7Qs for Academics: Fikile Masikane
Today we speak to Fikile Masikane, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology at Wits.
This is an ongoing series where we introduce some key researchers and academics getting to understand their work, their developing research interests as well as what keeps them engaged.
Explain the nature of your work and/or how it relates to inequality.
I am currently working as a researcher on the Future of Work Project alongside Prof Eddie Webster, Ruth Castel-Branco, Dr Alex Mashilo and Sandiswa Mapukata. The main purpose of the project is to look at the impact of the gig economy on workers in the global South. In particular, I look at employees of the Tech Giants and the everyday lived experiences of food courier/ drivers and Sweep South workers in Johannesburg. This is done by conducting in-depth interviews with the workers, where possible at their place of work. It is through their daily experiences of insecurity, unfair and unsafe working conditions that the deepening and growing inequality is highlighted as these individuals work long hours for low wages.
Why do you think inequality remains such an intractable social and economic problem?
Simply put, because capitalism thrives on exploitation and cheap labour.
What continues to keep you engaged in your work or areas of research?
The real lived experiences of workers and the shared motivation and passion among the Future of Work Team members to better their working conditions.
What is one thing your field is not focusing on that it should?
It pays little attention to many great black scholars who make a great contribution in the bigger debates around inequality.
Who are some academics (in your field or otherwise) whose work you follow closely? Why?
I am broadly interested in scholarship that speaks to black thought and black liberation, through work and/or labour. Work on precariousness and the condition of workers and largely the precarious condition of black people. I then follow work by Cedric Robinson, Barcheisi, Du Bois, Guy Standing, Bridget Kenny, Thabang Sefalafala’s work on unemployment as it speaks to the inequality that remains in our society, with the aim to fundamentally redefine the meaning of work which in many ways is linked to ones identity or personhood. This is something I explore in my own PhD work. I follow or do research for Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi and the rich archival research provides a solid foundation of the history of black and the politics of the land. Lastly, I follow Dr Lwazi Lushaba, on decolonization, which ultimately speaks to my broad interest.
What books are you currently reading?
- The Lie of 1652-Patric Tariq Millet
- Black Academic Voices: The South African Expression – Edited by Grace Khunou, Edith Phaswana, Katijah Khoza-Shangase, and Hugo Canham
- André Gorz. (2013). Beyond the Wage-based Society. Basic Income, 297.
- Retail Worker Politics, Race and Consumption in South Africa: Shelved in Service Economy- Bridget Kenny
Complete the sentence: “The first thing I do each morning once I get up is ...
...pray and read the day’s morning devotion
If you are interested in her work, please contact her through: Fikile.Masikane@wits.ac.za
This is an ongoing series of interviews with prominent academics and researchers.