Call for Proposals: Land Divided Conference 2013 – Land and South African Society in 2013, in Comparative Perspective

Please note: this opportunity closing date has passed and may not be available any more.
Opportunity closing date: 
Friday, 31 August, 2012
Opportunity type: 
Call for proposals

The University of Cape Town’s Law, Race and Gender Unit, Centre for Curating the Archive, in partnership with the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, and the Land, Environment and Society in Africa (LESA) Research Programme at Stellenbosch University, and PLAAS and the NRF Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, is calling for proposals for its conference ‘Land Divided: Land and South African Society in 2013, in Comparative Perspective’, taking place from 24-27 March 2013 in Cape Town.

2013 is the centenary of South Africa’s notorious Natives Land Act, a foundational piece of legislation in the edifice of twentieth-century segregation and apartheid. Its devastating legacy is still evident in the country’s divided countryside and deeply racialised inequalities. It is also a year before the 2014 deadline that the ANC government set for itself in the mid-1990s, of redistributing 30 percent of commercial agricultural land into black ownership – a target that most analysts agree cannot be met. Land reform continues to figure in national economic policy (such as the New Growth Path) and in political rhetoric across the ideological spectrum. What does all of this mean for the present and the future?

The answers do not lie in easy slogans and opportunistic politics. The centenary of the Land Act presents a major opportunity for researchers in academia, civil society and the state to reflect on the significance of ‘the land question’ in South African society and what can be learned from other contexts and different ways of thinking about land as a social, economic and natural resource. Land reform cannot be reduced to agricultural policy, nor can the social meaning of land be understood in narrowly economic terms. The complex intersection of issues shaping relationships to land at the start of the twenty-first century demand fresh analyses and new ways of thinking. Much can be learned from addressing the issues in comparative perspective and drawing on theories and insights from other parts of the region and globe.

The programme

With the above as a starting point, this inter-disciplinary conference aims to provide a platform for current scholarship across the social, human and environmental sciences on land issues in South Africa, within a regional and comparative frame. Given the significance of the centenary of the 1913 Land Act, reflections on the legacy and meaning of this legislation - one hundred years on - will be an important focus. However, the conference also aims to stimulate critical reflection on contemporary and future environmental, agrarian and social dynamics within South Africa and the region. In this way it aims to provide a platform for scholarship that is mindful of the significance of the past and also forward looking.

Conference themes:

  • The legacy of the 1913 Natives Land Act;
  • Land reform and agrarian policy in southern Africa;
  • The multiple meanings of land: identity, rights, belonging; and
  • Ecological challenges.

These themes will be explored in plenary sessions, where leading figures in the field from South Africa and abroad will identify key issues and open up the debates, which will then be further examined in parallel sessions.

Photographic exhibition

A highlight of the conference will be the launch of a photographic exhibition on the multiple meanings of land in South Africa, past and present. This will be co-curated by Paul Weinberg and David Goldblatt, who have both spent much of their careers exploring the contested nature of land and landscape in South African society. The exhibition will be a public event that will address all four conference themes visually.

Enquiries: Obiozo Ukpabi or Tersia Warries, Tel: 021 959 3733, Fax:  020 959 3732.

For more about the Land Divided Conference 2013, refer to

For more about the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, refer to

For more about the Centre for Curating the Archive, refer to

For more about the Law, Race & Gender Research Unit, refer to

For more about the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University, refer to

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