One of the great things about being a “trailing spouse” is the access I have been afforded to the resources and offerings at the University of Pretoria. Sunday night was a prime example.
Jenny and I were invited to attend the opening of the South African Sociological Association Annual Congress, which included a keynote address by Professor Raewyn Connell of the University of Sydney on Gender and social justice: Southern perspectives. It was a fascinating look at how gender is and has been defined, particularly in the sociological canon and as a result of domination by scholars from the global North (and, in the earliest days, by white men).
Later in the evening, Professor Wilson Akpan of the University of Fort Hare discussed concepts of local knowledge, global knowledge and development knowledge, and posited that, basically, Northern/Western aid agencies often suffer from overactive empathy and inadequate understanding. Local and indigenous knowledge are hot buzzwords in international development circles, but practitioners often can’t see the forest for the trees. Interesting stuff. Both talks took me back to grad school anthropology coursework on the politics of gender & reproduction and cultural issues in development.
But if issues of gender and development don’t get your heart racing (yes, we’re nerds), this will: The conference also featured a performance by the University of Pretoria Chorale, a student choir that represents South Africa’s 11 official languages through song and dance. Here’s a bit of the show, as captured on my iPhone: