IFAS-Research Newsletter / Informal Workers and Covid-19 in South Africa

A Message from the
Director of IFAS-Research

As we mentioned in the previous newsletter (May 2020), the “face-to-face” activities of our institute (seminars, conferences, exhibitions…) have been cancelled in the last few months. But all this is only postponed, and everything suggests that most of these scientific events could take place in 2021. Fieldwork have also had to be called off – even though the support of this type of scientific work is an essential part of the IFAS-Research mission. Again, a large majority of these missions will be extended to next year.

Nevertheless, the team has continued to work adapting to the situation imposed by the global epidemic and local lockdown regulations. We have concentrated our efforts on editorial activities and we are able to announce the upcoming publication of two books: a book by Karine Ginisty on spatial justice in Mozambique (Presses Universitaires de Paris-Nanterre, in the « IFAS-Recherche » series) and a book co-edited by Giulia Bonacci, Adrien Delmas and Kali Argyriadis, on relations between Cuba and Africa (Wits University Press).

We are also preparing two issues of the journal Lesedi for October and November: the first one will be devoted to the issue of water (Lesedi #22: Water actors in Southern Africa. Field surveys, interdisciplinarity and social issues). The second (Lesedi #23) will focus on rock art in Zimbabwe.

In addition, as we announced last May, a study on the effects of Covid-19 on vulnerable populations in South Africa has been launched. Conducted by Dr. Chaymaa Hassabo (University of Johannesburg, Department of Sociology), the team began work last month in Johannesburg and Cape Town, mixing qualitative and quantitative interviews with about a hundred people. The results of this work will obviously lead to scientific publications. We also have the ambition to make a short documentary based on the survey materials.

Finally, I am pleased to welcome Line Relisieux, our new VI (“International Volunteer”), who arrived in South Africa at the end of August. She will be in charge of various tasks within the institute, including project monitoring.

I hope you will enjoy reading this newsletter. Let’s continue, collectively, to limit as much as possible the spread of the virus!
Un mot de la direction

Comme nous l’avions indiqué dans notre dernière newsletter (mai 2020), les derniers mois ont été marqués par un coup d’arrêt porté aux activités « en présentiel »  de notre institut (séminaires, colloques, expositions…). Tout ceci n’est que partie remise et tout laisse à penser que la plupart de ces manifestations scientifiques pourront avoir lieu en 2021. Les missions de chercheurs sur le terrain ont également dû être annulées — alors même que le soutien à ces missions scientifiques constitue une part primordiale de la mission de l’IFAS-Recherche. Là encore, une grande majorité d’entre elles seront reconduites à l’année prochaine.

Pour autant, l’équipe a continué à travailler en s’adaptant à la situation imposée par l’épidémie mondiale et par les mesures locales de confinement. Nous avons concentré nos efforts sur les activités éditoriales et nous sommes en mesure de vous annoncer la parution prochaine de deux ouvrages : un livre de Karine Ginisty sur la justice spatiale au Mozambique (Presses universitaires de Paris-Nanterre, dans la collection « IFAS-Recherche ») et un ouvrage codirigé par Giulia Bonacci, Adrien Delmas et Kali Argyriadis, portant sur les relations entre Cuba et l’Afrique (Wits University Press).

Nous préparons également pour octobre et novembre deux numéros de la revue Lesedi : le premier sera consacré à la question de l’eau (Lesedi #22: « Les acteurs de l’eau en Afrique australe. Enquêtes de terrain, interdisciplinarité et enjeux sociaux »). Le second (Lesedi #23) portera sur l’art rupestre au Zimbabwe.

Par ailleurs, comme nous vous l’annoncions en mai dernier, une enquête sur les effets du Covid-19 sur les populations vulnérables d’Afrique du Sud a été lancée. Conduite par Chaymaa Hassabo (Université de Johannesburg, Département de sociologie), l’équipe a commencé à travailler le mois dernier à Johannesburg et au Cap, mêlant entretiens qualitatifs et quantitatifs auprès d’une centaine de personnes. Les résultats de ce travail seront évidemment l’occasion de publications scientifiques. Nous avons également l’ambition de réaliser un court documentaire à partir des matériaux de l’enquête.

Enfin, j’ai le plaisir de souhaiter bienvenue à Line Relisieux, notre nouvelle VI (« Volontaire internationale »), arrivée en Afrique du Sud à la fin du mois d’août. Elle sera chargée de diverses tâches au sein de l’institut, et notamment du suivi des projets.

Je vous souhaite une bonne lecture de cette newsletter. Continuons, collectivement, à limiter autant que faire se peut la propagation du virus !

