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Land struggle and the contestation over knowledge production

Book Launch

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Register here before 3 March 2023


Critical Engagement with Public Sociology: A Perspective from the Global South – edited by Andries Bezuidenhout, Sonwabile Mnwana, Karl von Holdt (Bristol University Press)


Sociological practice in South Africa, conceptualised as ‘critical engagement’ by Edward Webster at SWOP, inspired the idea of public sociology in its global form. US sociologist Michael Burawoy encountered this practise when he visited South Africa during the period of transition to democracy in the 1990s, and theorised it as ‘public sociology’ on his return to the US. This volume explores the trajectory of ‘critical engagement’ before and after Burawoy’s visit, comparing it to the trajectory of ‘public sociology’ forged in the very different context of US sociology. This book provides a unique reflection on four decades of dialogue and concept formation between Burawoy and generations of sociologists at the Society Work and Politics Institute (SWOP), between the dominant sociology of the North and the emergent sociology of the South, using this to interrogate deeply the contradictions, challenges and profound contribution of social science research to popular struggle – and the equally profound contribution of popular struggles to the formation of new sociological knowledge.

Various chapters interrogate the tension between the production of scholarly knowledge and production of political knowledge in research with labour movements, community organisations, sex workers, land movements and others. For this launch, we focus on the chapters that address contemporary tensions encountered by critically engaged scholars who strive to support the struggles of the marginalised classes in the South Africa’s deeply polarised rural mining locales, where mining expansion leads to land dispossessions and conflict.

About the authors/presenters:

Andries Bezuidenhout is a professor of development studies at the University of Fort Hare, South Africa.

Sonwabile Mnwana is a professor of development studies in the Department of Sociology at Rhodes University, South Africa.

Karl von Holdt is a professor and former director of the Society, Work and Politics Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Aninka Claassens founded the Land and Accountability Research Centre, University of Cape Town in South Africa and is now retired.

Nokwanda Sihlali is a researcher at the Land and Accountability Research Centre, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Date and time

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

17:15 – 18:30​

All times are in SAST (UTC+2)


STIAS Wallenberg Research Centre

STIAS, Marais Road, Mostertsdrift

Related to this event


Visiting scholar
South Africa

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