Cherryl Walker

Research Chair

Cherryl Walker was awarded the Research Chair in the Sociology of Land, Environment and Sustainable Development with effect from January 2016. She is also a Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University, which she joined in December 2005. Her research and teaching interests have addressed the sociology of land in South Africa and the wider region, with a particular focus on land restitution and the multiple meanings of land; the challenges of sustainable development and environmental conservation in contemporary society; and women’s land rights in contexts of major social change.  These are all themes she will be taking forward through the Research Chair, in the context of ongoing processes of social, agrarian and ecological change in the Karoo and the wider region. She also has an interest in critical cosmopolitanism as a lens through which to explore current developments in the Karoo and associated dynamics across local, national and global scales.

Her most recent book is Land Divided, Land Restored: Land Reform in South Africa for the 21st Century (2015, co-edited with Ben Cousins). Her other books on land issues are Land, Memory, Reconstruction and Justice: Perspectives on Land Claims in South Africa (2010, co-edited with Anna Bohlin, Ruth Hall and Thembela Kepe) and Landmarked: Land Claims and Land Restitution in South Africa (2008). In 2014 she edited a part-special issue of the Journal of Southern African Studies (40:4) on the historical legacy of South Africa’s 1913 Natives Land Act. In that year she was the recipient of an inaugural Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence at Stellenbosch University.

Her career has spanned the academic, state and NGO sectors. She was a founding member of the land-rights NGO, AFRA, in 1979, and a core member of the original Surplus People Project (SPP) in the early 1980s. This produced a major 5-volume research report on forced population removals in South Africa under apartheid in 1983. Subsequently she co-authored the single-volume synthesis of the SPP reports, The Surplus People (1985), with Laurine Platzky. Between 1995 and 2000 she served on South Africa’s Commission on Restitution of Land Rights as Regional Land Claims Commissioner for the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Between 2007 and 2009 she contributed to the development of the African Union’s ’Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa’ (African Union Commission, African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)) as a member of the ECA’s Expert Consultative Team and contributor to its background report on the SADC region. In this time she also published a number of research reports and journal articles on women’s land rights in sub-saharan Africa, in the context of HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence.

Her early, pioneering research on women’s political mobilisation in 20th century South Africa led to the publication of her first book, Women and Resistance in South Africa (1982, republished in 1991), followed  by an edited volume, Women and Gender in Southern Africa to 1945 (1990). She was also active in debates within civil society on the promotion of gender equality during South Africa’s transition to democracy in the early 1990s.

Keywords: Land restitution, environmental sociology, gender, critical cosmpolitanism, Karoo.