Eduard Grebe presents research at two events in Switzerland

ASRU PhD student Eduard Grebe last week presented research results and reflections on the state of global AIDS advocacy at two events in Switzerland. On 17 April he presented a paper titled "The challenge of transnational prevention and treatment advocacy in an era of resource constraints and shifting global priorities: Reflections from South Africa" at the 2012 aidsfocus.ch conference in Berne under the theme "HIV, AIDS and Advocacy. Bringing about change in policies and practice". His comments focused on the challenges faced by the treatment access movement in the face of a backlash against AIDS-specific funding, a severely constrained financial environment (with industrialised countries reducing their contributions to global AIDS efforts), turmoil at the Global Fund and a shift in attention to other challenges like climate change. 

On 19 April he presented a paper titled "The Treatment Action Campaign's struggle for AIDS treatment in South Africa" to the Etnologisches Seminar Basel at the University of Basel, in which he drew on his PhD research and joint work with Nicoli Nattrass to demonstrate the movement's effectiveness at the political and community levels, as well as its "political repertoire" and style of organisation.

ALP dissemination in Namibia

Prof Robert Mattes gave a presentation to a well attended Symposium for Civil Society on Recent Research on African Legislatures: Namibia in Comparative Perspective hosted by the Namibia Institute for Democracy (NID) in Windhoek on 30 March 2012. The ALP presentation was on Institutionalising Democracy in Africa? Assessing the State of Legislatures. Presentations made by Namibian NGOs included: Democracy Report – analysing, monitoring and supporting the work of Namibia’s parliament, by Graham Hopwood from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) and The Influence of Non-Governmental Organisations on the Parliamentary Law-Making process in Namibia, by Theunis Keulder of Namibia Institute for Democracy.

New book from Nicoli Nattrass - The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fight Back

ASRU director Prof Nicoli Nattrass has written a new book, The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back, in which she explores conspiracy theories on the origins of AIDS (such as that it was manufactured by the US government), their surprising longevity, the campaign by scientists to combat spurious conspiracy theories and the consequences of these myths for behaviour. The book is published in the United States by Columbia University Press and will be released in South Africa in April by Wits University Press. An ebook is available in the Amazon Kindle store.

The AIDS Conspiracy book coverShe reflects on some of the arguments in the book in a piece for The Scientist, which has also published a short extract of the book on its website. She writes:

There is a substantial body of evidence showing that HIV causes AIDS—and that antiretroviral treatment (ART) has turned the viral infection from a death sentence into a chronic disease.1 Yet a small group of AIDS denialists keeps alive the conspiratorial argument that ART is harmful and that HIV science has been corrupted by commercial interests. Unfortunately, AIDS denialists have had a disproportionate effect on efforts to stem the AIDS epidemic. In 2000, South African President Thabo Mbeki took these claims seriously, opting to debate the issue, thus delaying the introduction of ART into the South African public health sector. At least 330,000 South Africans died unnecessarily as a result.

The “hero scientist” of AIDS denialism, University of California, Berkeley, virologist Peter Duesberg, argues that HIV is a harmless passenger virus and that ART is toxic, even a cause of AIDS. He has done no clinical research on HIV and ignores the many rebuttals of his claims in the scientific literature.4,5 As I describe in my new book, The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back, this has prompted further direct action against Duesberg by the pro-science community.

Prof Mattes speaks on "multiple understandings of democracy" in India

Prof Robert Mattes, Director of the Democracy in Africa Research Unit, recently participated in a panel discussion on "Multiple Meanings of Democracy: Citizen Voices from Across the World" in Bangalore, India. The symposium was organised by the Centre for Research in Social Science Education of Jain University, Centre for Public Policy, IIM-B, Institute of Contemporary Studies, Bangalore.

More details can be found in The Hindu newspaper's coverage of the event.

Seminar Programme: First Semester 2012

The programme of CSSR seminars for the first semster has been released. You can read it below or download the programme in PDF format.

