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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
  • Psychology
  • kesi.mahendran

Professional biography

Kesi Mahendran is a social and political psychologist. She works on migration-mobility, non-mobility, belonging, integration and citizenship - including public dialogue on sovereignty & European Union citizenship.  A specialist in dialogical approaches, her research programme seeks to support the dialogue between citizens and governments on vexed political questions e.g immigration. 

After working as a senior analyst in the Scottish Government she joined the Open University in 2007. She is a member of the Citizenship and Governance Strategic Research Area and co-directed the Enactments Programme within the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance alongside Engin Isin and then Agnes Czajka.

She has a longstanding interest in teaching adults psychology having taught at Southwark College London, University of Stirling and University of Edinburgh.  A member of the British Psychological Society Kesi Mahendran is actively involved in the establishment of a Political Psychology Section which bridges BPS and PSA for academics and those interested in connections between psychology and politics.

She is a chartered psychologist and the convenor of the PSA Comparative European Politics specialist group alongside Gregg-Bucken-Knapp (University of Gothenburg). The photo banner above features PSA CEP members at dinner in Moscow on a suprisingly mild evening in November 2015

Research interests

Current 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 citizenship
  • Comparative European approaches
  • Public narratives of Brexit and the parameters of UK-EU relations


Despite decades of research-policy dialogue integration remains a contested concept with very little consensus on how it can be claimed and enacted.

Kesi Mahendran is co-ordinating a MMIIDA Network Collaborative European Project which is developing an understanding of how key categories relating to two concepts - ‘belonging’ and ‘integration’ - are conceptualised, reified and enacted in five European cities. 'Placing Ourselves' involves Caroline Howarth (London School of Economics), Ima Jackson (Glasgow Caledonian University),  Nicola Magnusson (Open University), Munirah Olton (Salongo Arts, London), Sarah Scuzzarello (University of Sussex). With Research Associate support from Helen Arfvidsson (Open University), Rebecca Rotter (Edinburgh University) and Thomas Winman (University-West, Trollhättan)


This study looked at integration and citizenship explicitly framed within the context of the European Union’s Common Basic Principles (CBPs). According to the European Union’s CPBs (2004) ‘Integration is a dynamic process of two-way mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of member states’. The Stockholm programme’s (2010-2014) efforts to consolidate the EU framework on integration point to the need to gather citizen’s perceptions of immigration and integration in order to understand this two-way process. The D-MIC study which involved migrants and non-migrants in Edinburgh and Stockholm aimed to contribute to an understanding of this two-way process.


Dialogical analysis of Study 1 found that rather than speaking as ‘migrant’ or ‘non-migrant’, participants conceptualised their integration and citizenship from ten positions along a continuum. This has been termed the Migration-Mobility Continuum (Mahendran 2009; 2013; 2017). The continuum ranges from at one end highly mobile/serial migrants who had not acquired receiving-member-state citizenship and were more likely to talk in terms of global citizenship through single-move naturalised migrants, along to returnees with some experience of temporary migration to ‘second-generation’ non-migrants with migrant parents, to finally, at the other end, settled non-migrants characterised by jus sanguinis citizenship and generational non-mobility. This analytical framework has been used to understand public perceptions of integration (Mahendran 2013) and narratives of European citizenship (Mahendran 2015) and a one-world narrative OWN (Mahendran 2017). 


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

Teaching interests

I am currently the Qualification Director for F74 the MSc Psychology and the chair of DD801 Principles of Social and Psychological Inquiry, the first module in the PG programme. 

Impact and engagement

Migration, BREXIT and public opinion - CNaM Network & Europe Institute, University of Edinburgh, 11 February 2016.

Beyond the net migration target? – SKAPE, University of Edinburgh, 27 November 2015.

A UK Referendum on Europe – could the public decide? – 20th May London & 4 June 2015 Edinburgh.  

View the London talk and panel debate here

Kesi Mahendran & Paul Sullivan, (2014). Talking about their generation: Investigating what the idea of 'migrant generations' means for citizenship. Centre for Applied Social Research, University of Bradford. 29th October 2014


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. 

The first scientific meeting of the MMIIDA Network was hosted by The Open University on 25/26 November 2009.

The second scientific meeting of MMIIDA Network was held on 13/14 September 2012 at City University, London co-hosted by City University and the Open University’s Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance (CCIG). 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


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

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