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Dr Kesi Mahendran

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology
  • Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
  • School of Psychology & Counselling
  • Psychology
  • kesi.mahendran

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. I am a member of the Editorial Team of the Journal of Social and Political Psychology. I am a former convenor of the PSA Comparative European Politics Specialist Group until 2018. The photo banner above features PSA CEP members at dinner in Moscow on a suprisingly mild evening in November 2015.

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 Activity

Research groups

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

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