Original Research

The Robben Island diversity experience. An exploration of South African diversity dynamics

Marius Pretorius, Frans Cilliers, May Michelle
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 38, No 2 | a996 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v38i2.996 | © 2012 Marius Pretorius, Frans Cilliers, May Michelle | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 May 2011 | Published: 20 March 2012

About the author(s)

Marius Pretorius, University of South Africa, South Africa
Frans Cilliers, University of South Africa, South Africa
May Michelle, University of South Africa, South Africa

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Orientation: Because of its historic, symbolic and psychological representation, presenting a diversity event on Robben Island posed invaluable opportunities to form an in-depth understanding of South African diversity dynamics. This research focussed on such an event interpreted from the systems psychodynamic perspective.

Research purpose: The purpose of the research was to describe the experiences of participants attending the Robben Island Diversity Experience (RIDE) in order to understand South African diversity dynamics from a depth psychology perspective.

Motivation for the study: Of the many and different diversity events presented in South African organisations, RIDE is the only annual systems psycho-dynamically designed and presented event. This research was an effort to explore the nature of these dynamics which manifest themselves from below the surface.

Research design, approach and method: Qualitative and descriptive research from a hermeneutic phenomenology paradigm was used. The 15 participants who attended a RIDE event formed a case study. The data from an unstructured interview was content-analysed and interpreted using the systems psychodynamic perspective. The themes were integrated into a research hypothesis.

Main findings: Five themes manifested themselves, namely, crossing boundaries, engaging the brave new world, ties that bind, being imprisoned and the struggle.

Practical/managerial implications: The research highlighted the importance of understanding unconscious dynamics in the context of diversity in order to inform consultants about diversity management interventions in organisations.

Contribution/value-add: The research contributed towards how South African diversity dynamics manifest themselves and how that can be addressed in organisations.


Systems psychodynamics; group relations training; crossing boundaries; engaging the brave new world; ties that bind; being imprisoned; the struggle


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