Watson Institute at Brown University
Africa Initiative

Cape Town, South Africa.

"The travel grant is invaluable in being able to pursue this research, for without it I would not have been able to pursue such fieldwork so early in my PhD career."

Chantel Pheiffer, second-year sociology PhD candidate

Spotlight on Graduate Student Research: Chantel Pheiffer

The Graduate Program in Development (GPD) is an interdisciplinary initiative that promotes social science research on social, political, and economic transformation in the developing world, with a special focus on inequality. Open to all PhD candidates at Brown, the program provides the interdisciplinary skills necessary for innovative research. Each year the program awards fieldwork research grants. This is the first in a series of Spotlights on Graduate Student Research highlighting that work.

June 29, 2015

Chantel Pheiffer is a (rising) second-year sociology PhD candidate. She became a GPD trainee last spring and received a GPD travel grant for the summer to work on the qualitative portion of her MA paper, which investigates how migrants in South Africa negotiate their nationality and legal status to gain access to employment and various other critical services.

Here she describes her fieldwork and its connection to Watson’s mission to promote a more just and peaceful world. 

The travel grant enables me to live and work in Cape Town, South Africa for 10 weeks this summer. I will be working with an NGO in Cape Town that assists migrants and refugees with (re)settlement in the city. I hope to gain an understanding of the challenges migrants face in South Africa and how civil society organizations assist this population with such challenges through this experience. I will conduct participant observation and interview NGO staff about the ways in which they assist migrants in urban South Africa. I will also interview migrants about their experiences and the challenges they face on a daily basis. The travel grant is invaluable in being able to pursue this research, for without it I would not have been able to pursue such fieldwork so early in my PhD career.  

My project aligns with the Watson Institute's mission. Despite the integral role migrants continue to play in South Africa's labor market, they do experience sometimes violent anti-immigrant sentiment. Understanding if and how immigrants experience disadvantages and discrimination in their daily lives as a result of their nationality and legal status is an important step in thinking about ameliorating hardship and violence, and toward encouraging tolerance and acceptance. This is important as South Africa continues to develop a post-apartheid national identity. How South Africa and South Africans handle issues of immigrations will also affect regional dynamics and continental politics as immigrants from farther away make their way to South Africa for security and economic opportunity.

Housed at Watson and co-directed by Patrick Heller, professor of sociology and international affairs, and Barbara Stallings, William R. Rhodes Research Professor, the GPD is supported by an IGERT (Integrated Graduate Education Research and Training) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). More information.