Swanson D (2020) Researching within contexts of ‘vulnerability’ and stress in sub-Saharan Africa: A ‘new’ or ‘old’ ethic of research partnership and participatory engagement? (Presentation), 27.02.2020-27.03.2020.
Abstract Sub-Saharan Africa is a region often considered to be somewhat ‘left behind’ in the thrust of globalising modernisation on the African continent, and faces unique challenges compared with the rest of the continent, except the challenge of Asian expansionism across the continent. In sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe, for one, has experienced very serious economic hardships under Mugabe, and subsequently under the military rule of Mnangagwa, impacting its SADC neighbours in the region. South Africa, as another, has experienced unprecedented challenges of migration from other parts of the continent, with heightened pressure on old infrastructure, while at the same time experiencing serious economic strain as a result of ongoing racially-informed policies and practices, ‘state capture’ under the Zuma era, an energy crisis as a result of the collapse of ESKOM, the state-run public energy service, and poor economic forecasts. Simultaneously, it has encountered a number of disaster risks as a result of climate change induced droughts, water shortages, increased fires, and repeated flooding, with deleterious effects on vulnerable residents in urban and rural settings.
The opportunity to engage in global challenge led research in the region to address complex interrelated challenges may not have been greater, yet the potential harm of misplaced ‘good intentions’ is also ever present. Given the challenges sub-Saharan Africa faces and in the light of the ‘decolonising movement’ in South Africa and elsewhere, ‘old’ and ‘new’ ethics of engagement require being carefully considered by universities of the North in their competition to engage a diversity of Global South institutions in the region.