2017 HDCA Conference – Cape Town, South Africa

HDCA 2017 Conference

“Challenging Inequalities: Human Development and Social Change” 

September 6-8, 2017

Cape Town, South Africa

Hosted by University of Cape Town


with University of the Free State, University of the Western Cape and the Human Sciences Research Council

ufs-logo   uwc-logo

The 2017 HDCA Program Committee cordially invites scholars, government policy makers, practitioners and other interested parties from all over the world to participate in the 2017 HDCA conference.  Original empirical research, theoretical issues, case-studies or reports of experiences, or findings from major research projects, and book panels relevant to conference theme or more broadly related to human development/capabilities approach will be presented.

Please use the conference menu on the right to find more information. The conference organizers can be contacted at hdca.conference@uct.ac.za

Privacy Policy

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Refund Policy

Conference registration and payment will open up to 5 months in advance of the conference and all registration must be complete by the start  of conference. Registration will close once all available spots have been filled. Once registration is complete, your payment will be processed.  You will receive email with confirmation.  All registrations are final. No refunds will be issued,  unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g. serious illness or death of close relative). There are no refunds for payments of membership dues.

Conference Theme

“Challenging Inequalities: Human Development and Social Change” 

Economic inequality is bad for political equality and political freedoms which are key conditions for the expansion and securing of human capabilities and the building of decent and inclusive societies. The conference theme explores this as a dynamic challenge of human development and social change, together with the potential of the capability approach to offer a powerful normative framework to advance justice in unequal societies. The capability approach is now a widely-used framework for evaluating equality and justice in terms of human well-being, freedom, and development. It has been developed partly because traditional approaches focusing only on income or utility do not adequately capture the diverse, plural, and multidimensional nature of human lives and development experiences, nor provide the informational basis of justice in policy making and implementation. As a concept originally developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, capability works to understand and explain inequalities and injustices in the social, political, economic and historical arrangements that shape human experiences, and the valuable functionings that people have reason to choose for flourishing lives.

The capabilities emphasis on plural human freedoms allows us both to examine the experiences of real lives but also to develop methodologies to aggregate and index multiple aspects of human development and capabilities across significant in/equality dimensions (for example, youth, cities, education and social cohesion), viewed and researched from multiple disciplinary perspectives. One of the main goals of the HDCA 2017 Conference will be to assemble and compare a variety of research approaches – theoretical, conceptual, philosophical, methodological, empirical – in global South and global North contexts in order to shed light on the benefits of, and challenges human development and capability expansion confronts.

By selecting ‘challenging inequalities’ and also ‘social change’ as an overall theme for the HDCA 2017 Conference, we want to explore the normative and empirical power and scope of the capability approach to describe, assess, and promote change in the direction of human development and social justice in an increasingly globalized world where people’s circumstances and values are vastly different and in which inequality is rising within and across countries.

The capability approach itself is evolving and open to extensions, modifications, criticisms, and revisions. We would like to invite scholars, policy-makers, practitioners, and students who are working at the frontiers of this expanding field of research. Anyone new to HDCA is of course more than welcome, as we appreciate diversity of participants in terms of research topics and methods, professions, and regions.

This conference is being held at a key and historic moment for the continent and for South Africa – economically, socially and politically – offering the possibility to bring the approach to the attention of wider audiences of researchers, young scholars, practitioners, and policy makers and brokers. It will be an exciting opportunity for all of us to meet for the first time on the African continent.


Call for Papers & Deadlines

Download the Call for Papers here.

Proposals can be uploaded starting in January, at: http://www.conftool.pro/hdca2017/

March 17, 2017 – Deadline to submit proposals
(Those concerned with obtaining visas to travel to South Africa should submit as soon as possible.)

April 15, 2017 – Announcement of acceptance/rejection

June 15, 2017 – Deadline for conference registration at early-bird rates

July 15, 2017 – Submission of full papers/posters

August 15, 2017 – Final deadline for conference registration at standard rates


Keynote Speakers

Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago)

Ifeanyi Menkiti (Wellesley College) Martha Nussbaum lecture

Thandika Mkandawire (London School of Economics) Amartya Sen lecture (tbc)

Tereza Campello, (former Minister of Social Development and Hunger Eradication, Brazil), Mahbub ul Haq lecture

Conference Program

Information to come

Pre-conference Events

Information to come

Registration, fees & scholarships

On-line conference registration will open around April 2017. Students and scholars from low- and mid-income countries will pay a significantly reduced registration fee, as the following schedule indicates:

  • Professional, high-income country, early ($380)
  • Professional, high-income country, standard ($430)
  • Professional, low- or mid-income country, early ($190)
  • Professional, low- or mid-income country, standard ($240)
  • Student, high-income country, early ($190)
  • Student, high-income country, standard ($240)
  • Student, low- or mid-income country, early ($90)
  • Student, low- or mid-income country, standard ($130)

Please note that the registration fee includes a year’s membership in the HDCA. As in previous years, the HDCA aims to make partial financial assistance available to those who need it. Details to be made available in due course on this page.



Participants in this year’s conference are kindly requested to refrain from booking hotel accommodation just yet: a full list of accommodation options will be made available shortly.

Venue and attractions

Information to come


Information to come

HDCA Summer School

Prior to the main 2017 HDCA annual conference, there will be a two-day HDCA Summer School primarily aimed at PhD graduate students working with the capability approach.  It will take place at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, on Sunday 3 and Monday 4 September 2017.  The aim of the summer school is to introduce students to foundational concepts within the capability approach as well some core themes where current theoretical and empirical work is taking place.  Participants will also have an opportunity to get group feedback on their research projects. Registration will open towards the end of April 2017 and spaces will be limited so we advise early booking to avoid disappointment. Priority will be given to students who have not previously attended an HDCA summer school.

Summer School Committee

Caroline Sarojini Hart, HDCA Education Officer
Sridhar Venkatapuram, HDCA Officer at Large
Graciela Tonon, HDCA Secretary