South
African
Sociological
Association

SASA is committed to a democratic South Africa,

where all enjoy economic, political and social justice
and freedom from all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, nationality, race and gender.

Changes & Challenges

Awareness


Committed to the development of a vibrant social science community in Southern Africa.

Acceptance Speech by the Newly Elected SASA President

Good day, 

"It’s been a long couple of days, so I will try to keep this speech short

First I would like to thank all of you for the confidence reposed in me, to lead this organisation for the next term. It is a great honor, and I will be counting on all of you as my partners. For many years, I have tried to hide the fact that I am not a sociologist through and through. My first degree was in international relations. My Master’s degree was in Development Studies. I only focused on Medical Sociology in my Doctorate. It used to give me impostor syndrome, which I hope that I concealed well enough.

But recently, I came to embrace the idea of being an outsider, in a manner of speaking. A different perspective is always necessary to make progress. All the leaders of the global economy are outsiders in the space they disrupted. But they had a firm grasp of the subject matter. During my term as President of SASA, if I achieve anything, I hope that it will be in reanimating our understanding of the role that sociology should play in the world we live in today.

In preparing these remarks, I recalled that the term Sociology was coined in 1838 by Auguste Comte. That was particularly significant to me - because the 1830s were a particularly interesting decade. That was the decade when a steam locomotive raced a horse, the U.S. President beat up the man who tried to assassinate him and Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands. Some of the key events of that decade are worth remembering. On August 28, 1830, Peter Cooper raced his locomotive, the Tom Thumb, against a horse. The unusual experiment proved the potential of steam power and helped to inspire the building of railroads

In 1834, slavery was abolished in the British Empire. A year later, mobs burned post offices in America because they were being used to send letters supporting the abolition of slavery to the American South. In 1836, the gag rule was introduced in the US congress to stop former President Quincy Adams from introducing legislation against slavery.  And of course, November 30, 1835, Samuel Clemens, who would achieve enormous fame under his pen name, Mark Twain, was born in Missouri. He would later go on to say that - history never repeats itself, but it rhymes.

The 1830s are not too dissimilar to this decade. Our own version of horse racing a steam locomotive is the fact that Machine Learning is destroying the world as we know it. The GPT-3 machine learning model is now capable of writing articles that are near human in quality. Maybe in the next 5 years, half of the journalists in the world will be out of work. The gagging of Quincy Adams is not too dissimilar to the recent ban against the teaching of critical race theory in some American states. And this year, we witnessed something unimaginable - a mob attacking the congress of the United States. It rhymes with mobs burning post offices in 1835 to prevent anti slavey mail from being sent out.

And the similarities go on.

The point I am trying so laboriously to make is this - the extraordinary decade of the 1830s inspired Auguste Comte to clarify social observation into a distinct academic field. We are now faced with similar times, therefore we must raise our game.

How can sociology be made more relevant to society? How can we take our research into the real world? How can we design interventions? How can we work more with our colleagues in the hard sciences - to help them make sense of the overwhelming data that they are collecting?

I hope that during my term, we can make some more progress in answering these questions"

Thank you.

Dr Chinwe Obuaku-Igwe

SASA President 


© 2021 SOUTH AFRICAN SOCIOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION