PhD Scholarships: Research on Social Change

Please note: this opportunity closing date has passed and may not be available any more.
Opportunity closing date: 
Monday, 25 June, 2012
Opportunity type: 
Fellowships and Scholarships

For the last few years the Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI) and the NRF Chair in Local Histories and Present Realities at the University of the Witwatersrand have been undertaking research exploring social change in post-apartheid South Africa.

The research has focused on the tens of thousands of townhouse complexes, luxury estates and related informal settlements that have arisen on the western edge of Johannesburg (in the West Rand and Roodepoort). The project investigates new communities and social identities emerging in these areas, the key social institutions (such as body corporates and churches) shaping identity and social relations and the implications of these changes for governance, the democratic project and more.

Using this research as a platform for discussion, PARI recently hosted a symposium on social change in post-apartheid South Africa, preceded by a public lecture by Phil Bonner from the NRF Chair in Local Histories. Both the symposium and PARI’s research received extensive coverage in City Press in April. More information about the symposium and lecture, as well as a recent essay based on the research by Ivor Chipkin, refer to

PARI and the NRF Chair in Local Histories have been awarded a National Research Foundation grant to extend the research to other provinces in South Africa, introducing an exciting comparative dimension to the study. The NRF Grant includes scholarships for PhD students, as well funding for postdoctoral research.

The scholarships

PARI and the NRF Chair in Local Histories are inviting applications for the award of two PhD scholarships for research on social change in post-apartheid South Africa. The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit and the resonance of the applicant’s research topic with the Social Cohesion in Emerging Communities Project, specifically, research which involves in-depth fieldwork in residential settlements in South Africa’s cities and small towns which explores the following kinds of questions:

  • To what extent do social developments in South Africa fall back into grooves set by historic patterns of race, class and gender inequality? Or are there new social identities emerging in the country that are configured on different terms?
  • Are there new urban settlements (or changes to established settlements) in the cities and small towns of South Africa that constitute new forms of community?
  • What are the different institutions regulating the lives of individuals in these communities? Which institutions are absent? Are there unexpected, as yet unknown, forces at work, influencing social patterns?
  • What is driving the how, where and with whom people socialise and relate?
  • How important is language or religion?
  • How does the form and geography of social change affect the character of the city and town?

Eligibility and applications

PARI and the NRF Chair in Local Histories will consider applications from students registered or intending to register at any university in South Africa. Successful applicants will be awarded the scholarships on condition that they are officially accepted by the relevant university.

Applicants should:

  • Have a Masters degree with a minimum of a 70 percent pass. Applicants who did not achieve a 70 percent pass will be considered if they are able to provide a motivation in support of their application from the Head of Department in which they completed their last degree;
  • Be South African citizens;
  • Be in their first year of study or intending to register for a PhD immediately;
  • Be prepared to undertake substantial fieldwork outside Gauteng. Students not based in Gauteng will be expected to travel to PARI’s offices in Johannesburg on a fairly regular basis. Limited funding is available for travel.

Preference will be given to candidates who:

  • Speak an official South African language other than English;
  • Intend to / are undertaking fieldwork in the Free State, Limpopo or Mpumalanga.  

Scholarships will not be awarded to applicants who:

  • Already hold a NRF scholarship;
  • Intend / are undertaking fieldwork only in Gauteng.

To apply, refer to

Applications should reach PARI by no later than 9h00 on 25 June 2012.

For more information, refer to

For more about the Public Affairs Research Institute, refer to

For more about the University of the Witwatersrand, refer to

To view other opportunities, refer to

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