Upcoming inaugural lectures for October 2023

28 September 2023

Dear colleagues and students  

As we draw closer to the end of this year’s UCT Inaugural Lecture Series, it gives me great pleasure to announce that four lectures are scheduled for October 2023.

These lectures will be held on 10, 12, 18 and 24 October, offering insights into the link between work, income and inclusive prosperity; knowledge and information stewardship; scaling; and urbanism. They will be presented by Professors Steeve Chung Kim Yuen (Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment, EBE); Ines Meyer (Faculty of Commerce); Jaya Raju (Faculty of Humanities); and Nancy Odendaal (EBE).

Professor Steeve Chung Kim Yuen (EBE)

Professor Yuen, a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department and director of the Blast Impact and Survivability Research Unit, will present the 10th inaugural lecture in this year’s series on Tuesday, 10 October at the Snape Teaching Studio 3B, Snape Building on upper campus at 17:30. The lecture is titled “Urban blast loading: An insight into scaling”.

From the smallest firecracker to the most powerful bomb, explosions have always captured our imagination. But beyond the spectacle lies a deadly force that can shatter buildings, disrupt infrastructure, cause life-changing injuries and claim lives. Explosions in an urban setting – accidental or intentional – impact society, as evidenced by recent events such as the Beirut Blast in 2020 or ongoing conflicts.

There is a need to further understand the loading effects caused by the blast’s interaction with structures. In conjunction with this, the effects of scaling and understanding the limitations of laboratory experiments are equally important, given the cost incurred for full-scale experiments. In this lecture, Professor Yuen will present the results of a series of experiments investigating the scaling effects on blast wave parameters found for reduced-scale urban blast scenario laboratory experiments.

Professor Yuen has worked in the field of structural impact for the past 30 years on various projects ranging from investigating the batting performance of cricket players to the response of “simple” structures to blast loads (5g to 26 tons of explosives). His research involves a mix of material characterisation, experimental work and finite element simulations. Full-scale experiments are costly and limited. He has, therefore, focussed on small-scale testing investigating different blast loading scenarios, which can result in the structure mitigating the high pressure or fragment damage after material failure.

He has also considered the effects of buried and encased explosives, which are associated with landmines, and confined blasts on different types of structures in an urban setting. The work carried out is geared towards minimising life-changing injuries and saving lives.

Professor Ines Meyer (Commerce)

On Thursday, 12 October, Professor Meyer will present her inaugural lecture titled "Work-for-pay – for what? A call for human dignity to take centre stage in the employment debate”. It will be held at LCOM2B, Leslie Commerce Building, on upper campus at 17:00.

Since the 1990s, economic growth has been the chosen path to inclusive prosperity in South Africa, and greater participation in the labour market is seen as key to socioeconomic upliftment. Implicitly, what seems to count primarily is that employment is created, not as much as what this employment looks like. To date, this strategy has shown limited success: poverty in South Africa increased between 2011 and 2016, directly affecting over half the population. Poverty is not restricted to the unemployed. Low-income earners also get trapped in poverty cycles when they have to rely on loans to cover basic needs or unexpected expenses.

An increase in labour participation rates without at least equal focus on what the created employment looks like can thus result in less sustainable livelihoods. Such employment would not qualify as decent, as decent work is characterised by respect for human dignity, the securing of an adequate livelihood and supporting individuals and their families to fully develop their capacities and talents.

In this lecture, Professor Meyer proposes a shift – or at least more nuance – in how we see the link between work, income and inclusive prosperity. The research she presents is embedded in the broader area of developing innovative ways to see work, the purpose of work, and the role of work, employers and employees in society.

Professor Meyer is a professor of organisational psychology at the School of Management Studies. She currently holds the National Research Foundation’s South African Research Chair Initiative’s chair in Creation of Decent Work and Sustainable Livelihood, through which she advocates that the question about what the economy needs becomes secondary to what humans need.

Professor Meyer’s research falls in the area of humanitarian work psychology. It draws on the discipline’s understanding of behaviour at work – commonly applied to benefit professional employees in corporate organisations – to different forms of organisations and to populations which have traditionally been neglected by organisational psychology.

Professor Jaya Raju (Humanities)

Professor Raju will deliver her inaugural lecture titled “Leading a ‘decolonial turn’ in research methodology from a knowledge and information stewardship perspective” on Wednesday, 18 October. The university will share venue and RSVP details for the lecture through other communication channels in due course.

‘Information’ as conceptualised in the discipline of knowledge and information stewardship is not neutral as this discipline increasingly, in the current digital information age, engages historical, cultural, social, economic and political forces that interact with information.

Such forces may use information to advance dominant epistemic agendas and hence the need for researchers, students, practitioners and relevant stakeholders in knowledge and information stewardship and related fields, to critically engage and/or disrupt such forces in their curation of information for use in teaching and learning, research, professional practice, theory development, policy application, etc.

The knowledge and information stewardship discipline is very engaged in Africa, particularly in current artificial intelligence and the Fourth Industrial Revolution contexts in which information and information-related processes and their stewardship have become so computationally connected, resulting in information science schools, programmes and departments across the continent engaging research in areas such as research data management, research impact analysis, information ethics, bibliometrics, altmetrics, webometrics, metadata creation and management, scholarly communication (including open access), digital humanities, and many more.

Professor Raju's inaugural lecture focuses on questioning dominant western epistemology used in knowledge and information stewardship research, and in social science research generally, and positions the knowledge and information stewardship discipline to take the lead in effecting a ‘decolonial turn’ in research methodology generally.

Professor Raju is the head of the Department of Knowledge and Information Stewardship. She is a specialist researcher and author in library and/or information science education and its epistemological implications for the discipline and for professional practice. She teaches research methodology and the broader philosophical, ontological and epistemological issues that impact the research process.

For the past 28 years, Professor Raju has been teaching research methodology in South African higher education, researching and publishing in the knowledge and information stewardship discipline, and supervising and providing mentorship for African master’s and PhD research. This scholarship journey has culminated in a need to question dominant western epistemology in the pedagogy and practice of research methodology. Such research methodology emanates largely from the global north, reflects western research priorities and does not actively address decolonial approaches and methods to critically engage traditional scholarship and dominant western knowledge systems in research.

Professor Nancy Odendaal (EBE)

Professor Odendaal’s lecture will be held on Tuesday, 24 October at the Snape Teaching Studio 3B, Snape Building on upper campus at 17:15. The lecture is titled “Reframing African Smart Urbanism”.

Through this lecture, Professor Odendaal will counter mainstream claims that the standardised smart city represents a panacea for intractable urban problems. The lecture will argue for a celebration of place and local practices, in reframing smart urbanism. This approach embraces the material features of contemporary cities, considers the interface with livelihoods and technological innovation, and gives insights into digital appropriation at the socio-economic margins. The notion of African Smart Urbanism is explored relationally and granularly to contest the universalist claims of the platform economy and data-driven governance.

Professor Odendaal is the director of the School of Architecture Planning and Geomatics. She is an urban planner with a keen interest in contemporary cities, focusing primarily on the relationship between urban infrastructure, spatial transformation, and livelihoods. Her recent research has focused on smart urbanism and how that manifests in African cities. Her recent book, ‘Disrupted Urbanism: Situated Smart Initiatives in African Cities’, explores the interface between digital platforms and spatial change. 

She is the former chair of the Global Planning Education Association Network, and the Association of African Planning Schools, a peer-to-peer network of over 50 planning schools on the continent. She has also served on the International Advisory Board of the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre.

Please join us for these lectures.


Emer Prof Daya Reddy
Vice-Chancellor interim

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