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About Us


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), AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU) and Families and Societies 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 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 DataFirst 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 democratization, development, poverty, public health 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, whose projects included the Cape Area Survey and the Cape Area Panel Study. 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.

Management Committee

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 (2017) comprised of the following:

  • Jeremy Seekings, Interim Director, IDCPPA
  • Nicoli Nattrass, School of Economics
  • Rebecca Hodes, Director, ASRU
  • Elena Moore, Director, FaSRU
  • Beatrice Conradie, Director, SSU


Advisory Board

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 fulfills 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 (2017) as follows:

  • Chairperson: Dean of Humanities
  • Prof Berhard Weiss, Deputy Dean of Humanities (Research)
  • Prof Jeremy Seekings,
  • Prof Nicoli Nattrass, School of Economics
  • Dr Rebecca Hodes, Director of ASRU
  • A/Prof Beatrice Conradie, Director of SSU
  • Dr Elena Moore, Director of FaSRU
  • HOD, Department of Political Studies
  • Prof Owen Crankshaw, Department of Sociology
  • Prof Martin Wittenberg, School of Economics
  • Dr Ariane de Lannoy, Poverty and Inequality Initiative
  • Prof Elrena van der Spuy, Criminology