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Book Launch: Tessa Hochfeld Granting Justice: Cash, Care and the Child Support Grant

The Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA) in partnership with the HSRC Press and Governing Intimacies at Wits hosted a hybrid book launch for Tessa’s book Granting Justice: Cash, Care and the Child Support Grant on a cold highveld winters evening in Johannesburg on 21 June.

Srila Roy (Associate Professor in Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand) representing the UJ-Wits writing group of which Tessa was a part, and Governing Intimacies at Wits, both of which contributed to the editing of the book chaired the event. She welcomed colleagues, friends, and family of Tessa both at the event and joining from afar via Zoom.

Srila said: “As academics, we organise and share several events and share multiple tasks, some individual, some collaborative but I don’t think many are quite as rare and as special as this one. So at least for me, we celebrate many things today:

  1. This path-breaking book whose weight and value will define many fields and is going to speak to many publics whether activist, academic or policy.
  2. We celebrate its author, Tessa our colleague, our friend, our family. And even though it feels quite unbearable to not have Tessa here with us today. We hope that this book will ensure the enduring of her work, and words for generations to come.
  3. We celebrate the collective labour that has gone into making this book a thing in the world. Many different people came together to transform Tessa’s PhD thesis into this published book. It was a challenging but also deeply rewarding task. It was a deep honour for us to perform this labour of love for Tessa.”

Leila Patel, South African Research Chair in Welfare and Social Development and Tessa’s mentor and manager, on behalf of Shireen Hassim welcomed guests to the launch of the book. Shireen joined remotely from Canada where she’s based at Carleton University. She holds the chair in Gender and African Politics. Leila welcomed members of Tessa’s family, her husband Rafi and her children Jordan and Asher in Tel Aviv, her sisters Kim in London and Claire in Canada and in the venue Penny and Steve, Tessa’s parents and Ann and Dennis. “We hope that the book will provide comfort and her work will continue and inspire others to take it forward. She has left a rich legacy of published work,” Leila said.

A book launch is a culmination of a long journey – a moment to pause and reflect on how the book came about and of its relevance to knowledge and the search for solutions to the big social questions of our time. The author is usually the star of the event and is much celebrated on these occasions. Even though Tessa is not with us anymore we salute her and celebrate the publication of Granting Justice: Cash, Care and the Child Support Grant published earlier this year by the HSRC Press.

The history of book goes back to 2010 when Tessa started her research. She was part of a group of women researchers at four South African Universities and Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Francie Lund – the guest speaker was part of the initial group of researchers together with Shireen Hassim, Vivienne Bozalek, Trudie Knijn, Tessa, Jackie Moodley and Leila Patel. Vivienne Bozalek and Trudie Knijn provided endorsements on the book which can be found on the back cover.

“We are extremely proud that this work prompted Tessa to pursue her research for her PhD, exploring the relationship between welfare and justice by rooting this work in the real-life experiences of women grant beneficiaries in Sophia Town, Westbury and Claremont,” Leila explained.

Tessa’s research on which this book is based was supervised by Shireen Hassim and the degree was awarded by Wits University in 2015.

In the foreword to the book, the story of how the book came to life is told. Fortunately, Tessa left an excellent book-worthy study that required little work to complete. A team sprang into action led by Shireen and Leila with editorial support from Caroline Jeannerat. A book contract from the HSRC Press was secured and this team edited the draft to ensure that her manuscript remained fresh and convincing. “This work is our collective gift of love to Tessa,” Leila said.

Francie Lund who spoke about the significance of Tessa’s book and her wider research is trained in sociology and social work and spent some time as a social worker, and a community worker before lecturing and teaching social policy. In 2000 she became the director of the social protection programme of the global revolution advocacy NGO WEIGO – Women in Informal Employment Gloablising and Organising. She’s published widely in a variety of publications.

Tessa used a qualitative approach in exploring the lives of six individual women who live in Johannesburg and who receive the child support grant. The qualitative methodology or approach that she uses at its heart is an attempt to move away from the usually obstructive techniques of quantitative research. These results are often used to make very concrete suggestions on how to improve people’s lives and Tessa was good at that research too. The qualitative approach she used respects the sample as active participants in the process of interpreting their own lives. Tessa interviewed six women in-depth over the course of a number of conversations. In a crucial sentence on page 44, Tessa strives to explain that only by seeing the women as whole, real and complex human beings can we begin to understand how social justice is at the very core of the projects of social grants.

Feminist analysis and insights are central to the study and the five basic elements of this are that value-free knowledge is impossible.

“She is engaging with herself, with the research participants and now engaging with the book’s wider readers as well,” explained Francie Lund

Through her constant reflexivity on the research process, she puts herself on the line oftentimes through substantive quotes from the tape-recorded conversations, in the same act in which she puts the six participants on the line as well.

She achieves a remarkable balance between her own modesty and humility and the anger she feels and the humiliation, injustice, and lack of ability to envisage a better future which is experienced by the women’s structural poverty and joblessness. She seeks a society which cares at an everyday level about how it is performing and how it is managing to follow through on the commitments it has made to its citizens in the name of a developmental state.

Lauren Graham, Director at the Centre for Social Development in Africa highlighted that the book is one of Tessa’s many legacies and extended thanks and gratitude to Tessa’s family for approaching the CSDA about setting up a bursary in Tessa’s name as another legacy that she leaves behind. The Tessa Hochfeld Memorial Bursary Fund has funded two students so far Tshegofatso Rametsetse and Yibanathi Mabunda.

Students are selected based on the alignment of the work that Tessa did so that her work continues through the students. These two students worked together with artist/videographer Firdoze Bulbulia to voice over Nandi’s story which is one of the key cases in the book. It is a heavy story and Tessa’s reflections can be heard in the way that it is presented. It captured Tessa’s approach to research, which the students are encouraged to use as well. You can watch the full video here. *Trigger Warning: mention of rape.

Natasha Erlank professor of History at UJ concluded with a vote of thanks to the event organisers, the bursary recipients and Bursary recipients and artist Firdoze Bulbulia for the video, the speakers, funders and the writing group support members.

You can watch the full book launch here.

To purchase the book directly from the distributor click here or purchase it on Takealot.


Details of the Tessa Hochfeld Memorial Bursary can be found here.


Quotes From Zoom

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