Decolonising the Humanities and Social Sciences in South Africa was the theme of the Annual Postgraduate Conference of the School of Applied Human Sciences (SAHS) hosted at the Innovation Centre.
Opening the Conference, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, said the forum was an important space for the next generation of academics who were sharing their research and contributing to knowledge production, transformation and decolonisation.
‘I am glad to see that the Conference is both interdisciplinary and collaborative because as the Humanities and Social Sciences we should engage critically with natural scientists and engineers for transformation, social change and decolonisation,’ said Potgieter.
The keynote address was made by the Head of the Archie Mafeje Research Institute at the University of South Africa, Professor Sabelo J Ndlovu-Gatsheni, who spoke on “Decolonising the University and the Problematic Grammars of Change in South Africa”.
Ndlovu-Gatsheni noted that the Conference was taking place at a crucial time when students were engaged in a legitimate struggle for the decolonisation of the university in general and free education.
With an emerging “student archive”, he distilled what must be learned from this archive while venturing into the history of the university in Africa and the struggle for African universities and the “five grammars” of change: Transformation, Africanisation, Indigenisation, Diversification and Decolonisation.
‘Our engagement with the idea of the university-from being a university in Africa to a genuine African university - is responsive to the challenges facing African people, including the pertinent one of funding. The curriculum changes we are doing and the decolonisation of institutional cultures that are patriarchal, sexist and racist must not be simply a compliance activity but part of well thought out imagination cascade re-humanising the world to define a better tomorrow,’ he said.
The following awards were made:
- Outstanding Contribution to the School: Dr Tanusha Raniga and Professor Ruth Teer-Tomaselli
- Emerging Scholarship: Dr Sazelo Mkhize and Dr Maud Mthembu
- Best Abstracts: Ms Gina Coetzee of the Centre for Communication, Media and Society; Ms Annika Maharajh of Criminology and Forensic Studies; Ms Ursula Froschauer of Psychology in Pietermaritzburg; Mr Aron Tesfai of Psychology at Howard College and Ms Joan van Niekerk of Social Work
- Team Work: Psychology-Pietermaritzburg
- Student Leadership and Excellence: Ms Gina Coetzee
- Outstanding contribution to the Conference: Mr Michael Eley.
Speaking on behalf of the award winners, van Niekerk said: ‘We have all worked very hard and being recognised is quite amazing. It has spurred us to complete our research and we are motivated to do our best.’
*The Conference was planned and organised by postgraduate students, specifically masters and PhD students, who formed an organising committee to take care of the scientific programme and other aspects of the proceedings. The students worked collaboratively with the postgraduate monitoring and support division led by Dr Thandi Magojo and Dr Jean Steyn, as well as the academic and support staff.