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.


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.


Keynote Speakers

Martha Nussbaum
Martha Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago. From 1986 to 1993, she was a research advisor at the World Institute for Development Economics Research, Helsinki, a part of the United Nations University. She has chaired the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on International Cooperation, the Committee on the Status of Women, and the Committee for Public Philosophy. She has received honorary degrees from fifty colleges and universities in the world. Her books include Women and Human Development (2000), Hiding from Humanity (2004), Frontiers of Justice (2006), Creating Capabilities (2012), Political Emotions (2013), and Anger and Forgiveness (2016). Among her awards are the Prince of Asturias Prize in the Social Sciences in 2012, and the Kyoto Prize in 2016.

Crain Soudien, CEO, Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Crain Soudien is the Chief Executive Officer of the Human Sciences Research Council and formerly a Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cape Town where he remains an emeritus professor in Education and African Studies. His publications in the areas of social difference, culture, education policy, comparative education, educational change, public history and popular culture include three books, three edited collections and over 190 articles, reviews, reports, and book chapters.

He is also the co-editor of three books on District Six, Cape Town, a jointly edited book on comparative education and the author of The Making of Youth Identity in Contemporary South Africa: Race, Culture and Schooling, the author of Realising the Dream: Unlearning the Logic of Race in the South African School, and the co-author of Inclusion and Exclusion in South Africa and Indian Schools. He was educated at the University of Cape Town and UNISA, South Africa and holds a PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

He is involved in a number of local, national and international social and cultural organisations and is the Chairperson of the Independent Examinations Board, the former Chairperson of the District Six Museum Foundation, a former President of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies and had been the chair of the Ministerial Committee on Transformation in Higher Education and is currently the chair of the Ministerial Committee to evaluate textbooks for discrimination. He is a fellow of a number of local and international academies and serves on the boards of a number of cultural, heritage, education and civil society structures.

Jayati Ghosh, Amartya Sen lecture
Jayati Ghosh is one of the world’s leading economists. She is professor of economics at Jawaharlal Nehru university, New Delhi, and the executive secretary of International Development Economics Associates (Ideas), a network of economists critical of the mainstream economic paradigm of neo-liberalism. She previously held positions at Tufts University and Cambridge University, lecturing meanwhile at academic institutions throughout India. She is one of the founders of the Economic Research Foundation in New Delhi, a non-profit trust devoted to progressive economic research. She is a regular columnist for several Indian journals and newspapers, a member of the National Knowledge Commission advising the prime minister of India, and is closely involved with a range of progressive organisations and social movements. She has  received the NordSud Prize for Social Sciences 2010 of the Fondazione Pescarabruzzo, Italy. She is co-recipient of the International Labour Organisation’s 2010 Decent Work Research prize.

Selim Jahan, Mahbub ul Haq lecture
Mr. Selim Jahan is the Director of the Human Development Report Office (HDRO) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), New York. Prior to his appointment to this position, he served as the Director of the Poverty Division of UNDP (2007-2014).  Mr. Jahan was the first Deputy Director (1996-2001). He had already served as a Policy Advisor in HDRO from 1992 to 1996. During his time in HDRO, he was a member of the Core Team that authored nine global Human Development Reports (1993-2001).Before joining UNDP in 1992, Dr. Jahan held different positions in universities, national governments and other international organizations. He was a Lecturer of Economics (1974-77) and Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Research Unit, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh (1984-89). He was a Lecturer, Department of Economics, McGill University, Montreal, Canada (1983-84), and a Visiting Fellow, School Of Public Policy, University of Maryland, U.S.A (1992).Mr. Jahan served as the Economic Adviser, Planning Commission of the Government of Bangladesh (1989-90). He has also worked as an Adviser and Consultant to various international organizations such as ILO, UNDP, UNESCO, and the World Bank during the 1980s and the early 1990s. He was the Secretary General of the Bangladesh Economics Association (1991-92). Mr. Jahan holds a Ph.D. with distinction in Economics from McGill University. He is the author of 10 books and more than 150 articles published in various national and international academic journals. His latest book entitled Overcoming Human Poverty – Essays on the Millennium Development Goals and Beyond was published in 2014

