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Making Southern Theory: Gender research in South Africa

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an we consider late twentieth century feminist research work in South Africa as an example of Southern Theory? The question draws on Connell (2007) and Comaroff and Comaroff (2012) who point out how the south has been marginalized in theory-making and who argue that theories from the south have a major contribution to make in producing a more egalitarian and globally sustainable future. In answering this question, this paper draws on interviews conducted with scholars who consider themselves, or are considered, to be ‘feminist’. I argue that the authors who discuss their work, demonstrate awareness of their geopolitical location (both in South Africa and on the periphery). They talk of the importance of experiencing South Africa’s inequalities and this influenced their worldviews and choices. Their social awareness shaped their research agenda, steering them to draw on particular theoretical resources and to develop and shape concepts for an audience that exceeded the walls of the academy and the bonds of formal scholarship. Their theory was designed to answer questions about power and inequality and was intended to influence the struggles to end apartheid and bring a new, democratic, egalitarian and peaceful society into existence.

This talk is part of the Education, Equality and Development (EED) Group Seminars series.

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