The newly elected president of the International Union of Psychological Science, Dr. Saths Cooper believes that the perspectives of the traditional science of psychology can be complimented with the values of indigenous knowledge systems.
The International Union of Psychological Science represents 80 countries and is the leading psychology body in the world. Cooper is the first African to preside over the body and his tenure will last for the next four years.
Cooper was the driving force behind the successful bid to bring the 30th International Congress of Psychology to Cape Town, South Africa in July; thus marking the first occasion in its 123-year history that the congress was held on the African continent.
Cooper admits to the tension between indigenous knowledge and traditional western knowledge in the field of psychology.
“Well, I think there is a tension, understandably because the methods of psychology which is cut in the Judeo-Christian ethic can be looked at juxtaposed with ancient systems that also have a science that has survived denigration over centuries and that can offer the world its benefits.
“In the International Congress of Psychology, we had indigenous knowledge systems as a key area and that is something that will be explored in terms of that knowledge becoming available side by side with the western body of received Psychological science and indeed other knowledge so that the two may deal with each other. It doesn’t become where one is quaint and we pull it out for cultural shows but to truly begin to understand people in their context, in their specific history, so that across the globe they can have a shared future.”
Cooper points to his election as president of the International Congress of Psychology and the fact that the 30th International Congress of Psychology was held on African soil for the first time that the science is ready to take on perspectives outside of a western framework.
“At least 95 percent of the world’s population has a DNA that traces them back to this part of the world. The Khomani San are the oldest living indigenous people in the world and its significant not only because it is the first time on the continent also because things African have tended to be looked at more in the failure and the disaster than in the success and this congress has been the most successful congress of psychology.”
The success was based on, among other things, the high attendance rate and broad representation of delegates who came from all parts of the globe.
Cooper is a well-known anti-apartheid activist in South Africa. He was jailed for a total of nine years by the racist Apartheid regime. In 1998, he was declared a ‘victim of gross human rights violations’ by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
For his stance against the Apartheid regime; Cooper was conferred the International Union of Psychological Science Achievement Against the Odds Award. This award honors a researcher or team of researchers who succeeded in conducting research under extremely difficult circumstances.