Marike van der Merwe

MA student

Project title: An exploration of the impact of the SKA telescope on Karoo farmer’s perceptions of identity and land in the Carnarvon area


What makes us who we are? How do we identify ourselves? These are some of the fundamental questions informing Marike’s MA thesis, which focuses on the farmers whose farms form part of the core site of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope in the Karoo in the Northern Cape. The erection of the SKA telescope in this area is impacting directly on local farmers. In order to build the dishes and provide their instruments with the necessary conditions to function optimally, the SKA has decided to purchase additional farms surrounding the two farms that were originally bought for its core site. In the South African context land has played an important part in identity formation. Marike’s research project centres on these farmers who stand to lose their land and the effects that this may have on their identity. The purpose of this study is twofold: firstly, to explore the perceptions of local farmers on the impact of the SKA telescope on the area and their farming activities, and secondly, to consider how the establishment of the SKA and the purchasing of more land for the project may be reshaping farmers’ sense of self and their relationship(s) to land and place. Working with a ‘critical cosmopolitanism’ lens, Marike has a particular interest in exploring how the global (the SKA telescope) is intersecting with the local (the farming community affected by the telescope).

Marike completed her undergraduate in BA- Social Dynamics in 2013 at Stellenbosch University and enrolled for a honours in Sociology at the same institution which she completed in 2014. Marike is currently enrolled for her MA in Sociology at Stellenbosch University.

Keywords: Identity; Meaning of land; Sense of loss; Expropriation of land; Critical Cosmopolitanism.