6: The Antinomies and Opportunities of Critical Engagement in South Africa’s Rural Mining Frontier

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The chapter details the complex paradoxes associated with producing socially engaged knowledge in South Africa’s rural mining frontier – a social landscape characterized by power asymmetries and intense local conflict. It adopts the concept of ‘critical engagement’ to explain the tensions and challenges that a fractured local context imposes on the process of knowledge production and the ‘autonomy’ of a researcher. It discusses how the researcher responded to and navigated these challenges. Finally, this contribution argues that quality sociological knowledge produced over a long period of extensive engagement with all existing social classes and ‘social worlds’ has great potential to lead to positive political outcomes for the marginalized classes.

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