Delegates from local and international universities attended the inaugural Humanities and Social Sciences Conference, co-hosted by the English and Communication programme and the Centre for General Education within the Faculty of Arts and Design on 6 November to 8 November 2023.
Focusing on multidisciplinary research, the conference theme was ‘Building bridges: looking back, moving forward’. The conference was hosted at the Durban University of Technology’s Hotel School, Ritson Campus and was opened by the local organising committee chair, Dr Maleshoane Rapeane-Mathonsi. It featured two keynote addresses from prominent scholars in education and linguistics.
The first keynote address, by Professor Sechaba Mahlomaholo from the University of Mpumalanga, was called ‘Entangled Relationalities as Sustainable Learning Environments for Employability’. Prof Mahlomaholo said in his presentation:
“I really feel that the issues of inter- disciplinarity, multi- disciplinarity, trans-disciplinarity, cross-disciplinarity is an operationalisation of what humanity is all about; it is about recognition of how as human beings we are at the climax of historical experience; we are existing in relationalities. The theories of Bronfenbrenner and the others-they are okay, but I think to some extent they have missed the point. We are indivisable but when we look at an individual person-myself for instance-I am a product of a loving relationship between my parents, within my family and friends, my neighbourhood, so everything that I am saying is coming from me as an individual,” he said.
Prof Mahlomaholo championed the introduction of humanity into the research process, moving away from terms such as ‘research subjects’ and ‘data collection’, noting that people who are interviewed for research are co-creators of knowledge and should be called co-researchers.
Prof Heike Tappe, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, delivered the second keynote address to an attentive audience. Using an image of people building a bridge stone by stone, she implored each person in the audience to help to preserve the indigenous languages of South Africa by uploading texts to the internet.
“South Africans spend an average of 10.5 hours on the internet per day, and for young people, it is more. How much of the content they are viewing is in their home language?” Prof Tappe asked.
Prof Tappe encouraged delegates to translate Wikipedia pages into their home languages and to upload resources like traditional recipes and folktales online before they are lost.
The inaugural conference provided a safe and stimulating platform for first-time presenters to receive feedback and support from well-established and early career researchers. The various sub-themes attracted scholars from fields varying from criminology to formal linguistics. Under the theme of curriculum development, University of Limpopo lecturer Katlego Mabulana spoke about exploring how selective learning can enhance learning interest among high school learners in the Free State.
Dr Nosipho Faith Makhakhe, a DUT lecturer, presented on researcher reflexivity as an element of quality in qualitative research. “Reflexivity is understood as a process of continuous internal dialogue and critical self-evaluation of the researcher’s positionality, as well as an active acknowledgement and explicit recognition that this position may affect the research process and outcome. Thus, reflexivity challenges the notion of knowledge production being independent of the researcher and the notion that research is objective,” he said.
The conference’s gala dinner was hosted at the DUT Hotel School Restaurant on 7 November 2023. Dr Juliet Ramohai, Head of Department of the Centre for General Education and local organising committee (LOC) member, opened the dinner, remarking on the quality of papers presented so far at the conference. LOC members from the English and Communication programme, Dr Jade Smith, and Dr Sam Erevbenagie Usadolo, informed delegates about the teaching and research activities of the co-hosts and encouraged delegates to submit their full research papers for publication.
Dr Maleshoane Rapeane-Mathonsi, conference chair and programme coordinator of the English and Communication programme, thanked all attendees for making the conference successful.
“To the speakers, we thank you for trusting us with your research.” “We hope that it is the start of many interdisciplinary collaborations,” said Dr Rapeane-Mathonsi.
Pictured: Left to Right: Dr Jade Smith, Professor Heike Tappe and Dr Maleshoane Rapeane-Mathonsi. (Image by Nondumiso Sibiya).