The project team is led by UKZN’s Professors Daisy Pillay, Kathleen Pithouse-Morgan and Inbanathan Naicker and Dr Lungile Masinga; Professor Theresa Chisanga of Walter Sisulu University and Dr Anita Hiralaal from Durban University of Technology. It aims to build on and expand research on object inquiry and academic identities to explore the applied and theoretical usefulness of objects in response to the national priority to increase social cohesion.
According to Pillay, the symposium was inspired by the idea of appreciating the local and the everyday in higher education as sites for uncovering human-centred knowledges that could challenge hierarchical educational practices that deny people voice and agency.
‘Overall, this research symposium attempted to bring into dialogue multiple academic perspectives and experiences as groundwork for exploring the potential of object narratives to engage academics collectively in releasing the imagination and rethinking identities and values for building social cohesion,’ explained Pillay.
The symposium offered hands-on experience of working creatively with objects for meaning making in relation to academic identities and social cohesion. It provided a space for discussion and creative collaboration while including a display of objects and accompanying “object statements” that was created during the workshop to express the nexus between individual identities and values and shared community visions and values, within an overall focus on social cohesion in South African higher education.
It brought together 35 academics who are diverse in terms of academic disciplines, age, gender, language, and race, and in experience in research and teaching in multiple knowledge fields and a range of different higher education institutions. Professional artists from Durban University of Technology Dr Chris De Beer and Ms Lee Scott, worked alongside participants in developing the compositions.
Said Pillay, ‘The overall methodological approach is collaborative, arts-based inquiry. The project seeks to grow and sustain mutually nourishing connections between academics working in higher education institutions with diverse histories, varied geographical locations (rural and urban), different foci (non/research intensive), and those bearing unequal resources and administration support systems.’