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), the AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU) the Families and Societies Research Unit (FaSRU), and the Safety and Violence Initiative (SaVI) as well as a small Directorate. Unit Heads report on their research activities through the CSSR Director to the Dean of Humanities. SaVI, which was established as an initiative of the university’s Vice-Chancellor, also reports to the Vice-Chancellor through the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for research. The CSSR is also assisted by an Advisory Board that meets annually. We also continue to work closely with UCT's new Institute for Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa (which grew out of the CSSR) and the Data First Resource Unit (which was started as part of CSSR as a digital archive of social science databases).
Methodologically, the CSSR research is empirical, but problem-driven. We utilise both quantitative and qualitative strategies of data collection.
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 development, poverty, public health, safety and violence, social relationships and intimacy. The Sustainable Societies Unit (SSU) explores the social and institutional dimensions of economic development and the interaction between human society and the natural world. The AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU) conducts research on the social impacts of HIV/AIDS, including disclosure, sexual behavior and public welfare, again using both survey and qualitative data.
FaSRU 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 Unit promotes research that links economic and social aspects of families and households and employs mixed methods combining qualitative and quantitative research.
SaVI facilitates debate, research and interventions across the university with a focus on understanding and responding to violence and promoting safety. The initiative brings together scholars from a number of departments, centres and units across UCT.
The CSSR is governed by the Management Committee comprising the heads of the associated units and other senior researchers. Unit heads report to the CSSR Director, but the CSSR Director is accountable to the collective Management Committee. The Management Committee is currently (2018) comprised of the following:
Professor Jeremy Seekings, Director
Professor Nicoli Nattrass
Dr Rebecca Hodes (Director, ASRU
Associate Professor Elena Moore, Director, FaSRU
Associate Professor Beatrice Conradie, Director, SSU
Dr Guy Lamb, Director, SaVI
Dr Elona Toska
Associate Professor Rajen Govender
The CSSR Director and the Management Committee report to the Dean of Humanities and to the CSSR Advisory Board. The main purpose of the board is to ensure that the CSSR fulfils its key mandate: to promote mixed methods social science research. As such, it is an academic board comprising representatives from faculties involved in social science research. The membership of the board is currently (2018) as follows:
Professor David Wardle, Acting Dean of Humanities (Chairperson)
Professor Tanja Bosch, Deputy Dean of Humanities (Research) (taking over from Bernhard Weiss in mid-2018)
Professor Jeremy Seekings (ex officio)
HOD, Department of Political Studies
Professor Owen Crankshaw, Department of Sociology
Professor Martin Wittenberg, School of Economics
Dr Ariane de Lannoy, Poverty and Inequality Initiative
Professor Elrena van der Spuy, Centre of Criminology