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    The 'throwntogetherness' of research: Reflections on conducting field work in South Africa

    Fraser, Alistair (2012) The 'throwntogetherness' of research: Reflections on conducting field work in South Africa. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 33. ISSN 0129-7619

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    Just after crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, heading north through Limpopo Province, South Africa, one begins to see the rugged outline of the Soutpansberg Mountains on the horizon (see Figure 1). The mountains bring four things to my mind. One is their geology. Though they are as much as 1.8 million years old, they are still changing, still forming, still taking shape: rains erode them; roads and houses and farms cut into them. A second issue is bird life, specifically that birds breeding in Europe, such as the Yellow Wagtail and the Steppe Buzzard, spend much of their lives in the Soutpansbergs. The Soutpansbergs are far from Europe, but yet these birds establish stretched out connections between the two places. A third issue is also about connections: all along the Soutpansbergs there are antennae, transmitters, aerials. It’s difficult to say which belonged to the South Africa military, to mobile phone companies or Internet Service Providers; but what was important to me was that they helped me keep in touch with people in the vicinity via mobile phone and with people abroad via the Internet. They were part of a ‘coded infrastructure’ (Dodge & Kitchin, 2005) that facilitated much of what I had to do in the region (on how these technologies forge ‘coded spatialities’ of fieldwork, see Fraser, 2007a). A final issue is the people who live along the mountain range, some of whose actions I wanted to try to grasp. Most are indigenous VhaVenda or Tsonga people. Their access to land has been curtailed for the last 100 years after the arrival of white settlers, mostly Afrikaners, who throughout most of the twentieth century have benefited from a raft of racially discriminatory land (and other) policies. It was this inequality in land rights that led me to the Soutpansbergs in August 2004 to conduct my doctoral dissertation research on the politics and geography of South Africa’s land reform programme (e.g. see Fraser, 2007b).

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: throwntogetherness; research; conducting field work; South Africa;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Geography
    Item ID: 5543
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Alistair Fraser
    Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2014 14:09
    Journal or Publication Title: Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography
    Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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