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni
Professor, founding Head of Archie Mafeje Research Institute for Applied Social Policy (AMRI) and currently Director for Scholarship at the Change Management Unit (CMU) in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office at the University of South Africa (UNISA).  He is also the founder of Africa Decolonial Research Network (ADERN) based  at the University of South Africa. He is a National Research Foundation (NRF) rated social scientist; a member of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf); a Fellow of African Studies Centre (ASC) in the Netherlands; and a Research Associate at the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies at The Open University in the United Kingdom. His has published 13 books, over 50 journal articles and over 40 book chapters. His major publications include The Ndebele Nation: Reflections on Hegemony, Memory and Historiography (Amsterdam & Pretoria: Rosenberg Publishers & UNISA Press, 2009); Do ‘Zimbabweans’ Exist? Trajectories of Nationalism, National Identity Formation and Crisis in a Postcolonial State (Oxford & Bern: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2009); Redemptive or Grotesque Nationalism? Rethinking Contemporary Politics in Zimbabwe (Oxford & Bern: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2011); Empire, Global Coloniality and African Subjectivity (New York & Oxford: Berghahn Books, June 2013); Coloniality of Power in Postcolonial Africa: Myths of Decolonization (Dakar: CODESRIA, 2013); Nationalism and National Projects in Southern Africa: New Critical Reflections (Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa, 2013); Bondage of Boundaries and Identity Politics in Postcolonial Africa: The ‘Northern Problem’ and Ethno-Futures (Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa, 2013); Mugabeism? History, Politics and Power in Zimbabwe (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, August 2015); Decolonizing the University, Knowledge Systems and Disciplines (North Carolina, Carolina Academic Press, April 2016) and The Decolonial Mandela: Peace, Justice and Politics of Life (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, March 2016).

Pre-conference Events

September 5 pre-conference day schedule:

8:30 – 16:30
Engaging with African Philosophies: Ubuntu and Justice
SOE Seminar Room, Economics Building, UCT

What can we learn from African Political Philosophies, and ‘Ubuntu’ in particular? How can Ubuntu transform our ideas about justice? More generally, how can we meaningfully enter into conversations with views outside ‘mainstream’ political philosophy? This pre-HDCA conference event brings established and emerging African scholars together to introduce and explore key concepts in African Philosophies as they apply to issues of justice. Papers explore themes such as: human rights, corporate social responsibility, health, rectification, corruption, economic distribution, and others. As such, the event provides opportunities for capability scholars and practitioners to learn about these ideas, and to reflect on the way that these ideas are able to transform capability scholarship and practice. Confirmed Keynotes: Prof Thaddeus Metz (UJ), Dr Motsamai Molefe (UKZN), Dr Uchenna Okeja (Rhodes). Invited Graduate Students: Motlatsi Khosi (UNISA), Khali Mofuoa (UJ), Wade Seale (UCT), Tony Shabangu (UJ), Tlhogi Swaratlhe (UJ).

9:00 – 13:00
Workshop on Participatory Video through the capability approach in an educational context
Eco LT 1, Economics Building, UCT

In this workshop we will explore the value of using participatory video as a methodology to study the expansion of capabilities in educational contexts, both for young people and adults. In order to do this, we will conduct a 4 hour workshop in which the participants will identify educational capabilities related to their participation in the HDCA conference. These capabilities will be the main themes of the videos that will be planned, filmed and screened during the workshop by the participants themselves. We will use mobile phones as digital tools. During the screening, a capability approach analysis of the content of the videos and of the process itself will be conducted using the main elements of the approach.

11:00 – ?

The Human Rights Thematic Group is organizing a site visit to Robben Island.
(This tour will be offered on both Mon. 4 and Tues. 5.

14:30 – 17:00
Roundtable Discussion: The use of participatory methods concerning youth and education: bridging the gap between research and practice
Eco LT 1, Economics Building, UCT

The session intends to facilitate an exchange of views between scholars and practitioners on the instrumental role of participatory research methodologies within development projects, especially concerning youth and education. The discussion will be guided by the following questions: How can participatory research be used to design development programmes concerning youth and education? How can participatory research be used to evaluate development programmes concerning youth and education? How can development programs enhance participatory research? What can practitioners expect from researchers and vice versa? The roundtable will involve the following external speakers: Vivienne Bozalek, Director of Teaching and Learning at the University of the Western Cape. Her areas of expertise include the social justice and the political ethics of care perspectives, innovative pedagogical approaches, including the use of educational technologies, feminist and participatory research methodologies and critical family studies. Ronald Wesso (TBC), Research and Policy Lead at Oxfam South Africa. He has worked as an activist researcher on land and agrarian studies, and before that, democracy and public power in order to support struggles for progressive social change. He has also been involved in various initiatives to build autonomous movements of the poor. Joanna Wheeler, Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Political Studies, University of the Western Cape. She is researcher, facilitator and trainer in participatory processes, including creative storytelling approaches, with a commitment to increasing the voices of those less heard through citizen action. She is also Founder and Director of Transformative Story.

Complexity and method: bridging the divide
(Time and place to be determined)
In this workshop we will explore how to use complex systems approaches to understand and engage with ‘wicked’ policy problems, such as food insecurity, income inequality or poor health. In order to do this it will start with an overview of complexity theory and its implications for the social sciences. Included will be a discussion of how complexity theory can enrich applications of the Capabilities Approach in the real world. We will then cover a range of practical tools to assist researchers and practitioners in operationalising complexity, drawing on Luke Craven’s work on food insecurity. Finally, we will split into small groups, where workshop participants will discuss their work-in-progress, and engage in a discussion about they could effectively incorporate complexity into their own projects.