1. What do you enjoy the most about working in academia?
I enjoy the creative side of academia. Academic freedom is important to me and I think I enjoy my work best when it allows for new connections and possibilities to emerge. In fact, the most enjoyable thing about working in academia is the possibilities to weave and trace and find connections between things that we did not consider before. I believe that academia can provide a supportive environment in which we can find novel responses to difficult questions that often lead to new difficult questions.
One of the other enjoyable things about the academic space is that it allows me to draw on interdisciplinary interests like art, education, philosophy, and sociology. My training as a fine artist has translated well into an interdisciplinary and creative approach to academia. Most of all, I love that the academic world encourages us to break boundaries between knowledges, worlds, materialities, and lives.
2. You’ve moved to London from South Africa, and before that you’ve lived in South Korea and Australia; how do you find moving to a different country? What made you want to come here now?
I am a South African, and that is an identity I will always cherish, my roots. At the same time, I am a nomad and a traveller and a global citizen. I have come to know that one can have many homes.
Living in South Korea for five years at the start of my professional career profoundly impacted me personally and professionally. I believe that some things cannot be understood unless one experiences it: language, food, culture etc. It isn't easy to move to a new country, but I always feel invigorated by the new sensory experiences and the many challenges one encounters when taken out of your comfort zone. In every unique setting I get to know myself a little better and discover parts I did not know.
I had visited the UK before as a tourist and always wanted to come back because I sensed it is a place with so much energy and innovation and much diversity. I am privileged to have this opportunity to work with world-class scholars in the social sciences.
3. A lot of your work sits at the intersection between education, social justice and the arts. Was this interdisciplinarity obvious to you as a subject of research, or how did you decide to explore it?
I believe the obvious research subject is always whatever is right in front of me (literally or metaphorically). I like to start with the most intricate detail of life and look for connections to the outside world. This is something I learned from my arts background and training: to observe and look and connect to the very thing in front of you until that thing becomes something else and takes you on a journey.
The social justice lens in my work was always there, but I think it became amplified due to my contextual experiences in South Africa. I come from a deeply divided and hurt society. Social justice is embedded in South African constitution and education systems at a theoretical level but often does not translate into the lived experiences of teachers, students, or learners. I became interested in ways we can use art to inquire into the lived realities of humans (and non-humans) as these relate to education. I am interested to see how different ways of knowing through art can change the way we do things in education.
Finally, I am interested in accessible knowledges and participatory research practices as we work towards real world and practical possibilities for change in education. As much as I love academia, I only love it if it is accessible and useful to everyone, not a select few.
4. What have you learnt by working in this interdisciplinary way?
Art matters! (to quote Neil Gaiman).
Research should be playful and creative. Be brave in your teaching, your research and your scholarly engagement. Be kind to others and yourself. Be adaptable and embrace change. Research is not a recipe so don’t try to use it like one. The most amazing discovery is usually right in front of you, and if you can’t see it you might have to change your point of view.
5. What are your plans for the courses you’ll be teaching and research you’ll be leading at Kings?
I am teaching on the MA Education Management and in the BA Social Sciences in the spring term. In the BA Social Sciences, I hope to bring in some Global South perspectives and look forward to contributing to discussions on decoloniality and social justice perspectives in education. In the MA Education Management, I am leading the Gender, Power and Inequality module and also contributing to the Education Leadership module. I hope to create a stimulating and fun experience for the students. I hope that together we can tackle tricky contextual issues with the necessary historical and theoretical knowledge to think through possibilities for change in education.
In my ongoing and planned future research, I hope to build on the following three areas: 1) educator and teacher subjectivity and experiences, 2) arts-based research methodologies, and 3) transformation, decolonisation and educational change.
I am currently working on several projects, some alone but most in collaboration with South African scholars. They include a performative post-qualitative feminist inquiry; a reflective piece on the contradictions of being a feminist academic; a re-imagining of reflexive professional practice in education; a study of student leaders when it comes to their resilience, fragility and professional development; a discussion of online tutorials as humanising spaces in a first-year social justice module; an exploration of the use of visual art to reveal and cross boundaries as dis/embodied academics; a diffractive collaborative arts-based self-study to generate methodological possibilities in preservice teacher education to promote social and ecojustice; an exploration of creative arts educator subjectivity and professional development to strengthen a preservice teacher programme; and a narrative account of using arts-based inquiry to support self-reflexivity in arts educators.
Going forward with my research, I would like to keep strong ties with Global South (and specifically South African) colleagues and institutions, and I also look forward to new collaborations with colleagues here at King’s College London and specifically in the Centre for Public Policy Research. It is exciting to be in a new context that will inform and shape my research in new directions.