UJ sociologist explores black female empowerment in the higher education sector

The story of being black within South Africa’s higher education landscape is a particularly interesting one as it is an identity deeply entrenched in the troublesome ideologies of the colonial and apartheid systems. This was the sentiment of Grace Khunou, a Sociology Professor at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Wednesday, 09 September 2020.

Speaking during a webinar, themed The Pandemic is a portal: race, class and gender in particular Intersections: Theorising the experiences of Black Women in the SA Academy, Prof Khunou highlighted that members of this group continue to occupy a complex and sometimes precarious position – one that requires constant renegotiation.

Prof Khunou, who is a co-editor and contributor to the book Black Academic Voices: The South African Experience – collection of essays by the academics, pondered on questions around belonging and exclusion and the opportunities and moments of fulfilment that come with being an academic.

The University’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Development Studies hosted the series which looked at the problems of inequality and oppression from new angles and promotes intersectionality as an interpretive tool that can be utilised to understand the ways in which race, class, gender and other dimensions of difference shape our lives today in Academia.

The webinar series displayed innovative contributions that expand our understanding of how inequality affects people of color, demonstrates the ways public policies reinforce existing systems of inequality, and shows how research and teaching using an intersectional perspective compels scholars to become agents of change within institutions. By offering practical applications for using intersectional knowledge, will help bring us one-step closer to achieving positive institutional change and social justice.

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