UCT-Bristol Fellow Seminars

Dr Shanaaz Hossein

 Dialogue 1:  The elephant in the room: Decolonising teaching and research in higher education in South Africa

 22 July, Arts Complex Research Space H1.020


As a black social work South African academic, I have been engaging with decolonial thought unintentionally for the past 10 years and intentionally in the last 5 years. In this discussion I reflect on the transformation process occurring in higher education in South Africa where the #feesmustfall #rhodesmust fall movement highlighted the need for transformation in higher education. Despite the dawn of democracy in 1994 many higher education institutions were slow to transform and with questions being raised as to what decoloniality meant in practice for teaching, learning and research. In this discussion I reflect on my own teaching and learning at two very higher education institutions, one conservative while the second institution was at the epicentre of the fall movement. I do this acknowledging positionality, multiple heritage, race, gender and class within the context of Cape Town and South Africa.


Dialogue 2: Vulnerability as a black researcher working with black families

6th August, Arts Complex Research Space, H1.020


Vulnerability is described as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure; however, it is also fundamental and necessary (Brown, 2012). In this talk I reflect on the interviews I had with vulnerable families, my own vulnerability as a researcher and conversations with academic mentors. The conversations have informed my practice because the dialogue enabled me to find the words which I had not been able to access, making the conversations essential for my survival skills as a black researcher.  I became aware of my vulnerability as a black academic and researcher within the research process as well as within practice as a teacher. The families I engaged with were vulnerable because they were viewed as families at risk for not only poverty, substance misuse but also marginalised as they were living in a rural community and were of a mixed racial background living within South Africa. The research team deliberately chose participatory learning action tools to collect data to reduce the risk to the families. Despite the success of using participatory methodology as well as following strict ethical procedures. I was not prepared for the vulnerability of the participants. I listened to families tell stories of racial discrimination express their concerns for safety as well as their daily struggle to survive poverty. As a black academic and researcher in South Africa, research always involves vulnerability because we are confronted not only with our own vulnerability but also our participants’ vulnerability.  Our participants marginalization may often reflect our own experience.


Dialogue 3:  Exploring memory and identity with youth who are have a slave heritage: Interdisciplinary work with historians and museums

Date :20th August, Location TBA


This discussion is based on an interdisciplinary project between social work and the heritage museum in Cape Town. Communities of slave descendants in South Africa were denied information regarding their heritage due to colonialism and apartheid. Furthermore, there are ambiguities of owning a slave heritage.  The project was an international collaboration in partnership with the Smithsonian Museum and Iziko Slave lodge in Cape Town.  The work was based on the São José Paquete Africa slave ship which sunk off the coast in Cape Town. The excavation of the ship produced powerful evidence of the Middle Passage.  The artifacts were exhibited at the slave lodge museum, was used to discuss issues of social justice. Using maps of history and history timelines (Denborough, 2008) in conjunction with the San Jose exhibit enabled young people to reflect on current and historical injustice. The project was an example how interdisciplinary research and practice has been used to highlight narratives which have been subjugated but also able to produce new narratives of slave descendants.

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