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As per the Research Strategy of the Nelson Mandela University, CANRAD’s Research Programme is embedded in an ethos of critical inquiry, with a view to contributing new ideas of value to society. The Research Programme corresponds with, and straddles, two Institutional Research Themes (IRTs): ‘Social Justice and Democracy’ and ‘Origins, Culture, Heritage and Memory’. It follows CANRAD’s vision and mission to advance non-racialism and democracy at the university and in broader society, and to undertake research that will critically and constructively contribute to the praxis of non-racialism and democracy.

Framed by these principles, the Research Programme critically interrogates the state of South Africa’s democracy more than a quarter of a century after the first democratic election. South Africa’s history is one in which difference was weaponised and wielded to dehumanise people in the pursuit of racialised, gendered and classed extraction and distribution of material resources. This occurred within a context of intense contestation among ideologies, of which some aided and abetted colonial and apartheid injustice, while others refused and resisted these systems. Thus the focus in the Research Programme broadly falls on identities and difference in relation to ideologies.

Given the expansive notion of social justice in the IRTs, and as per the latest scholarship on identity and difference, non-racialism is approached intersectionally. Therefore, race is studied at the intersections with other differences such as gender, sexuality and class, to fully capture the complexity of social justice as possible lived experience. Consequently, this expansive notion of social justice allows for an understanding of the political and practical dimensions of non-racialism as interdependent with class, gender and sexual justice. This applies to justice in relation to other differences too.

With regards the theme ‘Origins, Culture, Heritage and Memory’, democratic ways of being are conjured through re-remembering histories and biographies of resistance and dissidence against the oppressive racial, class, gender and sexual ideologies of South Africa’s past. Such restoration and memorialisation also create pathways to non-racialism, and gender, sexual and class justice. Memory employed in this way, with dissidence and resistance against colonial and apartheid injustice claimed as heritage, advances both democracy and social justice.

In pursuit of the university’s five-year intellectual and social project ‘In service to society’, the Research Programme produces research-based academic and popular publications. Regular contributions are made at colloquia and in the popular media to enhance the impact of the research.