New spaces for researching postgraduate Education research in South Africa
Universities in South Africa during apartheid reflected the racialised politics of the period. This gave rise to divisive descriptors such as ‘historically white/black’; ‘English/Afrikaans-speaking’ institutions and ‘Bantustan’ universities. These descriptors signal a hierarchy of social status and state funding. We start by explaining how these apartheid-era institutional arrangements formed socially unjust ‘silos’ around postgraduate Education researchers and their research. Against this backdrop, we describe a project that surveyed postgraduate Education research at 23 institutions in South Africa between 1995 and 2004 – the first decade of democracy. The products of the survey constitute two spaces. First, there is the physical archive of dissertations and theses from the higher education institutions. This space disrupts the historical differences and physical distances, bringing together the postgraduate Education research of that period.
The second space is the electronic bibliographic database of the archive. It is an abstract space that defies traditional shelving arrangements. We argue that this national project broke down the apartheid-era silos that separated the postgraduate Education research of the different higher education institutions in South Africa. In this article we propose that a third space manifests when a researcher works with the project’s archive and/or database. It is a space of lived experience. In the interactive moment and space, when the researcher connects with the archive or database, there is the possibility of the researcher generating new understandings and ideas of/about Education research. Although the project described in this article has ended, we found that in the third space of the interactive experienced moment fresh questions about the knowledge produced by postgraduate Education researchers in South Africa, at the critical historical moment of the first decade of democracy, were made possible.
Keywords: archive; database; knowledge production; postgraduate research; spatial theory