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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 working on migration-mobility, non-mobility, belonging, integration and citizenship - including public narratives of European citizenship. A specialist in dialogical approaches, her research programme seeks to understand the dialogue between citizens and governments on vexed political questions. After working as a senior analyst in the Scottish Government she joined the Open University in 2007. She 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. Kesi Mahendran is 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

PLACING OURSELVES - INVESTIGATING CATEGORIES OF BELONGING AND INTEGRATIO (2012-2016) 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). 


Mahendran, K. (2015) Self-Esteem in Jim Turner, Claire Hewson, Kesi Mahendran and Paul Stevens (edits) Living Psychology: From Everyday to Extraordinary, Open University.

Mahendran, K. (2012) Describing Childhood Intimacies. In Mark Banks & Clive Barnett (edits) The Uses of Social Science. Milton Keynes, Open University.

Dixon, J & Mahendran, K. (2012) Crowds. In Wendy Hollway, Helen Lucey, Ann Phoenix & Gail Lewis (edits) Social Psychology Matters. Milton Keynes, Open University.

Taylor S & Mahendran, K (2012) Introduction. In Darren Langdridge, Stephanie Taylor, Kesi Mahendran (edits) Critical Readings in Social Psychology. Milton Keynes, Open University.



Mahendran (2016) Who belongs to Europe? How dialogical citizens use relational justice to maintain and transcend the boundaries of Europe. International Society of Political Psychologists, Warsaw 13-16 July.

Mahendran (2015) Invited book launch – Discursive Governance: 7th Russian Congress of Political Scientists, Russian Political Sciences Association, 19-21 November, Moscow, Russia.

Mahendran (2015) Moving beyond national public opinion: can post-national welfare solidarities moderate welfare chauvinism?  PSA-CEP Specialist Group “Toward a broader discipline: Russia, Europe and new possibilities for the study of comparative European politics” Moscow State University, Russia, 19-20 November.

Mahendran, K (2015) Experiments in Figure and Ground: using psychology to understand democracy and difference. Symposium at International Society of Theoretical Psychology, Resistance and Renewal, Coventry, 25th – 30th June, 2015.

Mahendran, K & Sullivan, P (2014) The Act-taking I: Answerability and a new dialogics of citizenship in Europe, 8th International Conference of the Dialogical Self, August 19-22nd , The Hague, Netherlands.

Mahendran, K (2014) Freedom through mobility: The boundaries and possibilities of European Citizenship within five European cities. International Society of Political Psychology – Annual Meeting, July 4th – 7th, Rome, Italy.

Howarth, C, Mahendran, K, Kapoor, A & Jackson, I (2014) Multiculturalism as citizenship in European cities: promoting civic engagement or fostering exclusion? International Society of Political Psychology – Annual Meeting, July 4th – 7th, Rome, Italy.

Mahendran, K (2013). Representing European Citizenship - Identification with the European Union along the Migration-Mobility Continuum, PSA Comparative European Politics Glasgow Conference, Glasgow Caledonian University, 14-15 November 2013.

Mahendran, K. Magnusson, N & Jackson, I (2013). Is there a difference between belonging and integration? The role of authoring and othering in belonging and integration in the European public sphere. BPS Social Psychology Conference 2013. Invited Symposium: Negotiating the boundaries of belonging: Managing commonality and difference in shared territory. Convenor Kesi Mahendran.

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 in development and due for presentation in 2017. I am also 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)
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
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
“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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