Prof. Sophie Dulucq
Director of IFAS-Research

Bill Freund (1944-2020)

IFAS-Research was very sad to hear of the passing of Bill Freund, Prof. emeritus at UKZN, on August 17th. Bill Freund was an authoritative scholar in the field of economic history, development economics and the history of labour, and the transformation of cities in Africa. Combining rigorous thinking with an encyclopedic knowledge of African history, people and places, he was very generous of his time and a great advisor for younger generations of researchers. He was also always keen to participate in any French endeavor in these fields, and he was a constant support and participant in IFAS-Research events and research programmes since the inception of the center. In particular, in 2007, he was very influential in the development of the APORDE programme in rethinking African development, as well as in the setting up of the GDRI Network-Governing African Cities which involved researchers from all over the African continent and from France. A new collaboration between IFAS-Research and Prof. Freund was under way in 2020, with a project centered on the history of public housing in South Africa (a conference will be organized in 2021).

Forthcoming Publications

1) Karine Ginisty’s new book Services urbains et justice spatiale à Maputo (Mozambique) will soon be published in the “IFAS-Recherche” collection by Presses Universitaires de Paris Nanterre (University of Paris Nanterre).
2) IFAS-Research and Wits University Press are delighted to announce the upcoming publication of the book Cuba and Africa 1959-1994, Writing an Alternative Atlantic History, co-edited by Giulia Bonacci, Adrien Delmas and Kali Argyriadis.
3) Lesedi. Field notes #22 

Lesedi, the online journal of IFAS-Research, is launching in October a new special issue on the actors of freshwater management in Southern Africa (Lesedi #22: Water actors in Southern Africa. Field surveys, interdisciplinarity and social issues).

The special issue will contain 5 articles, grouped into two main areas of study.

First, Lesedi will explore the questions surrounding water managers and their practices. In this section, Ngcimezile Mbano-Mwesoa addresses the issue of the people’s participation in the implementation of water rights in Malawi, focusing on the place of women in rural and peri-urban areas.

In a second contribution, Krasposy Kujinga, Gagoitseope Mmopelwa, Cornelis Vanderpost and Wellington R.L. Masamba will examine the challenges of municipal governance in access to drinking water services in the Ngamiland district of Botswana. Paul-Malo Winsback, for his part, will propose an ethnographic study of the agents of national and international production networks for water access in Southern Africa.

In a second axis, Lesedi will explore the challenges and arrangements around access for local residents to water resources in watercourses in rural and semi-rural areas. Paulo Jose will examine the consequences of colonial water engineering projects on the populations in Mozambique. Nicolas Verhaeghe will analyse, based on extracts from field visits and interviews, the macro and micro dynamics of access to the water of the Sabie river, in a space where the river forms a border between a protected area and the inhabited and cultivated areas of a former Bantustan.

Damien Jourdain and Magalie Bourblanc (GovInn, CIRAD-University of Pretoria) will offer a foreword to this issue.

Lesedi #22 will be available on the website of IFAS-Research in October.
4) Lesedi. Field notes #23 

A second issue of Lesedi focusing on rock art in Zimbabwe will be published in November.

From the stylistics of paintings, landscapes and networks of ornamented sites, lithic industries, archaeozoology, conservation and heritage enhancement issues, this issue aims to illustrate the multidisciplinary aspect of rock art studies in Zimbabwe.

The Effects of Covid-19 on Vulnerable Populations in South Africa

As part of its scientific and academic vocation and in the context of the health crisis linked to the coronavirus pandemic, IFAS-Research has launched a collective research project with the aim of understanding the effects of this pandemic on the most vulnerable populations in South Africa. To this end, we have called upon Dr. Chaymaa Hassabo, Associate Researcher at the Department of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), to coordinate this research project as principal investigator.

The study is based on a sociological survey and qualitative interviews in Johannesburg and Cape Town. As part of the project, IFAS-Recherche, Chaaymaa Hassabo and her team are working on the elaboration of a short scientific documentary film. The film, based on interviews, will showcase the impact of Covid-19 on informal workers in Johannesburg. It will be shot in October and released in November.

Meet a Researcher

Dr. Chaymaa Hassabo is a Research Associate at the Department of Sociology, University of Johannesburg (UJ).

She is a specialist of Egypt and wrote her doctoral thesis in political science about the transformations of the Mubarak authoritarian regime during the 2002-2010 period.  Dr. Hassabo came to South Africa three years ago as a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Social Change (University of Johannesburg). Her research focuses on the history of protests in Egypt, authoritarianism, activists’ trajectories and revolutions. She is currently writing a book about the end of Mubarak era in Egypt.

More recently, she started studying informality and her interests have expanded to include South Africa, from a comparative perspective with the Middle East. The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown in South Africa raised the issue of inequalities in the informal sector. Dr. Hassabo therefore decided to study the impact of Covid-19 and the level 5 lockdown on informal workers, their work and daily lives. The key element of this study is to understand the life trajectories of informal workers in order to better capture the effects of the pandemic on their lives. From car guards to domestic workers and waiters, this study understands informality with a broad definition.

