2011

Developing a hypothesis on the “domestication syndrome” of animals

The domestication of many animal species was a key element in the development of human societies. An early step presumably involved the acquisition of docility, a prerequisite for animal handling, training and controlled breeding. Unexpectedly, however, domestication entails the acquisition of an additional suite of physical and behavioural traits whose connections to each other and … [Read more]

The evolutionary history of the human face, a multi-disciplinary detective story

Like all complex animals, humans have faces. Indeed, the human face is unconsciously used as the standard to which all other animal faces are compared, in terms of “oddness” or similarity to the human face. Yet, the human face is highly distinctive in several ways, both in its physical features and in its employment in … [Read more]

The African Union’s emerging policy on unconstitutional changes of government

This research project is on unconstitutional changes of government (UCG). Roughly since 2005 a regression in the quality of many formally established democracies, cases of election-related violence, an increasing number of coups d’etat and third-term debates can be observed. This has prompted the African Union (AU) and the regional economic communities (RECs) to develop policy … [Read more]

Xenophobia, Migrancy and Multiculturalism

Different causes and expressions of xenophobia are analysed by comparing three countries: South Africa, Germany and Canada. On a spectrum of rejection of migrants, South Africa is situated at one extreme, with Germany in the middle, and Canada at the other extreme. In each country, different rationalizations are used for ‘othering’ and different policies have … [Read more]

Informational Development and Human Development: South Africa in a Global Perspective

In a current comparative research project the interaction between informational development and human development has been examined in various contexts, including Finland, Silicon Valley, Chile and Taiwan. The project aims at extending the analysis to South Africa. The study has a major policy component, as its final aim is to propose ways to link the … [Read more]

Linear vs. Polarizing Trends in World Social Processes

Over the past two centuries, the dominant view in social science has been that the modern world shows a pattern of linear development in which all positive trends go upward in more or less linear fashion (albeit perhaps at an uncertain speed), and that therefore over time discrepancies between the leaders and the laggards are … [Read more]

Literacy Practices of Multilingual Students

Traditionally, teachers of reading and writing have assumed texts as monolingual and monomodal. This dominant orientation to textuality, variously referred to as alphabetic literacy or autonomous literacy, has resulted in the multilingual literacy practices of students being perceived as deficient. Schooling has engaged in suppressing the multilingual and multimodal literacy practices and imposing alphabetic literacy … [Read more]

Population, Land, Food: Malthus and Africa

A study of how Malthus relates to understanding, and resolving, the food-land-population predicaments of sub-Saharan Africa. After “green revolutions”, most of Asia enjoys rapid growth and stabilizing population. Yet growth in sub-Saharan Africa is slow and patchy, while projected 2050 population is ten times 1950 levels (already it has risen sixfold).  Food production – and … [Read more]

What is a Rational Response to Catastrophic Risk?

When it comes to low probability-high impact (even catastrophic) risk, the judgment of ordinary people, it seems, is not to be trusted.  Emotions (like fear) are said to override our capacity for rational response. As one commentator puts it, “we have a confounding habit of worrying about mere possibilities while ignoring probabilities, building barricades against … [Read more]

Rethinking Capitalist Crisis: A Neo-Polanyian Perspective

This project seeks to overcome the (economistic, functionalist) limitations of received understandings of crisis, by drawing on the thought of Karl Polanyi, especially his 1944 work, The Great Transformation.  My aim is to reconstruct Polanyi’s key ideas (fictitious commodification, the double movement) in a form suitable to clarifying the crisis tendencies of the 21st century. … [Read more]