce social division in the University, and to create ambivalently racialized and racializing subject positions. We demonstrate how, especially through uses of deracialized discourse, participants’ actions were observably shaped by the potential ways in which others could hear “race” and “racism”. Race trouble thus became manifest through racial suggestion, allusion, innuendo and implication. We conclude with a call to social psychologists to study the ways in which meanings of “race” and “racism” are forged and contested in relation to each other.
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    The anatomy of ‘race trouble’ in online interactions
    (Taylor & Francis, 2014-01) Cresswell, Catherine; Whitehead, Kevin A; Durrheim, Kevin
    South Africa has a long history of race-related conflicts in a variety of settings, but the use of the concept ‘racism’ to analyse such conflicts is characterized by theoretical and methodological difficulties. In this article, we apply the alternative ‘race trouble’ framework developed by Durrheim, Mtose, and Brown (2011) to the examination of racialized conflicts in online newspaper forums. We analyse the conflicts using an approach informed by conversation analytic and discursive psychological techniques, focusing in particular on the emergence and use of race and racism as interactional resources. Our findings reveal some mechanisms through which the continuing salience of race in South Africa comes to be reproduced in everyday interactions, thereby suggesting reasons why race continues to garner social and cultural importance. Disagreements over the nature of racism were also recurrent in the exchanges that we examined, emonstrating the contested and shifting meanings of this concept in everyday interactions.
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    Food Talk: A Window into Inequality among University Students
    (De Gruyter Mouton, 2014-01) Dominguez-Whitehead, Yasmine; Whitehead, Kevin A
    Although initially related to the country’s colonial and apartheid history, material inequality in South Africa has deepened, with recent research suggesting that South Africa now has the highest levels of inequality in the world. In this paper, we examine the interactional reproduction of inequality by paying particular attention to the discursive and interactional practices employed in students’ talk about food. Specifically, we examine food-related troubles-talk and food-related jokes and humor, showing how students who described food-related troubles produced these troubles as shared and systemic, while students who produced food-related jokes displayed that they take for granted the material resources needed to have a range of food consumption choices available to them, while treating food consumption as a matter of individual choice. These orientations were collaboratively produced through a range of interactionally-organized practices, including patterns of alignment and dis-alignment, pronoun use, laughter, and aspects of the formulation of utterances. While our analysis primarily focuses on these discursive and interactional practices, we also consider how discursive practices can be linked to the material conditions of participants’ lives outside of the analyzed interactions.
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    Applying upstream interventions for interpersonal violence prevention: An uphill struggle in low- to middle-income contexts
    (Health Policy, 2010) Matzopoulos, Richard; Bowman, Brett; Mathews, Shanaaz; Myers, Jonny
    In South Africa’s Western Cape province, interpersonal violence was identified among the key prevention priorities in the provincial government’s Burden of Disease (BoD) Reduction project. To date, there are no adequate systematic reviews of the full range of potential intervention strategies. In response, available data and the literature on risk factors and prevention strategies for interpersonal violence were reviewed with a view to providing policy makers with an inventory of interventions for application. Given the predominance of upstream factors in driving the province’s rates of interpersonal violence, efforts to address its burden require an intersectoral approach. Achievable short-term targets are also required to offset the long-term nature of the strategies most likely to affect fundamental shifts. Documentation and evaluation will be important to drive long-term investment, ensure effectiveness and enable replication of successful programmes and should be considered imperative by interpersonal violence prevention policymakers in other low- to middle-income contexts.
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    Children, pathology and politics: a genealogy of the paedophile in South Africa between 1944 and 2004
    (South African Journal of Psychology, 2010) Bowman, Brett
    By the early 1990s the paedophile as a ‘type’ of child sexual abuse (CSA) perpetrator was prioritised for study and intervention by the South African socio-medical sciences and cases of paedophilia featured prominently in the media reporting of the time. Drawing on the genealogical method as derived from Michel Foucault, this study aimed to account for this relatively recent emergence of the paedophile as an object of socio-medical study and social anxiety within the South African archive. Based on an analysis of archival texts against the backdrop of international biopolitics and local conditions of political possibility, the genealogy contends that the early figure of the paedophile was an instrument and effect of apartheid biopolitics. The paedophile was prioritised for research and escalated as social threat in the public imagination as part of the broader apartheid project aimed at protecting white hegemony through the ongoing surveillance of and health interventions directed towards South Africa’s white children. While the apartheid project constructed black children as posing fundamental threats to white supremacy, discourses beginning in the mid-1980s repositioned them as vulnerable victims of apartheid itself. It was from within these discourses that child sexual abuse (CSA) as a public health concern began to crystallise. By locating blackness within the fields of discipline and desire, the material conditions for an ever-expanding net of sexual surveillance were established. The study thus demonstrates that even the paedophile cannot be effectively researched without considering the historical co-ordinates that so powerfully contoured its emergence as an important object of study and social intervention within South Africa’s highly racialised systems of thought.
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    Managing Self-Other Relations in Complaint Sequences: The use of Self-Deprecating and Affiliative Racial Categorizations
    (Taylor & Francis, 2013-04) Whitehead, Kevin A
    The production and reception of complaints in talk-in-interaction is shaped by a range of interactional contingencies, including matters of alignment and affiliation between the complainant and complaint recipient(s), and (in cases where the complainee is a person or people) considerations associated the implications of moral failing on the part of complainees. In this report, I describe two complementary practices through which speakers orient to and manage the implications of their racial category membership when acting in the course of complaint sequences. The first of these practices involves speakers’ use of self-deprecating self-categorizations, and the second involves affiliative ways of categorizing or referring to “racial others” (i.e., members of racial categories other than the speaker’s own category). These practices serve as ways in which participants can manage the matters of self-other relations made relevant in the course of complaint sequences.