Like many researchers, Dr. Hassabo explains that the pandemic and lockdown delayed many of her research projects. In addition, it was challenging to find a balance between professional and personal life during the lockdown in a household with a young child where both parents work.

Nevertheless, the level 5 lockdown inspired her new project about informality and Covid-19. With her research team, Dr. Hassabo conducted more than 60 interviews in Johannesburg and Cape Town about the effects of Covid-19 on informal workers. This very enriching project in the field of human and social sciences could be further developed at a national or international level (namely between countries of the South) in the future.

SOURCES: A New Interdisciplinary Open Access Journal

The new interdisciplinary open access journal Sources. Materials & Fieldwork in African Studies is just born with the publication of its first issue online a few months ago.

The result of combined efforts by French Research Institutes in Sub-Saharan Africa (CEDEJ-Khartoum, IFRA-Nairobi, IFAS-ResearchIFRA-IbadanCFEESFDAS), the LAM (‘Les Afriques dans le monde’) research laboratory in Bordeaux (France), and a solid international team in the field of the human and social sciences, this peer-reviewed journal has taken on an original mission among periodicals devoted to African studies. Its aim is to focus on field materials, i.e. the vast range of documents encountered, scrutinised or (co)produced by anthropologists, historians, geographers, politicians, etc., in the course of their research. Highlighting these materials of various kinds —personal notebooks, private and public archives, maps, leaflets, pamphlets, audio-visual or digital documents, maps, sketches, posters, objects…— helps to shed light on research in the making and to unveil the ‘toolbox’ of researchers. Sources has not only chosen to focus its reflections on the materials themselves, but the journal also wishes to work on the archiving and distribution of documents that are often fragile and inaccessible.

The very first issue, deliberately eclectic, offers an excellent testimony to this original approach. An introductory text authored by Marie-Aude Fouéré, Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle and Ophélie Rillon presents the epistemological and ethical positions that underpinned the creation of this new journal. It should also be noted that the articles will be available in several languages (French, English, Portuguese).

To Discover at Home

Reading Tips

1) In an article called “Remote research and partnerships have potential!”, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) explores how the international scientific community developed new techniques to carry on research remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can read the article in English and in French.

2) Guillaume Blanc’s new book “L’invention du colonialisme vert. Pour en finir avec le mythe de l’Éden africain” has been released on September 9th by Flammarion. Drawing on unpublished archives, as well as life stories, Blanc, a specialist in environmental history, sheds a light on little-known aspects of colonialism, such as the implementation of natural parks and environmental regulations.

3) Discover or re-discover Bill Freund’s most recent book Twentieth-Century South Africa: A Development History, which captures South Africa’s evolution with a focus on modernisation and industrialisation. Although the country’s economic development is at the centre of the book, Freund also focuses on people and places, key elements in the understanding of South Africa’s evolution.

Short Documentary Film

We invite you to discover a short documentary film, part of a project called “Solidarity? Revealing the Everyday Lived Reality of Covid-19 in Kliptown, Soweto”, developed by Kristen Kornienko (Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies, School of Architecture and Planning, University of Witwatersrand; 1995; University of Athabasca), Thabang Nkwanyana (1955), Ginger Mahlamvu (1955), Bafana Nkosi (Independent), and Robert Shai (1955).

The film explores the connection between community and culture in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Kliptown, Soweto, in the context of the government’s absence. It portrays Kliptown’s residents’ fears, anger and vulnerability, as well as their engagement to improve their living standards.

The film is available on the Youtube page of the initiative.

Online Exhibition

Robben Island Prison, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years during his fight against Apartheid, offers an online exhibition. From the prison gate to Nelson Mandela’s cell, the exhibition offers a virtual visit taking you across Table Bay for approximately 40 minutes.

You can access the exhibition online.

Discover IFAS-Research’s Partners: the UMIFRE Network in Sub-Saharan Africa

IFAS-Research or UMIFRE 25, is part of a global network of 27 institutes for research in Human and Social Sciences, called UMIFRE (Unités mixtes des instituts français de recherche à l’étranger), part of the CNRS (French National Research Centre), and supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Seven of these research institutes, including IFAS-Recherche, are based on the African continent. They are grouped in a research unit called USR (Unité de Service et de Recherche) 3336.

In this new series about IFAS-Research’s partners, we would like you to discover the seven USR 3336. Every newsletter will shed a light on one of the research institutes.

In our September issue, we are looking at IFRA-Ibadan, the French Institute of Research in Nigeria. Established in 1990, IFRA-Ibadan has been promoting research in the field of social sciences and humanities since its creation. Its mission is to encourage cooperation between West African and French scholars. IFRA-Ibadan focuses on projects in the fields of democracy, urban management and violence, education, transborder studies, religious networks and the politics of violence.

Discover IFRA-Ibadan’s projects here.