Current Institutional Affiliation
WiSER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand

Award Information

Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa: Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship 2016
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
WiSER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand
Black Student Intellectuals and the New Student Movement in South Africa: The Case of the Rhodes Must Fall Movement

The current wave of student protests that has shaken South African universities has been born out of a growing cadre of young black students who are dissatisfied with the institutions of higher learning in the post-apartheid context, and who are demanding a different kind of university for a different kind of society. My research has two core trajectories that it traces through South Africa's new student movement. First, it seeks to understand the role of intellectuals in transforming society, here how young black student intellectuals have been critical in defining a new set of questions and possibilities for South African society. Second, it seeks to understand how education, and in particular the university, can be mobilised in the service of radical social change. The primary object of this research is the black student intellectual, and his/her role in radicalising the univeristy as well as the relationship between the university and society. My project seeks to look broadly at the context and role of the university in South Africa as well as how the 2015 student protests are situated in relation to the the history of student movement in south Africa and elsewhere. More specifically, my research focuses on the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF), the black-led student movement from the University of Cape Town, which was the first student movement formed in March 2015. The research is being conducted by means of a qualitative research design, which uses primarily participant observation and in depth interviews. Student intellectuals are understanding and bringing to discussion how the economic and political violence that is endured on a massive scale by the majority of the population is reproduced through and propped up by an institutional and epistemological violence that they recognise at the crux of the South African university project. The importance of this emerging black student intellectual in radically questioning the role of education, the university, and ultimately of society, is what my project seeks to engage.