‘Ixhesha [Time] for Justice’

Heila Lotz-Sisitka, The Times of a Just Transition
Project status

This project seeks insights into possibility knowledge(s) as catalyst for transgressive learning (Lotz-Sisitka et al., 2015, in press) in support of ‘transformative just transitions’ involving deep structural and cultural transformations (Xaba & Fakir, 2022). Producing some of the highest per capita carbon emissions, and at high risk from climate change impacts in a context still plagued with histories of coloniality, inequality, poverty, imposed forms of linear time, and oppression in education, skills and learning systems, South Africa offers a tensely dynamic space for such enquiry. A newly released national Just Transition Framework (PCC, 2022) offers space to engage analytically and co-generatively with three vastly contrasting just transitioning priority contexts and their actors:  the urban vehicle value chain, rural food system, and national energy system (PCC, 2022). Drawing on largely under-explored temporality notions in just transitions: ‘sediments of time’, ‘multiplicity of times’, and ‘vernacular temporalities’ (cf. below) we will seek to co-develop possibility knowledge(e) for transgressive learning and just transitionings.

The research addresses a paradox: Sustainability scientists suggest that rates of change between fast, non-linear environmental changes, and accompanying social changes are ‘out of sync’ (Shrivastava et al., 2020). It is said that cultural and value changes have to occur within a generation, rather than over generations, via advancing ‘new ways of learning’ (ibid). However, new ways of learning in this short time (i.e. one generation) are seen to be problematic if not impossible, because it ‘takes time to engage over different stakeholder epistemologies’ (ibid). But, just transitions, if they are to be democratic and inclusive, necessarily require people’s participation and meaning making in and across diverse epistemic communities. This presents as a learning-centred paradox that requires methodology development, transgressive learning and meaningful skills development cf. Lotz-Sisitka et al. 2017; Rosenberg et al., 2020) i.e. ‘time [ixhesha] for justice’. Importantly, learning new ways of working and living requires the time needed for ‘destabilising categorical or stabilized knowledge in order to turn it into possibility knowledge’, a complex process that involves putting ‘inert stabilizing knowledge into movement’, with power to catalyse significant shifts and transformations in activity, a process that requires development of new meaning(s), instrumentalities or cultural tools that may as yet not be in existence (Engeström, 2007: 275).

Practically, this research will  aim to engage with three just transitioning communities in putting inert stabilizing knowledge into movement via expansive, transgressive learning encounters in three T-learning labs in the Eastern Cape where food, energy and vehicle manufacturing JTs are underway (albeit in disjointed ways). The research will explicitly aim to use temporally inspired tools for advancing possibility knowledge(s), including (but not limited to):

  1. Koselleck’s (2018) work on ‘sediments of time’ for constructing possible histories enriched with South Africa’s ‘deep time’ cultural records (e.g. Henshilwood et al., 2001), and Yusoff (2018)’s work on the Black Anthropocene read through African Anthropocene realities and histories (Hecht, 2018), to frame possible histories and cultural capabilities for creating new tools (symbolic and practical), relations and instrumentalities that can change human futures, with earliest record of cultural innovations found on the African continent in the Blombos Caves, and more recent cultural innovations found in African liberation struggles.
  2. Multiplicities of time (Adam, 2003, 2013) are visible in everyday lives of people, in the form of entangled, convergent or divergent, overlapping or dialectical unfoldings of inter-alia geo-historical time, racialized and /or gendered time, attentive time, skills development time, reflexive time etc. For example the long durée of colonial / apartheid coal fired energy production is currently producing Stage 2-6 energy loadshedding affecting cooking, working, learning etc. time, presenting ‘felt and experienced’ possibility knowledge(s) for transformative just transitions (Hallowes & Munnik, 2019).
  3. Possibility knowledge(s) exist in the richness of vernacular languages and indigenous temporality experiences. For example, we found the isiXhosa concept of ‘ilima’ [meaning ploughing together], offers possibility knowledge(s) amongst isiXhosa cultures in just food transitions (Lotz-Sisitka et al., 2021), while isiXhosa ancestral knowledge(s) of the sea has been included in new environmental legislation halting seismic surveys for oil and gas exploration on our coastline (Broughton, 2022).

