Present and imminent: Crises and complexity in Mexico and South Africa

Convened by Prof Lenore Manderson, the roundtable Present and Imminent: Crises and Complexity in Mexico and South Africa will focus on contemporary and emerging crises in the two countries. Both Mexico and South Africa face multiple ecological and economic problems, as reflected by biodiversity loss, water, food and energy crises, the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases, and new infections including COVID-19. Pressures from continued urbanisation, migration, and unemployment, partly due to such challenges, contribute to local anxiety, violence and systemic inequality. In this panel, we use this mix of problems as portals to examine the interrelationship of physical, social and biological worlds, as studied by members of the two universities. We will focus on the twin challenges in urban Mexico and South Africa of climate change and migration, both of which present escalating challenges of scope and intensity. We will explore the bidirectional relationships of different crises, and will reflect on the challenges for improved governance and in implementing policies and programs. We will conclude by considering how these problems are common in LMIC, and the role of G-24 countries like Mexico and South Africa in addressing these questions, and in responding to them as a model of new global leadership.


Lenore Manderson AM is Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Medical Anthropology in the School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, and an NRF A-rated scholar. She holds appointments also with Brown University, US, and Monash University, Australia. Known internationally for her work on inequality and the social context of infectious and chronic diseases in Australia, Southeast and East Asia, and Africa, she has published over 700 books, articles, book chapters and reports, including Sickness and the State (1996), Surface Tensions: Surgery, Bodily Boundaries and the Social Self (2011), Routledge Handbook of Medical Anthropology (2016, with Elizabeth Cartwright and Anita Hardon), Connected Lives: Families, Households, Health and Care in South Africa (2020, with Nolwazi Mkhwanazi), and Viral Loads: Anthropologies of Urgency in the Time of COVID-19 (in press, with Nancy J. Burke and Ayo Wahlberg). She chairs the External Review Group of the Social Innovations in Health Initiative of TDR (2015-) and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA). She was awarded the Society of Medical Anthropology Career Achievement Award in 2016, and in January 2020 was admitted as a Member of the Order of Australia.


Cristina Oehmichen Bazán

Institute of Anthropological Research, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico

Cristina Oehmichen holds a PhD in Anthropology from UNAM. Cristina is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Anthropological Research, and a professor of the Postgraduate Program in Anthropology and the Degree in Anthropology at the same institution. She is a member of the Mexican National System of Researchers, level II, and of the Mexican Academy of Sciences. She has received three national awards (1986, 1998 and 2001) by the National Institute of Anthropology and History. In 2005, the Canadian Government, through the International Council for Canadian Studies, awarded her the Award for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Cristina has published chapters in books, books, and articles in specialized journals. Since 2016, she is editor of the journal Antropología Americana of the Pan American Institute of Geography and History. She is currently working on “Mobilities, inequalities and inter-ethnic relations” and on themes of “Anthropology of Tourism.”

Paola Velasco Santos

Institute of Anthropological Research, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico

Paola Velasco Santos is a social anthropologist with PhD in anthropology from UNAM, and a member of the Mexican National System of Researchers, Level I. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in environmental anthropology, political ecology, anthropological theory, and methodology. Paola is the author of the book “Ríos de contradicción. Contaminación, ecología política y sujetos rurales en Nativitas, Tlaxcala (2017-IIA).” In 2018, she was awarded the Fray Bernardino de Sahagún Prize for Best Anthropology Research Book by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). Since 2009, she works on projects related to river pollution, water overexploitation, local denim manufacturing, historical conditions of precarity and health problems in Central Mexico. She is also working on a project concerned with a hydro-political cycle and the impact on the socionatural relations and reconfigurations, heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Jo Vearey

African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Jo Vearey has a background in public health and her interdisciplinary research focuses on the intersections between migration and health. She is an Associate Professor and Director of the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) at Wits University in Johannesburg where she coordinates the Migration and Health Project Southern Africa (maHp). Jo also directs the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Migration and Mobility – hosted by the ACMS – and is vice-chair of the Global Migration, Health, and Development Research Initiative (MHADRI). With a commitment to social justice, Jo’s research explores ways to generate and communicate knowledge to improve responses to migration, health and wellbeing in the southern African region. Fundamental to her research practice is participation in policy processes at international and local levels. This includes exploring approaches to address epistemic injustice in the development of appropriate policy responses.

Khangelani Moyo

Global Change Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Khangelani Moyo is an Associate Researcher at the Global Change Institute (GCI), University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). He has academic training in migration studies, urban studies, sociology and social anthropology. He completed his PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2017, focusing on migrant mobilities in urban spaces and how their spatial identities are negotiated in the City of Johannesburg. His research interests include migration management, refugee governance, migrant transnationalism, spatial identity in the city, and social vulnerabilities in the urban periphery. He is also an associate at the Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institute in Freiburg, where he collaborates on a research project on the political stakes of refugee governance in Africa.

Date: Tuesday, February 23, 2020

Time: 9 am (Mexico City) 5 pm (Johannesburg) 2 am Wednesday 24 (Melbourne)

Duration: 1 hr. 30 minutes

The event will be broadcast on UNAM-South Africa’s Facebook

Zoom meeting:

Meeting ID: 976 002 6984

Programme: Present and Imminent: Crises and Complexity in Mexico and South Africa