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    The Professional Consequences of Political Silence
    (2013-03-13) Whitehead, Kevin A
    The article discusses the moral limits and professional consequences of the political dimensions of silence. It cites the debates on the article "How Do I Live in This Strange Place?" by Samantha Vice in which she stated the moral damaged caused by the position of White South Africans within the apartheid system and explains the sustainable distinction between political and professional silence. It also offers revealing insights on the life of people living in strange place.
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    Racial Categories as Resources and Constraints in Everyday Interactions: Implications for Racialism and Non-Racialism in Post-Apartheid South Africa
    (2013-03-13) Whitehead, Kevin A
    The anti-apartheid struggle was characterized by tensions between the opposing ideologies of non-racialism (exemplified by the Freedom Charter) and racialism (exemplified by Black Consciousness). These tensions have remained prevalent in public policies and discourse, and in the writings of social scientists, in the post-apartheid period. In this paper, I examine some ways in which issues of whether, when, and how race matters become visible in everyday interactions in South Africa, and what insights this may offer with respect to these ongoing tensions. Specifically, I employ an ethnomethodological, conversation analytic approach to examine some ways in which racial categories are treated as resources for action or constraints on action. I conclude by arguing that these findings point to the contingent and situational operation of a practical non-racialism (as well as practical racialism), and thus to the achievement of these ideologies in the moment-by-moment unfolding of interactions.
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    Some Uses of Head Nods in “Third Position” in Talk-in-Interaction
    (2013-03-13) Whitehead, Kevin A
    Previous research on the use of head nods in talk-in-interaction has demonstrated that they can be used for various interactional purposes by speakers and recipients in different sequential positions. In this report, I examine speakers’ uses of nods in “third position,” in the course of “minimal post-expansions” (Schegloff, 2007). I identify three possible distinct types of nods. The first of these can be used to register a prior utterance as news; the second appears to be designed to register receipt of a prior utterance without treating it as news; and the third embodies features of the first two types, and may be designed to register receipt and acknowledgment of “dispreferred” news. These findings are suggestive of rich complexities in the use of head movements in the production of actions-in-interaction, and of the importance of a fine-grained analytic approach for understanding their situated uses.
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    An ethnomethodological, conversation analytic approach to investigating race in South Africa
    (2013-03-12) Whitehead, Kevin A
    This primarily methodologically-oriented article describes how an ethnomethodologically informed, conversation analytic approach can be used to investigate the ways in which racial categories become relevant in ordinary interactions in post-apartheid South Africa. Drawing on descriptions of the data and procedures employed in a broader study of the continuing centrality of race for everyday life in South Africa, the article explicates the central features and assumptions of the approach and its utility in studying the operation of social category systems (or ‘membership categorization devices’) such as race in recorded interactions. This methodological discussion is illustrated by presenting some excerpts from the data upon which the broader study was based, thereby demonstrating some of the analytic payoffs of employing this type of approach. Specifically, I briefly describe a generalising practice through which speakers can treat race as relevant, or potentially relevant, for what they are doing. This empirical illustration demonstrates the utility of this approach in exploring how racial categories (and other social categories) may surface in interactions in which they have not been pre-specified as a topic of interest. The approach I describe thus offers insights into the deployment, and hence reproduction, of common-sense knowledge associated with social categories, and racial categories in particular, in ordinary episodes of interaction.
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    The Management of Racial Common Sense in Interaction
    (2013-03-12) Whitehead, Kevin A
    In this paper, I consider one mechanism by which racial categories, racial “common sense,” and thus the social organization of race itself, are reproduced in interaction. I approach these issues by using an ethnomethodological, conversation analytic approach to analyze a range of practices employed by participants of a “race-training” workshop to manage the normative accountability involved in referring to the racial categories of others when describing their actions, and thus in using racial common sense in talk-in-interaction. This accountability arises in part because a speaker’s use of a racial category to explain someone else’s actions may provide a warranted basis for recipients to treat the speaker’s own racial category as relevant for understanding and assessing the speaker’s actions. I describe three main ways in which speakers can manage this accountability, namely generalizing race, localizing race, and alluding to race. My analysis shows that, even in attempting to resist racial common sense in accounting for their own actions and those of others, speakers orient to race as a normative framework according to which individuals will produce their own actions and interpret those of others, and thus reproduce it as relevant for understanding social action. This research contributes to advancing knowledge in the fields of ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, racial studies, and categorical inequality.
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    Practical Asymmetries of Racial Reference
    (2013-03-12) Whitehead, Kevin A; Lerner, Gene H
    This report contributes to the study of racial discourse by examining some of the practical asymmetries that obtain between different categories of racial membership as they are actually employed in talk-in-interaction. In particular, we identify three interactional environments in which the ordinarily “invisible” racial category “white” is employed overtly, and we describe the mechanisms through which this can occur. These mechanisms include 1) “white” surfacing “just in time” as an account for action, 2) the occurrence of referential ambiguities with respect to race occasioning repairs that result in overt references to “white,” and 3) the operation of a recipient design consideration that we term “descriptive adequacy.” These findings demonstrate some ways in which the mundane invisibility of whiteness – or indeed, other locally invisible racial categories – can be both exposed and disturbed as a result of ordinary interactional processes, revealing the importance of the generic machinery of talk-in-interaction for understanding both the reproduction of and resistance to the racial dynamics of everyday life.