This SARChI research programme, launched in January 2016, is convened by Prof Cherryl Walker as Research Chair. Its central concern is to deepen our understanding of the complex web of social and environmental dynamics within which commitments to sustainable development must operate, with the arid Karoo region of South Africa as its primary research site.

The Karoo is a compelling site through which to explore these issues, given its particular history, environment and contemporary social challenges. Adding to this mix are several globally networked developments that are promising major benefits locally and nationally, but also reframing established relationships to land, environment and place. These include the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, possible shale-gas mining (‘fracking’), and various renewable energy and conservation initiatives.

The programme is organised around a set of individual, core-team and collaborative research projects. The commitment is to research that is empirically grounded, theoretically informed and alert to the importance of cross-disciplinary and comparative work. The Research Chair is based in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology. The Research Chair is funded by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and based in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University.

Current Research Chair activities

The Cosmopolitan Karoo Research Forum (CKRF)

Check out the next meeting of the Cosmopolitan Karoo Research Forum (CKRF)

01 August 2019: Research team report-backs and semester planning.

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Postgraduate student opportunities

Details on application deadlines for PhD, MA and Honours bursaries for 2020 will be announced during Semester 2, 2019. Potentially interested students are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the aims of the Research Chair and to contact Prof Walker if they have any queries (e-mail:

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The 2019 South African Sociological Association (SASA) conference

Mzingaye Brilliant Xaba, Stephanie Borchardt and Zukiswa Zantsi will be presenting papers at the annual SASA conference which will be held at the Southern Sun Hotel in Pretoria from 15 to 17 July 2019. 

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