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Returning

The screaming of Hadidas, James writing «Melanie, I’m outside», robots, laughter, a Savannah on the stoop, the warmth of the sun, biltong salad, people chatting in a familiar language I don’t understand, «Good morning, how are you», mosquitoes soaring through the air, Peter playing his guitar in the garden, stars shining brightly in the sky, a visit to the doctor, running out of airtime, Read More…

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The Postcards that I’ll never Write

So here it is – boom – the last day of my research stay in South Africa. And I haven’t found the time yet to properly reflect upon and write about my workshop, but I will soon.

However, this was not only a research stay, I spent one year of my life in South Africa, in total. Right now I am sitting on the veranda of the commune that for the past three months formed my basis, my home, looking at a bunch of postcards that I bought a week ago. I know now that I will never send them. What could I possibly write?
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On the Ethical Obligation of ‘Giving Back’

In between my research stay at the Department of Social Development and my upcoming participant observation at a police station in Pretoria Central, I am busy organising my ‘end of fieldwork-workshop’ that will take place at the University of Pretoria on 25 March. The workshop to whom I have invited representatives from a vast number of organizations dealing with domestic violence and counselling in Pretoria, is an attempt to give something back to my field of study and to express gratitude for the time, information and support that I have received throughout my research. The topic of the workshop will be “Working Towards Social Change. Visions and Challenges of Support Services in the Area of Domestic Violence”. Read More…

(Re-)constructing Lifeworlds: The Counsellor and the Social Scientist

Today I completed my counselling course. And tomorrow I’m already flying back home, three months passed quite quickly. The past couple of weeks I have been busy mostly with interviews and I have met interesting people from very different professional areas for example a counsellor specialized in anger and stress counselling.

But as today was all about finishing my basic counselling course, I want to take the opportunity to reflect a bit on the commonalities of two different professions: the counsellor and the social scientist. Although the goals are very different, both parties share the common interest of (re-)constructing lifeworlds, meaning to deepen the understanding of another human being, his every day life, his dreams, his fears, in short: his reality. Read More…

What’s the Verdict?

You might ask yourself what took me so long to write about the grand finale of the Oscar Pistorius case: Firstly, I was pretty much knocked out by food poisoning last week that I ironically contracted eating at a hospital during a gender based violence training. Secondly, I did not really have any idea what I could possible write about. I felt everything had already been repeated a thousand times over in media: the majority of people apparently are thinking that Pistorius is getting away with murder and that the sentencing had been too moderate. Also, it has been discussed plenty of times whether Judge Masipa’s interpretation of dolus eventualis was accurate. Nothing of this has really sparked my interest, I have to admit. It was only until I recently interviewed the social worker Letlhogonolo* – who is working for an organisation that deals with offenders of domestic violence –  that I found something stimulating to write about. Read More…

Thank you for Sharing

Before I walked into my first session of a nine weeks course in basic counselling I would not have thought that I was going to encounter a sentence that is probably the mantra of any self help group on the planet:
Thank you for sharing

But first things first. I have decided to participate in a counselling course in order to get a better understanding of the profession of counsellors, of how they are trained and which pedagogic frameworks they use. In other words: I want to ‘go native’. By this expression anthropologists refer to the phenomenon of immersing oneself in other people’s every day lives and as a consequence gradually losing one’s outside perspective. This process allows for developing a profound understanding of the topic in question. After having gained considerable insight into the everyday practices of domestic violence counselling in women shelters, I decided it was time to include a different perspective on the matter: How do you become a counsellor in the first place? And what is currently the state of the art in the profession of counselling?
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Celebrating Heritage Day at a Women’s Shelter

Every year on September 24th, South Africans celebrate Heritage Day. The public holiday that has its roots in Zulu culture (for more info visit the South African History website) was introduced in 1996 by Nelson Mandela to honour the multifaceted cultures that together form the Rainbow Nation. In order to celebrate and highlight the commonalities that can be found among the cultures despite all their differences, on Heritage Day, it is common for people to have a Braai, the South African Barbecue, that usually stretches over several hours and basically consists of preparing and eating tons of meat.

However, at the shelter, we had a different programme. Read More…