All seminars start promptly at 13:00. Lunch is usually available from 12:40.
Venue: CSSR Seminar Room, R4.29, Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus

23 February
Duncan Pieterse (Economics/CSSR)
Exposure to violence and educational outcomes in Cape Town

1 March
Zöe Gauld (Sociology/CSSR)
Multi-dimensional approaches to affirmative action in university admissions

8 March
Nicoli Nattrass (Economics/CSSR)
Socioeconomic, biological and behavioural correlates of HIV status among young Black South Africans in Cape Town, South Africa

CSSR Annual Report for 2011 released

The CSSR's Annual Report for 2011 can now be read here or downloaded from the annual reports page.

It reports on our main research and teaching initiatives, including

  • The expansion of the CSSR with new appointments (including those of Prof Rajen Govender and Dr Pedro Wolf);
  • An extraordinary number of graduations by Masters and Doctoral scholarship students from the CSSR;
  • The launch by DataFirst in partnership with the CSSR of a dedicated support service for humanities researchers using survey data in quantitative studies;
  • The launch of new short courses to build capacity within the university community and in civil society, including a pilot course on quantitative methods in the analysis of public opinion data in collaboration with the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation;
  • A large number of working papers published by the CSSR and peer reviewed publications by CSSR researchers;
  • And much more!

What does it mean to be human? - audio lectures now available

Nicoli Nattrass and Jeremy Seekings lectured in a UCT Summer School course on "The Human Question". The first lecture in the series was given by Mark Solms of UCT's Psychology Department. His lecture, entitled "the animal mind within us", examined the neurological similarities and differences between the human brain and brains of other primates, mammals and vertebrates. Nicoli Nattrass followed, with a lecture on different conceptions of the human in economics. She drew on both classical economic theory and recent experimental research to show that conceptions of "homo economicus" neglect both non-rational aspects of economic behaviour and our social and cultural embeddedness. Jeremy Seekings examined the similarities between classical political theorists and contemporary primatologists in debates over the differences between chimpanzees and humans.

CSSR 2012 Summer School

Quantitative Studies of Violence in South Africa

30 January – 9 February 2012

Instructors:

Prof. Rajen Govender (Dept of Sociology and CSSR)
Dr. Pedro Wolf (Department of Psychology and CSSR)
assisted by Eduard Grebe (DataFirst)

Overview

The CSSR will be hosting a short summer school course in the use of quantitative methods in research on violence in South Africa. The purpose of the course is to introduce basic, intermediate and some advanced topics in quantitative analysis so that students have a richer critical understanding of the methods used in existing studies and some capacity to conduct such analyses themselves. Using recent social scientific studies of violence in South Africa and the datasets used in these publications, the course will focus on understanding how social scientists have and can use quantitative data to identify the levels and causes of South Africa’s high levels of violence. The course will examine neighbourhood- and individual-level datasets. Using the software SPSS, the course will cover the following aspects of quantitative analysis:

  • Identifying and defining research questions and setting up research hypotheses;
  • Generating statistics for the description of research data and the testing of univariate hypotheses;
  • Undertaking bivariate and multivariate inferential analysis using statistical techniques applicable to both continuous and categorical independent and dependent variables;
  • Introduction to advanced multivariate analysis using path analysis and structural equations modelling.

In addition to daily class assignments, the main assignment of the course will be the set-up and execution of a short research paper using an identified dataset.

The course lasts nine days, with an optional session for students who are not familiar with SPSS but have used other software such as Stata. The course is offered for free by the Centre for Social Science Research, but students must organise their own accommodation, travel and food.

For more details, download the flyer and full programme. To apply visit this page and fill out the application form.

ASRU student Beth Vale awarded Rhodes scholarship

Beth ValeThe Centre for Social Science Research congratulates Beth Vale, who won a Rhodes scholarship last week. Beth is a Master's student in the AIDS and Society Research Unit. Her MA thesis focuses on understandings of care among a group of community health workers.

From September 2012, Beth will begin a D.Phil in Social Intervention at Oxford University. She will be co-supervised by Dr Lucie Cluver, principle investigator in the department of Social Policy and Intervention, and Dr Jonny Steinberg, departmental lecturer in the African Studies Centre. Beth's doctoral thesis will be a qualitative study exploring how AIDS-effected families respond to primary healthcare services, with an aim to inform social policy and intervention in South Africa.

