Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Emancipatory Futures Studies at WITS

Lets start thinking and developing a practice to solve the Climate Crisis. Here's a call to develop a new cohort of students equipped with an understanding of Emancipatory Futures Studies in a heating world. This is a new knowledge project to go beyond climate crisis pessimism. Pass on!
Principal Investigator: Prof Vishwas Satgar (International Relations)

Core Research Group: Prof Mucha Musemwa (School of Social Science/History), Prof Sarah Mosoetsa (Sociology) and Prof Michelle Williams (Sociology/Development Studies)

Call for Applications for 2019 Postgraduate Scholarships ___________________________________________

The Emancipatory Futures Studies (EFS) in the Anthropocene Research Project at the University of the Witwatersrand invites applications from MA, PhD and Postdoctoral students for scholarships in the field of emancipatory futures studies for the 2019 academic year.

EFS is a critical approach to studying future temporality. It locates temporality within a heating world and is seeking to develop a new knowledge project grounded in subaltern understandings of climate futures. A crucial temporal category to understand the human impact on the earth’s climate is the Anthropocene, which has become an important geological, historical and climate marker. However, Anthropocene discourses are implicated in anthropocentric conceptions of the future, afflicted with technotopia (blind faith in the assumption that technology will solve all problems), millenarianism and an existential risk future that individualises responses to climate crisis. After a 3, 4 or 5-degree increase in planetary temperature is breached human life on planet earth will be almost impossible. We are currently on a trajectory to have a hotter planet by about 2 degrees (since pre-industrial revolution) within this century. Such an increase will bring incredible challenges to societies and the human condition.
Are there alternative planetary and societal futures that can sustain life? Can such futures emerge from existing just, eco-centric and transformative social practices? Current mainstream futures studies and futurists primarily work with evolutionary assumptions based on the modalities of the current socio-cultural and economic system. Futures studies in South Africa are centred on mainstream trend-spotting, empirical extrapolation and scenario planning, which have been received from the global north and centred on elite leadership decision-making within corporations and government. South Africa’s universities have not been able to sophisticate futures studies and make it accessible to wider publics. Our EFS project seeks to break new ground by developing a cutting edge knowledge project through research, promoting inter and trans-disciplinary engagements, critical theory understandings of emancipatory futures and will provide an engaged online and physical space for intellectual engagement through the EFS Research Group and Public Platform. Students will be exposed to leading thinkers and practitioners in this area of study as they develop their own work.
The project objectives will be realised through an inter-connected research agenda, including:

(1) Ways of thinking about ‘crisis time’ and emancipatory futures studies – Philosophies of knowledge such as critical realism and its links to climate time, social theory and inter-disciplinarity. The role of disciplinary temporality to think climate change, crisis and emancipatory futures;

(2) Emancipatory futures in history - Historical forms (poetry, music, art and literature), civilisational visions, anticipatory practice and visions in peoples’ movements and revolutions;

(3) Utopia/dystopia as modes of thinking and acting the future - Utopia/Dystopia as method, South African and African forms (visual and literary), science fiction, eco-topias/dystopias, intentional communities and social theory related to hope and the everyday;

(4) Techno-emancipatory futures - Histories and futures of work, critiques of 4th industrial revolution, critiques of digital capitalism and aesthetics, limits of productivism, alienation, ethics of science, public interest science and peoples’ science;

(5) Decolonising futures - Futures beyond capitalist modernity, critical histories of science, indigenous ecology, spirituality, eco-feminism, ways of being, traditional knowledge archives and cosmological ideas;

(6) Future pathways through systemic change - Deep democracy, zero waste, transition towns, solidarity economies, food sovereignty, water sovereignty, community seedbanking, socially owned renewables, energy sovereignty, climate emergency states, degrowth, public transport, basic income grants, cooperatives and climate jobs, for instance;

(7) Grand eco-centric futures – Political economy requirements, conditions and challenges for ‘Decarbonised Civilisation’, ‘ A Great Transition’ , ‘Deep Just Transitions’, ‘Ecological Revolution’, ‘ Climate Justice Multi-lateralism’, ‘Post-Carbon Democracies ’ and ‘Renewable Energy World Orders’.

The value of scholarships are:

MA scholarships are for one year @ R95 000.


PhD scholarships are for four years @ R125 000 per annum.

Postdoctoral scholarship for one year @ R190 000.

Eligibility and requirements:

Masters and PhDs - Excellent Honours or Masters results;
a research project that focuses on EFS; preference will be given to historically disadvantaged applicants and a commitment to participate in all EFS program activities including the induction seminar, present work to the EFS research group and attend all public talks.

Postdocs – an excellent PhD on a theme relevant to EFS and plans to produce two articles or a book from the PhD. A commitment to participate in all EFS program activities including the induction seminar, present work to the EFS research group and attend all public talks.

Application process:

Application deadline closes on the 5th December 2018 for all applications.

Your application should include:


1. A motivation letter on the relevance of your research focus and interest in the EFS program. Not more than 1000 words.

2. A detailed and up to date CV.


3. Names and contact details (including email addresses), of two academic references.

4. Certified copies of degrees.


5. A full and up to date academic transcript.

6. A disclosure statement of funding from other sources and specify if those sources provide any restrictions on receiving other funding.

7. If you have or have not applied to WITS, please confirm your disciplinary field, your current or preferred supervisor and send in a copy of your proposal if you have been accepted for study.

Please submit your application to Ricardo.DeSaoJoao@wits.ac.za on or before the 5th December 2018 (MA, PhD and Postdoctoral applications).



Outcomes for MA and PhD applicants will be communicated by mid-December 2018.

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