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Knowledge for justice: Critical perspectives from southern African-Nordic research partnerships

Tor Halvorsen, Hilde Ibsen, Henri-Count Evans, Sharon Penderis


With the adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, the purpose of development is being redefined in both social and environmental terms. Despite pushback from conservative forces, change is accelerating in many sectors. To drive this transformation in ways that bring about social, environmental and economic justice at a local, national, regional and global levels, new knowledge and strong cross-regional networks capable of foregrounding different realities, needs and agendas will be essential. In fact, the power of knowledge matters today in ways that humanity has probably never experienced before, placing an emphasis on the roles of research, academics and universities. In this collection, an international diverse collection of scholars from the southern African and Nordic regions critically review the SDGs in relation to their own areas of expertise, while placing the process of knowledge production in the spotlight. In Part I, the contributors provide a sober assessment of the obstacles that neo-liberal hegemony presents to substantive transformation. In Part Two, lessons learned from North–South research collaborations and academic exchanges are assessed in terms of their potential to offer real alternatives. In Part III, a set of case studies supply clear and nuanced analyses of the scale of the challenges faced in ensuring that no one is left behind. This accessible and absorbing collection will be of interest to anyone interested in North–South research networks and in the contemporary debates on the role of knowledge production. The Southern African–Nordic Centre (SANORD) is a network of higher education institutions that stretches across Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Universities in the southern African and Nordic regions that are not yet members are encouraged to join.


Tor Halvorsen, Hilde Ibsen, Henri-Count Evans and Sharon Penderis


1 The Sustainable Development Goals, knowledge production and the global struggle over values

Tor Halvorsen

2 The Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the Addis Agenda: Neo-liberalism, unequal development and the rise of a new imperialism

Henri-Count Evans and Rosemary Musvipwa

3 Academic freedom and its enemies: Lessons from Sweden

Jens Stilhoff Sörensen and Erik J Olsson

4 New public management as a mechanism of accumulation by dispossession: The case of a public bulk water provider in South Africa

Carina van Rooyen

5 To fit or not to fit, is that the question? Global goals, basic education and theories of knowledge in South Africa and Sweden

Hilde Ibsen, Sharon Penderis and Karin Bengtsson

6 Academia in the context of constraint and a performative SDG agenda: A perspective on South Africa

Suriamurthee Maistry and Erlend Eidsvik


7 Contributing to the agenda for sustainable development through North–South educational partnerships: An analysis of two Linnaeus-Palme staff–student exchanges between Sweden and South Africa

Kate Rowntree and Roddy Fox

8 Preparing to build researchers’ capacity in development and community mobilisation: Towards sustainable North–South collaborations

Thembinkosi E Mabila and Rachel J Singh

9 North–South research collaboration and the Sustainable Development Goals: Challenges and opportunities for academics

Stephen Mago

10 Education for employability: A response to industry demands

Robert L Martin, Regina Krause, Martha T Namutuwa, Evgenia Mahler and Hartmut Domröse


11 Contextual factors affecting the attainment of life satisfaction among elderly people in Zambia’s North-Western province

Mubiana K Sitali-Ngoma and Emmy H Mbozi

12 Home–school relations and the role of indigenous knowledge in early literacy learning: A case study from a rural school in Zambia

Anne Marit Vesteraas Danbolt, Dennis Banda, Jørgen Klein and Geoffrey Tambulukani

13 Relocation of the homestead: A customary practice in the communal areas of north-central Namibia

Antti Erkkilä and Nelago Indongo