About the CSSR


The Centre for Social Science (CSSR) is an interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Cape Town dedicated to conducting and building capacity for systematic, policy-relevant social science research in South Africa, the region and across Africa.

The CSSR presently consists of the Sustainable Societies Unit (SSU), Democracy in Africa Research Unit (DARU), AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU) and Families and Society Research Unit (FaSRU), as well as a small Directorate. Unit Heads report on their research activities through the CSSR Director to the Dean of Humanities. The CSSR is also assisted by an Advisory Board that meets twice-yearly. We also continue to work closely with UCT's DataFirst Resource Unit (which was started as part of CSSR), an extensive digital archive of social science databases.

Methodologically, CSSR research is empirical, but problem-driven. While we utilise both quantitative and qualitative strategies of data collection, our work is based on systematic research designs with clear conceptualisation of variables and transparent rules for operationalising variables, selecting cases and collecting and analysing data analysis (in contrast to ad hoc fact collection or narrative description). After a reasonable period, collected data are turned into public access data sets and deposited with the DataFirst Resource Centre.

CSSR projects are usually team-oriented bringing together multiple local and international researchers, and offering post-graduate students significant opportunities for hands-on training by involving them in all stages of projects. Research findings are presented and discussed at regular weekly seminars and published as CSSR Working Papers.

Substantively, the CSSR conducts research in the broad areas of democratization, development, poverty and public health. The Social Surveys Unit (SSU) conducts research on a range of social dynamics using survey data (especially the Cape Area Panel Study, and the Cape Area Study) and related qualitative data. The Democracy in Africa Research Unit (DARU) conducts research on a range of issues around democratisation in South and Southern Africa, using public opinion data but also creating new systematic data bases on elections, legislatures and local government. The AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU) conducts research on the social impacts of HIV/AIDS, including issues of parenting, disclosure, sexual behavior and public welfare, again using both survey and qualitative data. 

FaSRU is a new research unit that examines ​households, families and kinship from an inter-disciplinary perspective. The ‘family’ in South and Southern Africa is an institution undergoing rapid change, with implications for the distribution of income and access to livelihoods, care-giving, child-raising and health, intimacy and well-being, and social and political attitudes and behaviour. The new unit promotes research that links economic and social aspects of families and households and employs mixed methods combining qualitative and quantitative research.

Management Committee

The CSSR is governed by the Management Committee comprising the heads of the associated units. Unit heads report to the CSSR Director, but the CSSR Director is accountable to the collective unit heads, i.e. the Review Committee. The Review Committee is comprised of the following:


Advisory Board

The CSSR Director and the Management Committee is answerable to the CSSR Board. The main purpose of the board is to ensure that the CSSR fulfills its key mandate: to promote quantitative social science research (especially survey research). As such, it is an academic board comprising representatives from faculties involved in social science research. The membership of the board is as follows:

  • Chairperson: Prof Sakhela Buhlungu, Dean of Humanities
  • Prof Berhard Weiss, Deputy Dean of Humanities (Research)
  • Prof Jeremy Seekings, Director of CSSR
  • Prof Robert Mattes, Director of DARU
  • Prof Nicoli Nattrass, Director of ASRU
  • A/Prof Beatrice Conradie, Director of SSU
  • Dr Elena Moore, Director FaSRU
  • Prof Anthony Butler, Department of Political Studies
  • Prof Owen Crankshaw, Department of Sociology
  • TBA, Department of Psychology
  • Prof Martin Wittenberg, School of Economics
  • Prof Ingrid Woolard, SALDRU
  • Prof Elrena van der Spuy, Criminology