skip to primary navigationskip to content

Thandeka Cochrane (2015)

Thandeka Cochrane (2015)

Research Title: Telling Tales: Struggles of power, discourse and epistemology in southern Africa

Supervisor: Prof Harri Englund


I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, where I attended the University of Cape Town for my undergraduate and honours degrees. I completed an Honours in Political Philosophy and Social Theory at UCT, after which I went on to read for an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History at Cambridge University. Wanting to involve myself in more engaged and practical academic work that focused on more contemporary themes, particularly in southern Africa, I shifted to anthropology. I completed an MSc in Social Anthropology at the Universiteit van Amsterdam with the title 'Shifting Social Imaginaries: Exploring the penetration of Early Childhood Development into a rural Malawian village'.
My doctoral research saw me return to the same rural village in northern Malawi for 18 months to studies libraries, literacy and
development through the lens of children's literature, both local oral and in imported books. I examine the ways in which local, small scale libraries have emerged in a rural village group and the networks and entanglements around their material, social and epistemological emergence and presence. I explore the children's books that are brought into them as donations, focusing particularly on children's fantasy books, with their emphasis on the magical, and the readers of these books. I also explore the ways in which local children's stories are told, transmitted, understood and engaged with. My work hopes to shed more light on libraries in rural southern Africa, as well as to explore what happens at the intersection of extant oral children's literature and emerging written children's literature in 'development' spaces permeated with literacy projects, and the ways in which readers
engage with and understand fantasy stories.

Research Interests

Networks of power/knowledge, particularly in 'development' spaces; life in southern/eastern Africa; frameworks and practices of
'development'; epistemic and structural violence; literacy and reading practices; the role of stories and imagination; the history of ideas; the history of the social sciences; colonialism, neo-colonialism and post-colonialism in southern/eastern Africa; and theory of, in and from the global south.