Questions and approach

Research can contribute to the promotion and efficacy of inclusive social policies in a number of ways. Critically, this includes developing interdisciplinary analytical frameworks aimed specifically at critiquing the inequalities and exclusions that such policies must address. By the term “interdisciplinary”, we refer not just to the application of more than one academic discipline, but also more broadly to the coming together of the social sciences and the humanities in addressing particular social problems.

An analytical framework for promoting inclusive social policy would ensure that issues around gender and race, in particular, maintain a central focus and are not marginalised through deliberately neutral social policies. In addition, it would also question whose rights and needs are rendered invisible through particular social policies and policy positions, and how such policies can be revisited and reviewed in order to promote and protect the rights and needs of those most vulnerable in society. Such a framework would necessarily examine structures of power, and work toward inclusive social empowerment. Moreover, this framework would take into account not just economic outcomes, but also the impact of policy positions on human relationships and societies. In this way, such research would seek to go beyond deconstructive critique, and work at the level of affect in a way that should be considerate of local value systems and ethics.

Accordingly, such critique should be conscious of the position from which it speaks, and recognise other forms of knowledge and other ways of knowing, therefore both complimenting and challenging the dominant epistemic paradigms, including, most critically, science and technology. Other forms of knowledge would include indigenous knowledge, cultural practices, and humanities-based research.

Indeed, what is required in order to build an inclusive South African society is not just better articulated political commitments, but also a reimagining of the social and cultural landscape, and of the symbolic order that continues to discriminate against particular social groups. This kind of reimagining takes place most profoundly through the arts and humanities, wherein discursive binaries can be explored and re-appropriated and where meaning making can take place.