In his opening address to the Women RISE workshop at Chintsa in the Eastern Cape on the “Fieldwork Learnings and Ethnographic Imagination”, Professor Leslie Bank at EEE highlighted how important the imagination was in the work of social scientists, not only in producing innovative and insightful (auto) ethnography (research), but to reimagining our broken world.
The women RISE project seeks a create what we call ‘peoples science’, new forms of practice through the lens of a sociology or anthropology of the mundane, the everyday.
While politicians respond to popular demands for closure and certainty through ethno-nationalism and the construction of walls and boundaries, ‘peoples science’ is based accessing the multiple ways in which people, officials and civil society adapt to uncertainty by creating new forms of everyday practices. It is about taking the small ways of doing things differently and making them ‘massive’.
Professor Bank provoked the fieldwork team to use the ‘charge of everyday encounters’ to think about three things – the contradictions of intimacy (GBV), the changing nature of normativity, and what he called the “anthropology of possibility”. He asked them to think about what it would take to reimagine the world from the mundane.
The workshop listened to fieldwork reports on many issues related to women’s lives and struggles from eight different communities in the Eastern Cape. It also explored the impact of trauma on rural women after Covid, highlighting a mismatch between women’s own classifications of their condition and northern biomedical and mental health categories. The workshop also introduced Canadian interns from McGill University led by Co-PI Professor Kathleen Rice, whose new book focuses on the meaning of personhood, rights, and responsibilities in rural South Africa. Read more about the book here.
Dr Tim Hart from the HSRC addressed the topic of policy and changing rural livelihoods, while Dr Vuyokazi Sharpley from the UKZN spoke about uncovering hidden women voices through community engagement and policy action. Ziyanda Xaso, director of Jika Uluntu, a gender violence NGO, spoke on the theme of trauma and disruption in women’s lives. Mr Ian Assam from the Eastern Cape Socio-economic Consultative Council (ECSECC) provided an overview of the current post-Covid policy landscape, while Zama Nkosi, a demographer from Walter Sisulu University, told researchers what they could expect with the release of the 2022 census later this year.