Policy Thoughts

10 March, 2015


A year at the University of the Free State



PhD Candidate

Graduate School of International and Cultural Studies

 Tsuda College

Sayaka KONO


I am interested in the people who have been excluded not only economically but also socially and politically in the post-apartheid South Africa. Thus I have visited poorer areas in townships and conducted fieldwork since I was an undergraduate student. The University of the Free State, to which I was dispatched, was located in the area where I have conducted field research since 2009. So I was excited to have this opportunity to stay in my field for a longer period, and expected to see the dynamics of the people’s life which I could not see in the short-term visits.


I set three aims for this my research period. Firstly, I wanted to complete my PhD thesis which focused on the ‘ethnic conflict’ in Thaba Nchu in the Free State Province which occurred under the apartheid regime in the 1970s. Thanks to the project, I could have plenty of time that I could concentrate only on my research and writing. Furthermore, since the visit was to my field area, I could go and collect more data when I needed it. Secondly, I wanted to meet local researchers interested in the social issues in southern Africa. It was quite informative to discuss my academic interest towards the African society in the Free State with the researchers from the University of the Free State. I could also attend two national conferences on southern African history. I met many historians from various universities in and around South Africa, and the experiences there deepened my thought. My third aim for the visit was to explore other dimensions of South African society which I could have not seen in the previous visits. It does not contribute directly to my thesis, but it was significant for me, having stayed and done research only in a specific poorer area for a long time, to place my discussion in the current South African situation and think about the contribution to it. Especially I am grateful that I could exchange the thoughts and culture with African middle class people in urban areas, and visit other places like Qwaqwa and Durban in South Africa before I finished my thesis. In addition to this, working with other PhD students and young scholars from other southern African countries gave me a perspective of South African society from neighboring countries as well. From these experiences, I can now relativize my research objects in a broader context.

My one year stay in the Free State was brought to a conclusion with the workshop ‘Perspectives on African Peace and Security’ at the University of the Free State organized by the project, and one last field trip to Harare, Zimbabwe. At the workshop, scholars from southern Africa and Japan discussed about peace and security issues from various perspectives. I could find from the discussion that it was important for me to place my research interest, ‘ethnic conflict’ and nation-building in the post-colonial African society, in the current concrete political and economic situation. In Harare, I did a presentation at a seminar at the University of Zimbabwe and also visited township residents. The experiences taught me that issues around ethnicity in southern Africa have many common dimensions, but at the same time South Africa is in many senses ‘different’ and extreme.

After completing my one-year stay in South Africa, I feel that my most fruitful experience was the time I was able to take to socialize with the local people from various social backgrounds including scholars and informants. Deepening the perspective which is closer the local people, and not forgetting the perspective as a someone from outside the society, I would like to keep my research focused on understanding the issues that the southern African society faces. All the things I learnt through my stay not only deepened my research interest, but also broadened my perspective as a scholar. I would like to endeavour to build on the foundation that I have gotten from this stay.

Academic presentations:
Sayaka Kono, ‘Apartheid, Bantustan Elites and Ethnicity: A Case study of “Solidarity as Basotho”’, The seminar held at the Department of Political Studies and Governance, the University of the Free State, South Africa, 23 May 2014.
Sayaka Kono, “’Divide and Rule’ or ‘Self-determination’?: The Process of Fostering ‘Basotho-ness’ in Qwaqwa Legislative Assembly in the late 1970s”, The Biennial Conference of the Historical Association of South Africa, Blue Waters Hotel, South Africa, 29 June 2014.
Sayaka Kono, “Mechanism of Becoming ‘Ethnic’ in Bantustan:‘Illigal’ Squatters in Thaba Nchu and Their Daily Struggle for Survival, 1970s” The Annual Conference of the Oral History Association of South Africa, Ceder Park Hotel, South Africa, 16 October 2014.
Sayaka Kono, ‘Developent of Sesotho Ethnicity: Implication to South African Nation-building’, The Workshop ‘Perspectives on African Peace and Security’,  the University of the Free State, South Africa, 12 February 2015.
Sayaka Kono, ‘Being Inclusive to Survive and “Ethnic Conflict”: The Meaning of “Basotho” for Illegal Squatters in Thaba Nchu, 1970s’, The seminar held at the Department of Economic History, the University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe, 19 March 2015.

Sayaka Kono, ‘Being Inclusive to Survive in an Ethnic Conflict : Meaning of “Basotho” for Illegal Squatters in Thaba Nchu, 1970s’, Southern African Peace and Security Studies. (refereed journal: accepted, coming soon)








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