(Published - 5 July 2018)
South Africa’s course has, since the dawn of democracy, been characterised by forging a new identity free of racism, discrimination, and marginalisation. But the journey has not been without casualties.
It is against this backdrop that the 28th annual congress of the South African Sociological Association (SASA) got underway on 1 July 2018 at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). The theme for this year’s conference is “Navigating Uncertainty: Resituating and Reimagining Sociological Knowledge of South Africa, Africa and the Global South”.
In his opening speech, Larry Pokpas, UWC Institutional Planner, noted that universities are well-placed to thrive, and to help others to thrive, during uncertain times.
“It is our business to understand uncertainty,” Pokpas told delegates. “We have a number of daunting challenges ahead - and we are looking to universities and scientists to help find meaningful answers.”
SASA president, Babalwa Magoqwana, also made reference to an uncertain future, and to the need for sociologists to reanalyse their approach in a changing South African landscape attempting to engage in a globalising world while dealing with local challenges.
“The common challenge of our association is to reimagine our purpose beyond our annual gathering,” she said.
“I believe if we are to reimagine a life away from the current patriarchal, classist, sexist, racist and heteronormative society, we need to destabilise the origins of sociology away from the fathers, and to bring it closer to the maternal heritage within the indigenous African systems.”
Among the topics on the agenda: the role of commissions of inquiry in South Africa; gender imbalances in higher education; the meaning of land restitution in South Africa; and queer politics in post-apartheid South Africa.
University of Cape Town Professor of Social Anthropology Francis Nyamnjoh – the author of #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa – gave the keynote address and referenced Nigerian author Amos Tutuola’s seminal novel in the field of sociology – The Palm Wine Drinkard.
“In his writing, the crossroads or zones of encounters are very important… zones of possibility that enable you to open and resituate yourself because you can see beyond a narrow divide opened by others,” said Nyamnjoh.
“When sociology is in crisis, sometimes it helps for those sociologists at the crossroads to be looking out and feeding information back in, and to think about how - and why - we reimagine ourselves.”