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COVID-19 and Connecting Gender Communities:

Reflecting on Feminist Praxis During Lockdown in South Africa

Dr Babalwa Magoqwana

Founding Director, Centre for Women and Gender Studies, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa

TIME: 28 October, Friday, 2022

4:40 – 6:10 pm (lecture and Q&A)

VENUE: SK214, Shiko-kan (2nd floor), Karasuma Campus, Doshisha University

METHOD: Hybrid (face-to-face and online)

If you want to join online, please access:

Meeting ID: 848 8940 0657 Passcode: 247402

HOSTED BY: Africa Japan Forum (AJF), Japan Society for Afrasian Studies (JSAS), Doshisha University GS Mine Seminar

SPONSORED BY: Young Female Scientists Programme in Japan 2022/Okayama University


Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Coronavirus (COVID 19) a global pandemic in early March 2020, the Centre for Women and Gender Studies (CWGS/Centre) at Nelson Mandela University embarked on a series engagement under the name “Online Reading with the Author Friday” (which was later renamed, “Author Fridays”). The global pandemic disrupted life and forced all of us into our isolated spaces. This is when the CWGS started reimagining engagements to include academics, students and community members across different sectors and geographic spaces. The pandemic compressed time and space, making the global and local problems connected yet distinct in many ways. South African society was further exposed to geographical, economic, and gendered forms of inequalities with millions losing jobs; increased reports of Gender Based Violence; hunger and destitute, racialised geographies that reinforced inequalities while the world supported the massive social movements against police brutality under the banner, “Black Lives Matter” in the United States.

During this pandemic, it became clear that natural sciences and medical fields were central to the governments and pharmaceutical companies in answering critical questions raised by the global pandemic. As the CWGS managed to create “imagined communities” (noted by Anderson) to centralise the social sciences and humanities perspectives in understanding the COVID-19 disruption, as this disconnected the global humanity – physically, intellectually, and emotionally. The Centre started driving conversations and engagements on what these global shifts meant for the global humanity from the social science and humanities perspectives. This digital space garnered audiences across the different times zones, linking different scholars to share their work, discuss ideas from their isolated homes, celebrate their achievements during COVID-19 with a community and continue to build the younger generation of scholars through intergenerational dialogues centering different kinds of themes as features in South African national calendar, including health, women’s work, youth questions, women’s biographical and knowledge histories, queering Africa, gendered liberation heritage and many other topics. This paper uses this moment to reflect on the visual, thematic, and creative contributions of the Centre in connecting gender communities across space and time during the lockdown in South Africa.

We created a digital community of gender scholars, students, community members and practitioners to engage and discuss current societal issues through this initiative of Online Reading with the Author on Fridays. Given the number of Fridays we had in 9 months, we built collaborations with different universities in the region and non-governmental organizations to host more than 50 gender scholars, creative artists, and films producers; more than 40 student facilitators and respondents, across different continents showcasing, exhibiting, celebrating, and performing in a digital platform created by CWGS within a year.

About Dr Magoqwana

Babalwa Magoqwana is a founding director for the Centre for Women and Gender Studies at Nelson Mandela University, a senior lecturer in Sociology and Anthropology Department in Nelson Mandela University. She holds a PhD in Sociology from Rhodes University. She has taught Sociology at Rhodes University and University of the Free State. She is a former president of the South African Sociological Association (SASA from 2017-2019). She is an Erasmus Mundus Scholar, a fellow with African Humanities Programme and UNISA – NRF-DST SARChI Chair in Social Policy. She is the recipient of the National Research Foundation/ First Rand Foundation Sabbatical Grant for her project on “Building a Woman-Centred Vernacular Sociology”. Her research on Maternal Legacies of Knowledge is supported by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. She has published in different areas including the sociology of gender, sociology of work, labour sociology, higher education, and indigenous knowledge systems.

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