Joint CSSR/IJR/DataFirst quantitative analysis workshop

Quantitative analysis of public opinion data using the SA Reconciliation Barometer

Logos of the sponsors

Applications have closed.

Dates:

  • 14-18 November 2011
  • Optional preparatory workshop: 11 November 2011

Venue:

  • CSSR Seminar Room, Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus

Instructors:

  • Prof Rajen Govender (CSSR and Dept of Sociology)
  • Dr Pedro Wolf (CSSR and Dept of Psychology)
  • assisted by Eduard Grebe (DataFirst)

About the workshop

The SA Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) is a national public opinion poll conducted by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) that tracks progress in reconciliation across a range of multidimensional indicators, including political culture and relations, human security, dialogue, historical confrontation and social relations. Besides the published indicators, the dataset can be a source for much more detailed analyses. To encourage this, the CSSR in conjunction with DataFirst is using the SARB dataset to demonstrate the application of more intermediate and advanced multivariate analytic techniques. These techniques have been selected as they permit the development and testing of much richer theoretical formulations and hypotheses using the SARB data.

CSSR reception moves to new offices

The CSSR reception has moved to new offices. At the end of August we completed repairs to a set of offices close to our existing offices, on the 4th floor of the Leslie Social Science Building on UCT's Upper Campus. The reception, run by Ms Kathy Forbes, has now moved to 4.89. The telephone number for the CSSR reception is still 021 650 4656. The CSSR's financial administration remains in the old offices (4.29).

Welcome to Rajen Govender

Prof Rajen GovenderDr Rajen Govender took up a half-time appointment as an Associate Professor in the CSSR and Sociology Department in July. Dr Govender has a PhD in social psychology from UCLA, and has considerable experience in conducting research for the state and private sector in South Africa. Dr Govender will be teaching graduate courses in social research in the Sociology Department, and contributing also to the CSSR's new Summer/Winter School courses. Dr Govender fills the second post funded from the UCT Vice-Chancellor's Strategic Fund, joining Dr Pedro Wolf who took up a joint appointment between the CSSR and the Psychology Department earlier this year.

Four chapters in new book on South Africa

A new volume on post-apartheid South Africa features no fewer than four chapters by CSSR researchers. After Apartheid: Reinventing South Africa?, edited by Ian Shapiro and Kahreen Tebeau (University of Virginia Press), opens with Jeremy Seekings' review of 'Poverty and Inequality in South Africa, 1994-2007'. Other chapters include 'Forging Democrats: A Partial Success Story?', by Bob Mattes, Nicoli Nattrass's 'AIDS Policy in Post-apartheid South Africa', and a chapter on 'The Role of Social and Economic Rights in Supporting Opposition in Postapartheid South Africa', co-authored by Lauren Paremoer.

New data access support service launched

The DataFirst research data centre has launched a new service in partnership with the CSSR. Eduard Grebe, ASRU researcher and PhD student in the School of Economics, has been employed by DataFirst to assist UCT students and staff on Upper Campus in accessing research datasets housed by DataFirst. Clients can obtain help in finding appropriate data for their planned analysis, registering and downloading datasets from DataFirst's online data catologue, accessing datasets that are not yet available in the catalogue and have datasets converted to a format compatible with their statistical software. Workshops and training courses in quantitative analysis techniques and the use of statistical software are also planned and will be announced in due course.

The CSSR colonises Oxford also

Three CSSR students are on their way to Oxford to study further - adding to a wave of migration from the CSSR to top universities across the world. Matthew MacDevette will be studying for an MSc. in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy at the School of Geography and the Environment, Dustin Kramer will be studying for a MA in Politics, and Maria Garcia is studying for an MSc in Environmental Change and Management. Within the CSSR, Matthew worked with (and criticised, constructively) Nicoli Nattrass on global expenditures on AIDS, Dustin worked with Bob Mattes on DARU's African Legislatures Project, and Maria worked with Beatrice Conradie on green tourism in the Southern Cape.

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