13 November 2020 | Story Charlene Stanley | Photo Supplied
Dr Innocent Dande, UFS ISG scholar, has been named the 2021 winner of the JSAS Colin Murray Prize for his research on food politics in Zimbabwe.

Dr Innocent’s Dande’s research on the everyday food struggles experienced by residents of poor suburbs in Harare, Zimbabwe, has earned him a coveted research prize from the London-based Journal of Southern African Studies (JSAS) – the leading international journal in its field.   

Start of extended book project
“Winning this award means a great deal for my career plans, especially as I am planning to come up with an extended book project that looks at working classes’ eating habits and foodscapes, or the geographies of food, cooking and eating in lower class suburbs,” says an excited Dr Dande.  His aim is to write a sensorial history of how the working classes ate and enjoyed food in Zimbabwean cities between 1980 and 2019.
“One advantage is that this prize provides me with funding to carry out research. If the JSAS is satisfied with the outcome, their tradition is to publish it,” he says.

Not deterred by lockdown
Dr Dande arrived at the UFS at the same time the COVID-19 lockdown was announced, which saw many of his colleagues hastily returning to their home countries. His decision to stay indirectly led to his application.
“I was spending so much of my time in my room at Kovsie Inn during Level one of the lockdown. Applying for this grant was a way of dealing with the boredom that comes with locking oneself in for too long,” he explains.  
His application was titled, Cooking, the crisis and cuisines: household economies and food politics in Harare (Zimbabwe), 1997-2020, with much of his research focusing on everyday issues affecting ordinary people, in contrast to “high politics and many other topics that ordinarily shout for more attention.” His aim is to write a social history of the Zimbabwean crisis, focusing on “mundane issues such as the cooking and eating of food.” 

Colin Murray Prize background
Colin Murray was a sociologist, anthropologist, and political economist who passed away in October 2013. He taught at various universities in the UK and South Africa and had a special interest in family histories. Carrying a purse of £2 500, the Colin Murray Prize is awarded to an applicant who is within two years of completing his or her PhD, and is meant to assist the winner in engaging in original research in Murray’s fields of interest. 

ISG an intellectually enriching environment
The COVID-19 pandemic may have restricted physical interactions with colleagues, but Dr Dande says he still found the International Studies Group (ISG) an intellectually enriching place. 
“The ISG continued to hold regular and interesting Zoom seminars. Many of my colleagues have also won very prestigious prizes and are in different stages of completing their various projects. Many others have also published in the same journal (JSAS) and many other high-impact journals.” 
He highly values the generous professional advice from his fellow researchers, as well as the input and feedback of ISG Head, Prof Ian Phimister.
“The ISG has shown me that it is possible to dream big and to even contemplate applying for jobs anywhere in the world and not just in Southern Africa,” says Dr Dande.

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