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Dr Kesi Mahendran

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a social and political psychologist whose research seeks to support dialogue between citizens and their governments on vexed political questions such as migration, sovereignty, European and Global citizenship.  

I moved from the Scottish Government to the Open University in 2007. My dialogical research works to challenge the risks of de-politicisation that can occur within psychological research but equally aims to foreground the social/relational features of hot-button topics which have become politicized e.g. migration.  I am particularly interested in the conditions and contexts where people act and express opinions in a 'public capacity' (John Dewey). 

My starting point is that public decision-making on migration, citizenship and the boundaries of belonging often inter-relate with an individual's own degree of migration-mobility. Though this is rarely captured in public opinion surveys. Which tend to present the public as static and non-mobile.  I make sense of degree of migration-mobility by using a 10-point Migration-Mobility Continuum (Mahendran, 2013; 2017; 2018; 2019).

The 'Placing Ourselves' research programme works, collaboratively, towards de-polarising public opinion on migration, integration, citizenship and belonging. The third phase is focused on consensus and dissensus in public decision-making on international relations. It examine (i) public narratives on international relations and (ii) the contexts and conditions within which people sustain dialogue with others who they may have strong disagreements with. This phase includes the Rachael Webb Political Psychology PhD Studentship into consensus and dissensus in the UK public's decision making on Europe and beyond - a study led by Anthony English in 2018. It also includes a PhD thesis into the political decision-making of the Silent Generation on Europe and Beyond which Sue Nieland began investigating in October 2019. 

A chartered member and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, I am a committee member of the new  BPS/PSA Political Psychology Section which bridges BPS and PSA for academics and practitioners interested in connections between psychology and politics.

If you would like to join the section more information can be found here:

I am a Section Editor of the Journal of Social and Political Psychology. I am also a board member of the IMISCOE Standing Commitee on Reflexivities in Migration Studies - more information can be found here:

I am a member of the Society for Theoretical Psychology and the International Society of Political Psychology. I am a former convenor of the PSA Comparative European Politics Specialist Group until 2018.

The photo banner above features members of the newly formed BPS - Political Psychology Section - in London, January 2020. 

Research interests

Research projects relate to:

  • Migration, Integration & Citizenship within European Union
  • Dialogical approaches to understanding the relationship between citizens and governments
  • From public opinion to public dialogue - via public narratives
  • Social psychological processes relating to self-other relations, categorisation and reification
  • Narratives of European & Global citizenship - including a one world narrative (OWN)
  • Comparative European approaches
  • Public narratives of Brexit and the parameters of UK-EU relations


A repository of research publications and other research outputs can be viewed at The Open University's Open Research Online.

Teaching interests

I have a longstanding passion for teaching adults psychology having taught at Southwark College London, University of Stirling and University of Edinburgh.  I am currently the chair of DD801 Principles of Social and Psychological Inquiry. This module develops a set of principles of social and psychological inquiry. It provides an opportunity to understand the iterative cycles by which research is conceived (the concepts & categories it uses and assumes), created (the methods it employs) and received by a variety of publics  (general public, media and governments).

DD801 is the first module for PG studies into Forensic Psychological Studies (F73), Psychology (F74), Crime & Justice, (F75). It can also be taken as a part of the MA in Open Studies and as a PG(Cert) module leading to a PG (Cert) in Social and Psychological Inquiry. If you would like to access a free 'Open Learn' taster from the module - link to the right. 

I am a member of the Open University's Racial Equality Steering Group.  

Impact and engagement

Talks and Public Articles - linked to the right. 



Established in November 2008, this non-hierarchical network brings together a multi-disciplinary group of academics, practitioners & researchers interested in developing dialogical approaches to migration, multiculturalism, integration and identity - beyond the common-sense binaries. Videos linked to the right. 

The network currently consists of 30 members across 21 institutions and ten different countries, Cyprus, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, UK and the USA. If you would like to become a member please contact me.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Citizenship, Identifies and Governance (CCIG)CentreFaculty of Social Sciences


Reification and the Refugee: using a counterposing dialogical analysis to unlock a frozen category (2019-07-03)
Mahendran, Kesi; Magnusson, Nicola; Howarth, Caroline and Scuzzarello, Sarah
Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 7(1) (pp. 577-597)

From polarized we/they public opinion on European Integration towards social representations of public dialogue (2018-12)
Mahendran, Kesi
Political Psychology, 39(6) (pp. 1339-1355)

Public narratives on human mobility: Countering technocratic and humanitarian refugee narratives with a "one-world" solidarity narrative (2017-03-13)
Mahendran, Kesi
Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 27(2) (pp. 147-157)

Public Narratives Of European Citizenship – The Dialogical Citizen In The European Public Sphere. (2015-09-10)
Mahendran, Kesi; Jackson, Ima and Kapoor, Anubhuti
In: Korkut, Umut; Mahendran, Kesi; Buckan-Knapp, Gregg and Cox, Robert Henry eds. Discursive Governance in Politics, Policy and the Public Sphere (pp. 147-162)
ISBN : 9781137495778 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

Introduction: Discursive governance: operationalization and applications (2015-09-10)
Korkut, Umut; Mahendran, Kesi; Buckan-Knapp, Gregg and Cox, Robert Henry
In: Korkut, Umut; Mahendran, Kesi; Buckan-Knapp, Gregg and Cox, Robert Henry eds. Discursive Governance in Politics, Policy and the Public Sphere (pp. 1-11)
ISBN : 9781137495778 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke

“A two-way process of accommodation” Public perceptions of integration along the migration-mobility continuum (2013-07)
Mahendran, Kesi
In: Korkut, Umut; Bucken-Knapp, Greg; McGarry, Aidan; Hinnfors, Jonas and Drake, Helen eds. The Discourses and Politics of Migration in Europe. Europe in Transition (pp. 109-131)
ISBN : 9781137310897 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : New York

Introducing four psychologies of unemployment and their implications for intervention (2012-12-20)
Mahendran, Kesi
In: Kieselbach, Thomas and Mannila, Simo eds. Unemployment, Precarious Work and Health - Research and Policy Issues (pp. 53-71)
ISBN : 978-3-531-18509-5 | Publisher : VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften | Published : Germany

The transition of a Scottish Young Persons’s Centre — a dialogical analysis (2003)
Mahendran, Kesi
In: Grant, Colin B. ed. Rethinking Communicative Interaction: New Interdisciplinary Horizons. Pragmatics and Beyond New Series (pp. 235-256)
ISBN : 978 90 272 5358 3 | Publisher : John Benjamins | Published : Amsterdam/Philadelphia

Discursive Governance in Politics, Policy and the Public Sphere (2015-09-01)
Korkut, Umut; Mahendran, Kesi; Bucken-Knapp, Gregg and Cox, Robert Henry eds.
ISBN : 9781137495778 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan | Published : Basingstoke