Anthropology and Development Studies

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Teaching and research in the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies at UJ consists of three ‘wings’: Anthropology, Development Studies and the Institute for Palaeo Research.

What unites our diverse research and teaching activities is a broad concern with change and time, and what these mean for human existence, past, present and future. This shared concern with change stretches from Palaeo anthropology’s focus on the emergence of life (particularly humans) in deep time, through a focus on more recent archaeological time, to anthropological concerns with the politics of history, memory and temporality, and the relationships between endurance, recursivity and transformation, structure and agency, change and continuity, in which all human thought, bodies and social action are entangled. It includes development studies’ focus on social justice and exploration of how we might change the world at the same time as understanding our positionality in an already changing world. With a commitment to thorough and sustained empirical work alongside critical, theoretical innovation, we adhere to the value of history and context as the basis for understanding the changing world in multi-disciplinary ways.

Pan-Africanist in outlook, we seek to understand human lives in their emergent material, social and political contexts, and acknowledge the importance of recognizing multiple, co-existent ways of knowing and being, including ‘scientific’, practice-based and ‘indigenous’ knowledge systems, and the need to decolonize and challenge imposed hierarchies of knowing. We explore how interconnections between global forces and local interpretations shape consequential relations between the sciences and the humanities; and between theory, practice and applied knowledge. Our ambition is to use theory and practice to radically reconstruct human history and contemporary lives by glocalising knowledge in order to craft new futures.

In this quest we are interested in how diverse technologies, past, present and future, from the development of stone tools to the new ubiquity of communication technologies, shape human lives in both enabling and constraining ways, expanding yet also threatening new human possibilities in thought and action, and what this might mean for the future sustenance of life. Among our wide range of interests we include current social and political debates around land, environment and rural/urban ecologies; resources, livelihoods, medical practices and labour, and human evolutionary pasts, social histories and people’s everyday lived experiences, all positioned within socio-political, historical and/or archaeological contexts.