Our Team

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Prof Desiree Lewis: Principal Researcher

Desiree Lewis is the Principal Researcher of a recent Mellon-funded project focusing on humanities approaches to food systems. She has published and taught extensively on gender, feminism and human development, with her ongoing research interests in topics including popular culture, visual culture, literary studies, the mass media and new media intersecting with her current interest in food studies.


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Donna Andrews: Senior Researcher

Donna Andrews is a researcher in Food Politics and Cultures Project at the University of the Western Cape, exploring the political and philosophical implications of food in the context of social subjects’ relations to nature. Specifically, her work seeks to draw on feminist discourses with regards to nature and ecological struggles so as to deepen the work on food politics and its relation to women, nature and society in the South and Southern Africa. Her research gives expression to feminist agencies which are made invisible in food struggles specifically in relation to land and oceans. She was active on trade and trade-related issues in Southern Africa and worked for the Jubilee South Debt Movement. She serves as a juror for the Permanent Peoples Tribunal. She is an ecofeminist and trained as a political economist. Since 2011 her work has focused on capitalism and nature, specifically on land, fish and mining.


Dr Lynn Mafofo: Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr Lynn Mafofo’s  research broadly engages with issues of food branding, advertising, positioning, and consumption in the formal and informal sector particularly in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Looking at the background of both the global and local food systems where food seems to acquire collective meaning through being imagined, symbolized and ritualized, she is interested in exploring, how the massive corporatization of food in the global world and food centered discursive strategies seem to embody ideological elements that resonate with particular socially accepted ideas, feelings or desires of offshore economies at the expense of local economies thereby subjecting unhealthy food consumption. This includes exploring how the literal or visual representation and positioning of food and cuisine divulge diverse historical, political, raced and gendered subjective identities and world views, in the context of food sovereignty as a radical alternative to neoliberal perspective to food security in the global south.


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Thembie Bongwana: PhD Candidate

Thembelihle Bongwana is currently doing her PhD at the Women and Gender Studies Department, University of the Western Cape. The doctoral research is titled “Public Eating, Food Spaces and Social Identities in South Africa’s Spur Family Restaurant. Bongwana’s interests are mainly around teaching and learning and as such, has tutored 3rd-year modules at the WGS department.  Her interests around food were sparked by a Mellon-Funded food politics and cultures project, located within the University of the Western Cape’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) where she serves as an emergent scholar/researcher. Some of her research interests are around masculinities, gender and development, gendered power dynamics, public eating spaces, gender and science, and as such, her MA research focused on women in science and more recently food studies.


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Sean Sithole: PhD Candidate

Sean Thulani Sithole is a development specialist with work experience with Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa and the University of the Western Cape. He is a Doctoral candidate in the Food Politics and Cultures Project at the Centre of Excellence in Food Security, University of the Western Cape. His research is on Food Sovereignty and Food Justice Discourses from the Perspective of Indigenous Knowledge Systems in South Africa. His thesis under Masters in Development Studies focused on Youth migration and food security. Sean’s current research interests include food politics, the political economy of food, alternative foods movement, local foods movement, land and agrarian issues, indigenous knowledge systems, bottom up and people centred approaches.


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Haidee Swanby: Masters Student

Haidee Swanby has worked for the past 20 years as a researcher and activist in what is now emerging as an African Food Sovereignty movement. Her focus has been on traditional agriculture, indigenous knowledge, and the privatisation of African agriculture and corporate control of the food system.

Haidee’s enrollment as a Masters student in the Food Politics and Cultures Project represents a spiral journey to connect back to what she loves most – the magic of food, the people that prepare it and collaboration with Nature. Her research explores how we draw on the visceral to build political identities and catalyse activism; how food feels in our bodies, connects to intellect, emotions and histories and the choices we make as a result.


Pamella Gysman Masters Student

Pamella Gysman is a Masters candidate in the Women and Gender Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape. Her background studies centred around philosophy, politics and economics. Pamella’s current research interests are food and identity. Her Masters research undertakes to investigate urban blacks’ food consumption choices and practices as well the relationship between their identity formation and these consumption choices and practices.


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Shirmeez Saamai: Honours Student

Shirmeez is an Honours student  in the Women and Gender Studies Dept. at the University of the Western Cape.  She is interested in how the gendered body is represented by the media in order to sell healthy foods. For instance, in many health foods advertisements it is noted that men and women with ideal masculine bodies and ideal feminine bodies are used as cover figures to endorse food brands so that people can buy these products. This can be seen as a manipulation strategy used by markets to get people to buy into a thin culture. These products then promise weight loss or the promise that if one is consistent with eating these foods, then the ideal body will be achieved.


Sarita Ranchod PhD Candidate

Sarita Ranchod is a feminist researcher, writer and sculptor. She runs an international social change practice that focuses on women’s and girls’ rights, genders, sexualities and social justice. In addition to these issues, she has published on food cultures; Black feminisms; aesthetics, race and colour; violence and persistent inequalities.

Drawing on Black (and) feminist cultural studies perspectives, and autoethnography, her doctoral project proposes to explore the politics of how food cultures migrate and adapt; how they resist efforts to oppress and segregate, considering, among other things, the effects of slavery, colonialism, Apartheid, migration and location on food-culture-making.