26 September 2022 | Story Michelle Nöthling | Photo Stephen Collett
Prof Luzelle Naude
Prof Luzelle Naudé, Professor in the Department of Psychology, delivered her inaugural lecture on the topic: In Search of Self: Emerging Adults as Actors, Agents and Authors.

How do people endeavour to answer the question: Who am I?   This is the central question that Prof Luzelle Naudé – professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of the Free State (UFS), has built her academic career on. Under the title of her inaugural lecture, In Search of Self: Emerging Adults as Actors, Agents and Authors, delivered on14 September 2022, Prof Naudé traced the arc of her academic career over the past three decades. 

Development as a Scholar

Prof Naudé started by giving an overview of her research as an early scholar, investigating students’ learning experiences and predictors of student success, followed by an exploration of the adolescence stage within the context of South Africa. Prof Naudé’s research interest then led her to investigating the third decade of life: emerging adulthood. 

Interestingly, from the turn of the century, the group of 18- to 25-year-olds take longer to transition into adulthood. This group finds themselves in an in-between space, “not being an adolescent anymore, but definitely not being an adult either,” Prof Naudé explained. This has sparked an interesting scholarly debate: is emerging adulthood indeed a new developmental stage, or is it something only applicable to a minority of Western, affluent middle-class, university students? The answer is the former. There are actually many emerging adulthoods – also among our South African youth. 

Current Research Focus

Currently, Prof Naudé is interested in the narratives of emerging adults at the intersection of self and society. The self, she pointed out, unfolds through different layers, namely the actor, the agent, and the author. “Our South African emerging adults are acting in an increasingly complex and transitioning social world. As agents, they advance through this complexity by telling redemptive stories of generativity, upward mobility, and of liberation. And as authors, they reconstruct their past, present, and future into a coherent life story and a narrative identity,” Prof Naudé said.

Naude Inaugural From the left; Dr Edwin du Plessis, Head of Department of Psychology; Prof Heidi Hudson, Dean of the Faculty of The Humanities; Prof Luzelle Naudé , and Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research and Internationalisation. Photo: Stephen Collett. 

The Way Forward

“I’ve became convinced,” Prof Naudé emphasised, “about South Africa and the Global South’s ability to contribute to global knowledge production.” Prof Naudé and her team are therefore adding a South African voice to several multicultural, multinational projects, including the African Long-Life Study – in collaboration with the University of Zurich – and the Selves within Selves project. Prof Naudé’s vision, however, is to ultimately establish an Identity Research Hub at the UFS to consolidate research activities in this field and to formalise interdisciplinary partnerships.

Watch recording video below:

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