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 Major Collaborative Projects

Contemporary performances of gender and sexuality in postcolonial patriarchal contexts

All staff are involved in personal or larger collaborative research projects related to this topic. These include Profs Shefer’s,  Clowes’ and Dr Ngabaza’s work on student’s embodied experiences on campus.  Dr Ngabaza’s and Prof Shefer’s work on teenage pregnancy and parenting at school as well as a feminist critical analysis of the life orientation sexualities education, and Prof Lewis’ work on citizenship, nationalism, neo-liberalism and gender also fit into this key research area. Both Prof Shefer and Lewis continue to work on queer sexualities in national, African and postcolonial contexts. Prof Shefer’s 5 year Andrew W. Mellon funded project  ‘New imaginaries for a critical humanities project in gender and sexual justice’ which has a specific focus on disruptive and resistant performances of gender and sexuality through pedagogy, art and activism, furthers this area of scholarship.


Youth, Gender and Sexuality

Rapid globalization and change in South Africa has had a particularly complex impact on South Africa’s youth and their engagement with surrounding scripts of gender and sexuality. An emphasis on youth identities and subcultures is embedded in and often explicit in many of our research projects and fields, as well as our work in supervising students. Some of the research highlighted above also fits into this focus. In addition Prof Clowes has begun to focus on the challenges of teaching and learning about gender in postcolonial and neoliberal contexts. Prof Shefer’s involvement in a transnational collaborative project focusing on young people engaged in change (Finnish-South African collaboration, with forthcoming book in press with Routledge) and Prof Lewis’ ongoing research interests in young South Africans’ digital and food activism, and Dr Ngabaza’s work on emerging markets and young women’s participation in the local and global economy  are indicative of the Department’s international networking and collaboration with others on the subject of youth and gender.


Representations and constructions of Gender and Sexuality in contemporary South Africa

All staff focus on film, popular culture and visual texts in both research and teaching. These are used to illustrate discursive processes or as adjuncts to analysis of social processes with a focus on popular culture, photographic, visual and literary texts both in South Africa and beyond . Some of our research is also directed at a critique of representations of sexuality and gender in popular and academic texts. Prof Lewis has particular research interests in the media and popular culture, for example, as reflected in her teaching. Prof Shefer’s work over the last few years has critically assessed dominant frameworks of current representations of gender and sexuality within practice, policy and research, unpacking how these have bolstered racist, classist and heteronormative, gender binaristic discourses. Some of this local and global critique is brought together in the forthcoming text from a Finnish-South African research project on young people and change. An ongoing critique of the politics of representation in research and practice directed at gender and sexual justice is also a key focus area with the Mellon funded ‘New Imaginaries’ Project.


Socially relevant and socially just curricula, decolonial feminist and innovative pedagogies in the ‘transformation’ project in higher education

Women’s and Gender studies makes valuable contributions to current thinking and practice in teaching and learning and critiques of the (post)colonial, neoliberal university. While all staff address questions about innovative pedagogies and academic or popular education in their research and their teaching Profs Clowes, Shefer and Dr Ngabaza have been especially pivotal in generating research in and publications on this priority growth area at UWC, researching and publishing through three different NRF funded projects led by Prof Bozalek (Participatory Parity in Higher Education, 2014-2016; Participatory Parity in Higher Education, 2014-2016; Reconceptualising socially just pedagogies across diverse geopolitical settings in higher education, 2017-2019). Prof Shefer has recently edited a Bloomsbury volume with Profs Bozalek, Braidotti and Zembylas emerging from this research in press for 2018.

Notably, ICTS and digital humanities have been a key terrain of scholarship and practice in this area. All staff members in the WGS Department continue to explore the possibilities and potentials of modern information and communication systems for innovative knowledge production, learning/teaching, communication and association. Engaging with digital humanities has been central to the Mellon-funded project of which Prof Lewis is the Principal Researcher: a website and eclectic use of social media fostered innovative and often student-centred knowledge through text, the arts and images. Prof Lewis deepened her work into the digital humanities and feminist knowledge production during 2017, and was invited by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences to help judge submissions for awards in digital humanities, and to help the Institute to conceptualize this as a key growth area.


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