Four researchers at SU scoop sought-after fellowships

Four researchers of Stellenbosch University (SU) were winners of a recent fellowship competition by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) based in Brooklyn, New York.

Only nine fellowships were awarded to doctoral students at South African Universities, and the SU scooped more places than Wits (two awards), the University of the Western Cape (two) and University of Cape Town (one).

The SU researchers who received fellowships are: Fankie Lucas Monama (Department of History) Wartime Propaganda in the Union of South Africa, 1939-45, Gugulethu G. Siziba (Anthropology/Sociology), Language and the Politics of Identity in South Africa: The Case of Shona and Ndebele Migrants in Johannesburg, Bernard Dubbeld, (Anthropology), Becoming Homeless: Superfluity, Governance, and the Experience of Insecurity in Glendale, South Africa and Kathleen Lorne McDougall (Anthropology), Familiar Present, Familial History: Change, Afrikaner Culture Politics and the Threat of History Repeating.

The SSRC is one of the largest donors of social science research in the world.  It positions itself explicitly in interdisciplinary (across the social sciences) and international terms. It gives out substantial fellowships every year to scholars and doctoral students, funding both established and cutting edge social science research.

In 2011, the SSRC launched a new programme entitled Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa which, “responds to a shortage of well-trained faculty now reaching crisis proportions in African higher education.

The new programme offers three distinct competitive fellowship opportunities to support the advancement of social science faculty and promote interdisciplinary social science research in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. It will enable early-career social science faculty to complete doctoral degrees and conduct innovative, evidence-based research on peace, security, and development topics.

The programme was thus aimed at scholars who are based in one of these countries, and have shown promise that they will become contributors to social science research in these countries, as well as build the academies of the identified locations in Africa.

The awards were organized in three categories – doctoral proposal development, doctoral research (fieldwork) and doctoral completion with awards of up to US$15,000. The money is aimed at enabling scholars to access resources in order to make progress on their doctoral dissertations. It enables the researches to buy time away from their teaching responsibilities.

The awardees are further required to participate in two workshops, the first of which will take place in Ghana in June. The workshops are designed to aid the awardees with the formulation of their research proposal, with the help of leading social scientists.

“Obtaining a fellowship was a highly competitive exercise,” says Dubbeld.  “It involved the submission of a range of materials by 30 September. According to Craig Calhoun, president of the SSRC, there was an unexpectedly large number of applications and the quality of submitted proposals were very high.”

In the end 33 fellowships were awarded with SU’s lecturers receiving more than any other South African university.

“Institutionally, the significance of this success is that it recognizes that Stellenbosch University will be a leading player in cutting-edge social science research in the future. Individually, it will aid awardees to finish doctorates in less time, and improve the quality and reception of those doctorates internationally,” says Dubbeld.