dut rodes

Durban University of Technology in
partnership with the Rhodes University will be hosting a



Community Engagement: Towards Social And Epistemic Justice


31 May – 2 June 2017

Durban, South Africa



Twenty years after the release of the 1997 White Paper questions still remain about the efficacy of the collective efforts of higher education to promote social and epistemic justice. The nature and extent to which higher education institutions have responded to the call to avail their ‘expertise and resources’ to meet the challenges of local communities and constituencies through community engagement, has varied in intensity and purpose across the sector. Acceptance of the challenge by universities has not always translated into commitment to a sustained programme of action through the various instruments that constitute community engagement. Consequently, it is widely held that throughout the South African higher education sector, community engagement has yet to become institutionalised.


While many exemplars exist, of the good practice of drawing community engagement from the periphery of institutional strategy, the quest for social and epistemic justice remains remotely achievable and collectively, transformation within the higher education sector “has not shown as much progress as might be expected” (Erasmus, 2014: 105). Importantly, the development of civically minded graduates has been critically under-addressed in higher education policy making at institutional, programmatic and theoretical levels (Lange 2012: 53).


The South African higher education sector (through its dominantly Eurocentric positivistic epistemological paradigm) implicitly endorses and explicitly perpetuates a number of epistemic injustices which includes: negating the democratization of the knowledge creation process, stunting the research potential of universities by delegitimising sources of knowledge deemed valid by some mainstream research communities, and limiting access to higher education in the face of already notorious economic barriers.


Given the renewed calls for the transformation of the sector especially from student led activism, a philosophical grounding for community engagement could provide a springboard for South African higher education institutions in the remaking of the knowledge production process. It requires those who work in academia to begin to engage more readily with the transformation agenda, especially in relation to social and epistemic justice as referred to in higher education policies which could provide a much needed theoretical basis to counter arguments advanced by sceptics within the academe. Community engagement “allows us to bring in a kind of epistemic justice to the knowledge production process by allowing the voices which have previously been ignored, marginalized and disenfranchised in the knowledge production process to be taken seriously, and to play a role in, not only in knowledge production, but knowledge dissemination (Paphitis, 2015). A strong philosophical grounding for the role of community engagement in South African higher education has however, not yet been established to support higher education policies aimed at achieving transformation within the sector.


The purpose of this conference is to raise the debate and engender further critical inquiry on the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings and conceptual perspectives of community engagement and how they progress social and epistemic justice in contemporary South Africa and globally. If the goals of transformation, social and epistemic justice are to be advanced, it is necessary to revisit the role of values in the knowledge creation process; to redefine values for a knowledge society; and realize the objectives of knowledge democracy.



The conference provides a platform to critically assess and share insights on the following questions:

  1. How do the diverse forms of institutionalization of community engagement promote or hinder the social and epistemic justice project or process?
  2. What role can academics and students play in the transformative agenda of higher education through community engagement?
  3. Is it possible through the principles and practices of community engagement to disrupt institutional cultures in ways that would shift the governing epistemic paradigm of the sector towards the democratization of the knowledge creation process and could this then serve as a philosophical foundation for the role of community engagement in higher education?
  4. Is there a role for community engagement activities and activists in transforming the higher education sector by dismantling the ivory tower image and promoting epistemic agency in the knowledge creation process?
  5. How do we conceptualise social and epistemic justice in the high education sector, and to what extent does the knowledge production process in this sector take into consideration issues of social and epistemic justice?
  6. How can or does community engagement contribute to addressing social and epistemic injustices?
  7. How do we envisage an epistemological paradigm (different from the Eurocentric positivistic epistemological paradigm) for the South African higher education context that incorporates community engagement, research, teaching and learning?

We welcome your presence and response to the above questions in the form of either a paper or poster presentation based on one of the following sub-themes:

  1. Philosophy of Community Engagement
  2. Theories of Community Engagement
  3. Conceptualization of Community Engagement
  4. Principles and Practice of Community Engagement

Who should attend

Postgraduate students in South Africa and Internationally

Independent Researchers

Community Based Organizations/ Non- Governmental Organizations

Private Sectors/ Industries

Academics of Higher Education Institutions nationally and globally

Conference Registration Fee

All delegates R 1500

Call For Abstract

We invite you to submit an abstract with a maximum word count of between 250 to 300 words. The title of abstract should be followed by the author(s) names, affiliation and the sub-theme.