Proposed outcomes: Development of, and sharing of T-learning processes, new meaning(s), instrumentalities and cultural tools offering new possibility knowledge(s) for Just Transitions that give attention to a need for adequate ‘ixesha [time] for justice’ and that engage more deeply with policy discourses of distributive, reparative, and restorative justice and policy intentions for ‘transformative just transitions’ (PCC, 2022; CIF, 2020; WRI, 2021; Hallowes & Munnik, 2019). To be reflexively shared and developed with Facer, Alhadeff-Jones, Stripple, Nair, Patel and Makhubu and their projects in this convening programme.

Local partners will involve the Amanzi [Water] for Food Learning Network, One Ocean Hub,  Climate Justice Alliance, Eastern Cape Development Corporation with Industry and Government Partners involved in the EC Just Transitioning, Albany Natural History Museum, Amazwi Museum of Languages, RU African Languages Chair and African Languages Department, Wits Centre for Researching Education and Labour, Department of Science and Innovation, Presidential Climate Change Commission, and potentially also UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa and their Africa Campus Initiative.

References cited

Adam, B. (2013). Timewatch: The social analysis of time. John Wiley & Sons.

Adam, B. (2003). Reflexive modernization temporalized. Theory, culture & society, 20(2), 59-78.

Broughton, T. (2022).  Seismic judgement: Court overturns exploration rights granted to Shell. https://www.groundup.org.za/article/seismic-judgment-court-overturn-exploration-rights-granted-to-shell/

Climate Investment Fund (CIF) (2020). Supporting Just Transitions in South Africa: just transition case study – September 2020. https://www.climateinvestmentfunds.org/sites/cif_enc/files/knowledge-documents/supporting_just_transitions_in_south_africa.pdf

Engeström, Y. (2007). From stabilization knowledge to possibility knowledge in organizational learning. Management learning, 38(3), 271-275.

Hallowes, D. & Munnik, V. (2019). Down to Zero:  the politics of just transition. groundWork. https://www.tips.org.za/just-transition/item/4094-down-to-zero-the-politics-of-just-transition

Hecht, G. (2018).  The African Anthropocene.  Aeon Magazine.


Henshilwood, C. S., d'Errico, F., Marean, C. W., Milo, R. G., & Yates, R. (2001). An early bone tool industry from the Middle Stone Age at Blombos Cave, South Africa: implications for the origins of modern human behaviour, symbolism and language. Journal of human evolution, 41(6), 631-678.

Koselleck, R. (2018). Sediments of Time. On possible histories. Standford University Press.

Lotz-Sisitka, H., Wals, A. E., Kronlid, D., & McGarry, D. (2015). Transformative, transgressive social learning: Rethinking higher education pedagogy in times of systemic global dysfunction. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 16, 73-80.

Lotz-Sisitka, H. (in press). Transformative, Transgressive, Transdisciplinary and Together: Elaborating the nature of transformative learning in transformations to sustainability. Environmental Learning Research Centre, Rhodes University.

Lotz-Sisitka, H., Ramsarup, P. & Bolton, H. (2017). Introduction: Researching Sustainable Development Learning Pathways as Educational and Occupational Progression. SAQA Research Bulletin. Researching Sustainable Development Learning Pathways as Educational and Occupational Progression, 17(1), 1-27.

Lotz-Sisitka, H.B., Pesanayi, V.T., Sisitka, L., Metelerkamp, L., Chakona, G., van Staden, W., Matambo, C., Durr, S.,  Matiwane, M.,  Maqwelane, L., Conde-Aller, L., and Shawarire, P.  2021.  ‘Amanzi for Food’: A social learning approach to agricultural water knowledge mediation, uptake and use in smallholder farming learning networks.  Research and Development Report. Pretoria: WRC Research Report No. 2277/1/16. 298 pp.

Rosenberg, E., Ramsarup, P., & Lotz-Sisitka, H. (2020). Green Skills Research in South Africa. Abingdon: Routledge.

Shrivastava, P., Smith, M. S., O’Brien, K., & Zsolnai, L. (2020). Transforming sustainability science to generate positive social and environmental change globally. One Earth, 2(4), 329-340.

Xaba,  N., & Fakir, S. (2022). A Just Transition to a Low Carbon Future in South Africa. Mapungubwe Institute.

Yussoff, K. (2018). A Billion Black Anthropcenes or None. University of Minnesota Press.

World Resources Institute (WRI) (2021) South Africa: Strong foundations for a Just Transition. https://www.wri.org/update/south-africa-strong-foundations-just-transition

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