Rory du Plessis


BA(Visual Studies)(UP); BA(Hons)(Visual Studies)(UP); MPhil (Philosophy & Ethics of Mental Health)(UP); PhD (Mental Health)(UP)
Tel: +27 12 420 3600
E-mail: [email protected]


Dr Rory du Plessis is a lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Pretoria, where he teaches Visual Culture Studies. He obtained a PhD in Mental Health from the Centre for Ethics & Philosophy of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria. In his PhD thesis, Rory offered a hermeneutic analysis of the casebooks of the Grahamstown Lunatic Asylum, from 1890 to 1907. The study aimed to retrieve the patients’ pathways and life stories contained in the casebooks that were silenced, omitted or censored from the official published texts. Doing so, the study contributed principally by resurrecting the patients’ testimonies, voices and narratives that were previously extinguished in the version that was presented in the official annual reports and published articles.


He is the co-editor of the academic journal, Image & Text, and is an editorial board member of the academic journal, Gender Questions.


Rory received the Arts Cluster Researcher of the Year in the Faculty of Humanities in 2015 and the Arts Cluster Teaching Excellence Award in 2016.


He teaches the following subjects and topics: an introduction to visual culture; an Afrocentric reading of art history; post-colonial theory; the representation and discourses of gender and sexuality; photo essays and photo voice; and interpreting family photo albums.  


His two main research interests are: 1) a hermeneutic analysis of the photography and visual culture of psychiatric institutions; and 2) a critical analysis of gender and sexuality in film and popular culture.


Journal articles: 


Du Plessis, R & Maree, M. 2009. Engendered representations: exploring sexuality through symbol and myth. Verbum et Ecclesia 30(1). [DoHET Accredited]


Du Plessis, R. 2010. The Sites / Citing of Female Sexuality: An Irigarayan Reading of Sex Positive. Communicatio 36(3):309-326. [DoHET Accredited]


Du Plessis, R. 2011. Social Class and Psychotherapy: A Critical Reading of Thomas Szasz’s The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. Psychology in Society 42:21-34. [DoHET Accredited]


Du Plessis, R. 2012. The influence of moral therapy on the landscape design of lunatic asylums built in the nineteenth century. De Arte 86:21-38. [DoHET Accredited]


Du Plessis, R. 2012. Constructing Patient-Psychiatrist Relations in Psychiatric Hospitals: the role of space and personal action. Social Semiotics [iFirst]:1-20. [IBSS Accredited]


Du Plessis, R. 2013. Popularising and promoting the asylum: photography and image making at the Grahamstown Lunatic Asylum, 1890-1907. Image & Text 22:96-129. [DoHET Accredited]


Du Plessis, R. 2014. Photographs from the Grahamstown Lunatic Asylum, 1890-1907. Social Dynamics 40(1):12-42. [ISI Accredited] [Reprinted in the book: Photography In and Out of Africa: Iterations with Difference]


Du Plessis, R. 2014. The Tara photograph album: visualising a therapeutic community. Adler Museum Bulletin 40(2):13-18. 


Du Plessis, R. 2015. The principles and priorities of Dr T.D. Greenlees, medical superintendent of the Grahamstown Lunatic Asylum, 1890–1907. Historia 1(1), 22-46 [IBSS Accredited]


Du Plessis, R. 2015. A discourse analysis of male sexuality in Intimacy. African Journal of Primary Healthcare and Family Medicine, 7(1). [SCOPUS Accredited]


Du Plessis, R. 2015. Beyond a clinical narrative: casebook photographs from the Grahamstown Lunatic Asylum, c. 1890s, Critical Arts, 29:sup1, 88-103. [IBSS Accredited] 


Du Plessis, R. 2018. A sex-critical reading of the homosexual sex acts in Inxeba. Image & Text [forthcoming] [DoHET Accredited] 


Chapters in books


Du Plessis, R. 2006. Exhibiting the expulsion of transgression, in Sex, gender, becoming. Post-Apartheid reflections, edited by K van Marle. Pretoria: PULP:19-40. 


Du Plessis, R. 2013. Language, discourse & representation, in Looking at media: an introduction to visual studies, edited by J Reid. Cape Town: Pearson:23-40.


Rashed, M, du Plessis, R and van Staden, WC. 2016. Culture and Mental Health, in Psychology – Themes and Variations (South Africa/2nd Edition), edited by W Weiten and J Hassim. Cengage.


Du Plessis, R. Visualising the return pathways of patients to the Grahamstown Lunatic Asylum. [Forthcoming], edited by A du Preez. AOSIS. 


Reviews in accredited journals:


Du Plessis, R. 2013. Unisa Staff/Stuff art exhibition. De Arte 87:61-67.


Du Plessis, R. 2014. Off the beaten path: violence, women and art. Exhibition review. De Arte 89:77-81.


Du Plessis, R. 2015. VIADUCT 2015 ‘Archival addresses: photographies, practices, positionalities’. Image & Text 25:292-296.


Du Plessis, R. 2015. Book review: Impossible mourning. Image & Text 26: 148-152


Du Plessis, R. 2016. Book review: Homeless wanderers. South African Journal of Psychiatry 22(1):[sp] 


Du Plessis, R. 2016. Book review: Battleground. De Arte 51(2):59-61.


Du Plessis, R. 2018. Book review: Wombs with a View: Illustrations of the Gravid Uterus from the Renaissance through the Nineteenth Century. Isis 109(1):153-154.


Popular press articles:


Du Plessis, R. 2008. Contributing factors to HIV/AIDS. CD4 1(5):16


Du Plessis, R. 2008. Breaking the silence: religion and sex. CD4 1(6):26


Du Plessis, R. 2011. Sexual Health Myths. Medical Chronicle. June [sp]. 


Du Plessis, R. 2011. Understanding sexuality: is the human sexual response cycle flawed. Medical Chronicle. November [sp].


Du Plessis, R. 2012. Exposing and countering sexual myths in films. Medical Chronicle. July [sp]


Du Plessis, R. 2012. Defining / constructing sexual addiction in the media. Medical Chronicle. October [sp]


Du Plessis, R. 2012. Using the penis as a barometer to general health. Medical Chronicle. November [sp]


Du Plessis, R. 2013. Sexual health experts and the media. Medical Chronicle.


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