Research Chair


SARChI Research Chair

Steven Robins, Professor of Social Anthropology in the Department, is the Interim Research Leader of the Research Chair of Land, Environment and Sustainable Development; the Chair was initiated by the retired Professor of Sociology Cherryl Walker in January 2016. The arid Karoo region of South Africa is its primary research site – the Karoo not as an isolated empty space but, rather, a nationally and globally networked arena. Hence the research programme’s byname: Cosmopolitan Karoo.

The Karoo is a compelling site through which to explore issues around land, environment and sustainability, given its history, its unique environment, and its contemporary socio-ecological challenges. The Karoo can also be seen as a ‘problem space’ that engages with concerns and places well beyond the Northern Cape. In this respect, the Cosmopolitan Karoo programme encourages comparative research on a range of land and socio-ecological concerns. Currently several globally networked developments are reshaping established relationships to land and place in the Karoo in significant ways; these include major investments in astronomy, notably SALT and the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, and a host of renewable and non-renewable energy projects, conservation initiatives, environmental activism, climate crisis and more.

The research programme is organised around a set of individual, core-team and collaborative projects. The commitment is to research that is empirically grounded, theoretically informed and alert to the importance of cross-disciplinary and comparative work. Postgraduate students are core to the programme and a limited number of bursaries are offered every year to qualified and motivated social science students.

The Research Chair is funded by the Department of Science & Technology (DST), administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF), and based in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Stellenbosch University.

For more information go to the Research Chair’s website at