Participants will be able to submit their interest under two categories:

  1. Oral: this will require delegates to submit an abstract and, if selected, a power point presentation and paper is required. Time allocated for oral presentation will be 20 minutes. A completed paper is required to be submitted by 15 March 2017.
  2. Poster: this will require delegates to submit an abstract and, if selected, the delegate will be required to prepare a poster to be displayed during the conference. At least, one delegate must be present on the day of the presentation. Time allocated for presentation will be 15 minutes.


All queries should be directed to kristenad@dut.ac.za.

Registration / Abstract / Paper Submission Form

Please use the online form to submit your Abstract and Paper


PS. The file size of the uploaded document must not exceed 7mb in order to submit successfully. You can visit http://smallpdf.com/compress-pdf to reduce the pdf size if necessary.

Important Dates

Call for abstracts 10 September 2016
Abstract Submission Deadline 15 March 2017
Notification of acceptance 31 March 2017
Paper/ Poster Deadline 21 April 2017


Dr Rajesh Tandon

Rajesh Tandon is an internationally acclaimed leader and practitioner of participatory research and development. He founded Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), a voluntary organisation providing support to grassroots initiatives in South Asia and continues to be in Chief Functionary since 1982. He was appointed Co-Chair of the prestigious UNESCO Chair on Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, for two terms (2012 – 2016 and 2016 – 2020). The UNESCO Chair grows out of and supports UNESCO’s global lead to play ‘a key role in assisting countries to build knowledge societies’.


After completing electronics engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, Dr. Tandon obtained a gold medal in management from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Calcutta. He later pursued his PhD in organisational science at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, a marked departure from physical science subjects.


A pioneer of participatory research, he has given new meaning to academic research by redefining the relationship between the researcher and the researched. He has championed the cause of building organisations and capacities of the marginalised through their knowledge, learning and empowerment. He has contributed to the emergence of several local, national and international groups and initiatives to promote authentic and participatory development of societies.


Dr. Tandon has authored more than 100 articles, a dozen books and numerous training manuals on democratic governance, civic engagement, civil society, governance and management of NGOs, participatory research and people-centred development.


In 2016, the Indian Adult Education Association (IAEA) awarded Dr Tandon the Nehru Literacy Award. For his distinguished work on gender issues, the Government of India honoured him with the prestigious Award in Social Justice in March 2007. The University of Victoria, Canada, awarded Dr Tandon the degree of Doctor of Law (Honoris Causa) in June 2008. He is the first Indian to be inducted to the International Adult and Continuing Education (IACE) Hall of Fame (class of 2011).


Tandon serves as chairperson of the Global Alliance on Community-Engaged Research (GACER) network, which facilitates the sharing of knowledge and information worldwide to further community-based research. He presented the GACER policy brief, “Higher Education, Community Engagement and the World We Want”, at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in Paris in July 2009, and is co-editor of the 5th GUNi Report and the forthcoming 6th GUNi Report.


Hotel and Restaurant school, Ritson Campus, Durban University of Technology

Conference Program
Banking Details

Bank: Standard Bank

Branch: Durban Main

Branch Code: 040026

Beneficiary: Durban University of Technology

Bank Account Number: 05000 7068

Reference: U635 301505 CEC- (with your name and initials)

Please email proof of payment to kristenad@dut.ac.za

Recommended Accommodation

Accommodation: Coastlands on the Ridge, Musgrave
Email: reservations@coastlandsridge.co.za
Contact number: +2731 271 8200


Please note shuttle services will be provided for Coastlands guests every morning and afternoon to and from DUT (Please confirm your need for a shuttle with Kristena Doorsamy on kristenad@dut.ac.za )

For further information, please email Ms Kristena Doorsamy: kristenad@dut.ac.za