School of Arts Academics Celebrate PhD Achievement
Four academics within the School of Arts - Dr Subeshini Moodley, Dr Phindile Dlamini, Dr Sandra Pitcher and Dr Anusha Sewchurran - graduated with PhDs from UKZN.
Moodley’s PhD dissertation titled: “Narrative Possibilities in a Postcolonial Context: Exploring Self-Reflexive Film as a Critical Articulation of the Stories of South African Hindu Women”, was sparked by her passion for film and her interest in feminist theory, combined with an eagerness to contribute to the upliftment of women.
‘I have a personal interest in feminist issues and how Indian women are represented through mainstream media. I felt that if women had the means to represent themselves, they would offer a challenge to current dominant representations of themselves,’ she said.
Moodley says it was challenging studying for her PhD as it meant juggling the roles of wife, mother, lecturer and student, so she had to constantly remind herself that she needed to complete this project because she owed it to many people, including the generations of women in her family.
Dlamini, an author of 40 isiZulu children’s books and translator of a significant number of children’s books from English into isiZulu, is passionate about publishing, linguistics and children’s books. Hence, her PhD research is multidisciplinary (an interface of literature, publishing, translation and applied linguistics).
‘It focuses on the translated graded readers (from English into isiZulu) that are currently prescribed by the National Department of Education for use in schools. It starts from selection of graded readers for translation, delves deep into the quality of the translated product and moves on to investigate the voices of the users (teachers) of the translated graded readers,’ she said.
Her findings indicate that in addition to ideological, cultural and linguistic factors, numerous dynamics (e.g. government policies, socio-political issues, stakeholders’ attitudes towards indigenous languages, and perceptions of users) also govern translations from English into South African indigenous languages (isiZulu in particular) and contribute to the quality of the translated product, positively or adversely. Most translation inaccuracies were prevalent in non-fiction graded readers, indicating a need for the fast-tracking of coining and standardisation of technical terms.
Sewchurran, on the other hand, took a political economy approach to analyse the telecommunications industry in South Africa. ‘I think my research unearths some important questions about technology and how we use it. It shines a light on the quandaries of our unconditional acceptance of communication technology and highlights that we need to be more than a little circumspect when dealing with technology. I think the benefits will emerge as the writing emerges, depending on the level of activism generated from here on.’
Sewchurran will work extensively in this field trying to develop a consumer activist group. ‘Regulatory frameworks, be they local, regional or international, don’t seem to address provision and protection in equal and fair terms. This means that in our modern networked society, we cannot be over-reliant on the regulator. Consumer activism (outside the auspices of parastatal entities) is a more direct and real way to manage provision and protection within the context of telecommunication consumption.’
Pitcher’s PhD was inspired by the widely publicised legal battles between President Jacob Zuma and South African cartoonist Zapiro, and various debates which were raised in the press regarding limitations on free speech, after Zapiro published his Rape of Lady Justice cartoon in 2008.
The debates which ensued led her to consider the role of political cartoonists in a socially responsible press system, focusing particularly on Zapiro’s work. Consequently, her thesis tracks the historical development of political cartoons in South Africa, and focuses on how social responsibility has been interpreted in the South African context, with particular attention on the African concept of ubuntu.
‘My research found that Zapiro, while being offensive at times, is socially responsible. Completing my PhD was actually a lot of fun because the subject matter was so controversial. My studies have given me new insight into post-apartheid South Africa because the work of Zapiro offers interesting depth to the more widely publicised histories of the country,’ she said.
All four academics expressed gratitude to their family, friends and supervisors for continual support. Their future plans include building on more research in their respective fields.