Land Labour Life

This research cluster is in the process of being shaped and developed. It will bring together different strands of the current, ongoing and future research of different members of the SWOP community whose work focuses on different aspects of wage labour and its place in the development and history of capitalism; poverty; unemployment; the changing nature of work and its futures; land and its relation to questions of dispossession, work, survival and life; social welfare; alternative forms of survival and life that do not rely on access to jobs; and the relationship between political subjectivity and land, as well as understandings of it in relation to wage labour, and poverty. 

The Popular Politics programme at SWOP considers the popular and the political broadly. Popular Politics covers work on protests, the movement landscape, the shaping of political alternatives, representative politics and democracy. The programme has covered three main projects over the last five years; Movement Landscapes – focusing on deepening this concept through the study of cycles of protest since 1994 – , Mapping the Fault-lines in the Rising South – that looks at popular politics in the BRICS countries – , and Contentious Democracy – looking at the relationship between protest, electoral politics and democracy. 

Coal mining and burning are a major driver of environmental inequality in South Africa. Such inequality is evident in the poor’s exposure to toxic pollution, in the lack of universal access to critical resources such as clean water and air, the land, clean, affordable energy, and their vulnerability to the extreme weather events, such as droughts, heat waves, crop failures and floods, associated with climate change. To mitigate the later, South Africa is undergoing a transition from coal to renewable energy. This project, therefore, aims to investigate the implications of a just transition from coal for workers and people living near coal mines and coal-fired power-stations, many of whom have experienced the dispossession of their land,
graves and livelihoods amongst other things because of coal mining.

This programme brings an alternative perspective to bear on violence. We seek to foreground the acts, processes, meanings and moralities of violence, and in so doing to gain a deeper understanding of violence, why it occurs and how it is embedded in society. We attempt to suspend immediate and ‘common sense’ judgements about violence in favour of a deeper understanding. This programme is a collaboration between SWOP and the School of Human and Community Development. 

Questions of research method have come to form a core part of the ongoing research and knowledge production at SWOP. SWOP, as a research institute, has continuously engaged with critical questions relating to research methods – from debates about public sociology, to the concept of critically engaged sociology, and beyond. More recently, there has been a rethinking of some of these terms and renewed experimentation with ‘method’ that often happens across disciplinary boundaries.

Building knowledge of social life through the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermaths in South Africa.

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