Human Development and Capability Association Annual Conference 2017: Call for Abstracts

Challenging Inequalities: Human Development and Social Change

The capability approach is a widely-used framework for evaluating human well-being, freedom, and development. It has been developed partly because traditional approaches focusing on income or utility don’t adequately capture the diverse, plural, or multidimensional nature of human conditions and development experiences.

In South Africa and in Africa we confront the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequalities and in particular, like many developing and developed countries, the challenge of the transmission of intergenerational inequalities making it harder to break the cycles of inequality, disadvantage and widening wealth gaps. Such economic inequality is bad for political equality and political freedoms which is a key condition for the expansion and securing of human capabilities and the building of decent societies. We see this nonetheless as a dynamic challenge captured in the notion of working at the ‘frontiers’ of human development, together with the potential of the capability approach to offer a powerful normative framework to advance human development for more justice in unequal societies. The capabilities emphasis on plural human freedoms that people have reason to value and to choose allows us both to examine the experiences of real lives but also to develop methodologies to aggregate and index multiple aspects of human development and capabilities across significant in/equality dimensions (for example, youth, social cohesion and higher education) viewed and researched from multiple disciplinary perspectives, and with implications for policy making and implementation, both at the level of government and at the level of higher education institutions. We see this conference as being held at a key and historic moment for the continent and for South Africa – economically, socially and politically – offering the possibility to bring the approach to the attention to wider audiences of researchers, young scholars, practitioners, and policy makers and brokers.

As a concept originally developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, capability is defined to reflect diversity and freedom of human experiences, and so in the set of valuable functionings that people have reason to choose. We have seen many examples of research, using various methods, to try to capture diverse aspects of human capability and development for specific purposes in different contexts.

One of the main goals of the HDCA 2017 Conference is thus to assemble and compare a variety of those attempts in different fields, disciplines, and regions, in order to shed light on the benefits of, and challenges for, such attempts.

It will be an exciting opportunity for all of us.

Kindly download conference material below:

Conference Aims and Topics

Conference Structure

Conference Registration, Fees & Scholarships

Kuklys Prize for best paper from a graduate student
At the conference, the HDCA will award the annual Wiebke Kuklys Prize for the best paper presented by a graduate student. All graduate students who would not have received their degree before 1st of September 2017 and who present a paper at the 2017 HDCA conference under their sole authorship will be eligible to be considered for this prize.

HDCA Summer School
The HDCA will be hold a two day summer school for graduate students working with the capability approach on 4 and 5 of September 2017 prior to the annual conference. Senior HDCA academics will present the basics as well as cutting edge topics of the capability approach. There will also be opportunities to get group feedback on research projects.


We will encourage papers presented at the conference to be submitted for publication in the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities. This HDCA-owned journal is a peer reviewed multi-disciplinary journal for people-centered development. See the journal webpage for more information.

Important deadlines
March 17, 2017 - Submission of proposals deadline

(Those concerned with obtaining visas to travel to South Africa will be encouraged to submit as soon as possible.)

• April 15, 2017 - Announcement of acceptance/rejection
• June 15, 2017 - Deadline for conference registration at early-bird rates
• July 15, 2017 - Submission of full papers/posters
• August 15, 2017 - Final deadline for conference registration at standard rates