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Land reform, accumulation and social reproduction: The South African experience in global and historical perspective

Monday, 28 October 2019 from 18h00 to 20h00
Where: Novalis Ubuntu Institute, 39 Rosmead Avenue, Wynberg

Rsvp via email to: by 23 October 2019

Programme Director – Adv. Tembeka Ngcukaitobi

Professor Tyrone Pretorius, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape (UWC), invites academics, scholars and members of the public to the Distinguished Public Lecture of Emeritus Professor Ben Cousins.

The retirement of Prof. Ben Cousins, DST/NRF Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, after some 28 years of service at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), is a significant event both for the University and for the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), the institute he co-founded in 1995.

Taking up a position at UWC after 19 years as a political exile in Swaziland and Zimbabwe, Prof. Cousins taught in the Department of Anthropology from 1991 to 1995, when he was seconded from his department to start a policy research unit – initially called the Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies – that would support the development of land reform policy in South Africa. Initially operating on a modest grant from the Ford Foundation, PLAAS started as a small outfit operating from the basement of a building in downtown Bellville. From these humble beginnings, Prof. Cousins built up PLAAS into a vibrant and essential part of UWC’s intellectual life: a research unit dedicated to doing rigorous research on the political economy of agrarian change, to engage critically with government policy, and to nurture a new generation of critical young black agrarian scholars. He acted as PLAAS Director until September 2009, when he took up the DST/NRF Chair which he holds up to the present day.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Prof. Cousins’s career at UWC is the way he continues to make an integral and valuable contribution to the intellectual and political life of PLAAS even after the end of his tenure as Director. Using his Chair to leverage the institutional and intellectual resources of PLAAS, he continues to play an active role as postgraduate supervisor, researcher, public intellectual and mentor to his younger colleagues. The postgraduate programme he directed ushered a new generation of young black scholars into PLAAS and UWC, revitalising PLAAS as an organisation and laying the groundwork for creating the new generation of agrarian scholars envisaged at its founding. Prof. Cousins’s good humour, insight, intellectual generosity and insight has played a central role in the life of PLAAS as an institution over the last 10 years.

His departure signals the end of an era at PLAAS – and the beginning of a new one. His colleagues will miss his intellectual guidance and his strategic advice, but his departure creates the opportunity for a new generation of young scholars to step forward. PLAAS and UWC is grateful to him for his enormous contribution, and proud to continue with the work he started.