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The Chair

Professor Fiona C. Ross holds the AW Mellon Chair in the Anthropology of the First Thousand Days of Life and is the Head of Section in Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town. Her research explores the making of children as social beings; the crafting of childhoods; and the constitution of the child’s social world in Southern Africa. Her previous publications explore the effects of violence and redress in South Africa and include Bearing Witness: Women and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa (2002. Pluto Press: London) and Raw Life, New Hope: Decency, housing and everyday life in a post-apartheid community (2010. UCT Press: Cape Town). For more information click here


Research administrator, Vivienne Toleni



Michelle Pentecost is a DPhil candidate in Anthropology at the University of Oxford (Green Templeton College). She is currently completing her doctoral thesis, titled “The First Thousand Days: Global Health and the Politics of Potential in Khayelitsha, South Africa.” Her work sits at the intersections of critical medical anthropology, science and technology studies, and postcolonial theory within anthropology’s growing corpus of critical studies of global health. Michelle is a practicing clinician with special interests in perinatology and internal medicine. She completed her medical training at the University of Cape Town before obtaining an MSc in Medical Anthropology at the University of Oxford.

For more information on Michelle's research projects and publications see her Website.


Dr. Kathleen Lorne McDougall is an NRF Innovation and A.W. Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Cape Town. As a recent graduate of the University of Chicago, her current work is “Securing Life at the Beginning: Risk Assessment in South African Pregnancies”. Securing Life at the Beginning: Risk Assessment in South African Pregnancies investigates  through ethnographic fieldwork and archival research moments of considering risk in pregnancy, childbirth and the perinatal period, within a framework of concern about the negative impact of medicalized childbirth and the alarmingly high South African maternal and infant mortality rate.


Dr. Nanna Schneidermann is working as a postdoctoral fellow at Development Studies at Oslo and Akershus University College and is a visiting fellow in Anthropology at the University of Cape Town. Her current study examines the role of new media in pregnancies and birth among women and their families in three different sites around Cape Town.

For more, visit the project Website


PhD students

Ziyanda Majombozi is a PhD candidate at WITS University. Her research interests are in pregnancy, childbirth and childcare. Her current research project will look at ‘normal’ pregnancies and how women experience the ordinary mundane life of pregnancy. The research will examine how one can enjoy a pregnancy when it is always perceived to be saturated with risk and also looks at how women manage the perceived risks in the first 1000 days.


Andile Mayekiso is currently project manager for a Soccer Study at Stellenbosch University.  Andile is currently completing his PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town (UCT). His thesis is on fatherhood and children, particularly the nature of these relationships in post-apartheid South Africa. Thesis title: Forms of life in Gugulethu among young men, particularly with regard to their understandings of fatherhood and of their relationships with their children.The project seeks to explore the forms of life of young men in poverty and, most particularly, how they incorporate or exclude relationships with children and the mothers of their children. I engage with different conceptions of fatherhood, fathering, debates on absent versus present fathers in households, as well as theorisation of masculinity with a special focus on South Africa. The field work of this ethnographic study took place between 2008 and 2013 in Gugulethu township.


Tessa Moll is a PhD student in Social Anthropology. Her research will examine new reproductive technologies in South Africa through their material, affective and temporal practices. Her previous research studied embodied experiences of migration; focusing on issues of gender, fear of crime and the social coding of bodies. She has a Master’s in Gender Studies from UCT’s African Gender Institute.


Nirvana Pillay is a PhD student in Public Health at Wits University. Her research traces the experiences of 'young families', thinking through health, gender and generation.


Jennifer Rogerson is a PhD student in Social Anthropology. Her research has focussed broadly on the practices of midwifery in relation to care. She is interested in exploring, alongside the political economy of service distribution, the political economy of affect in South African maternal health care. Specifically, her work looks at how a model of birth is elaborated and enacted and how care settles in that context, being called forth in particular ways. Prior research was housed within environmental anthropology, where Jennifer participated in interdisciplinary research looking at how different sea-users engage with climate change.


Masters students

Tamuka Chekero is a Masters student working on refugee and immigrant health care with a specific focus on maternal health care access and infant well-being.

Nicole Ferreira is a Masters by Research student. Nicole’s research focuses on experiences of pregnant women accessing antenatal care at a state clinic in the Southern Peninsula of Cape Town. Her research specifically seeks to understand the experiences that contribute to what the state categorises as “late” presentation to antenatal clinics. Nicole is interested in how life and access to care are shaped by different ways of knowing, and within spaces of inequality and violence. Further considered in the research are core concepts in the organisation of state management of pregnancy, organisations of power, and questions of ethical conduct.

Kylie Marais is currently pursuing her second year towards a Masters degree in Practical Anthropology. Her dissertation critically explores a development intervention (video card) about parenting and early childhood care.

Vuyokazi Myoli is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow currently pursuing her Master’s degree at UWC. Her research aims to understand the experiences of women living with endometriosis and their journeys to health care access in Cape Town. 

Min'enhle Ncube. In her final Master's year, Min'enhle's research enquires what development means in the lives of children living in a newly developing community in Maphisa, Zimbabwe.

Shannon O'Rourke  is researching eight week educational parenting workshops held in Masiphumelele and the motivations of parents who participate in such workshops.

Yusra Price is an MA student whose research is interested in the formation of faith of a child. She specifically looks at modes of thought where the concerns, ideals and expectations of Muslim caregivers provide insight into their children’s religious identity formations.

Carina Truyts lectures and is establishing the Anthropology department at Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley, South Africa. Her teaching and research is thus focused on contextual knowledge production, sharing and engagement. Her Research MA is on Nourishment in the 'first thousand days' in the context of precarious livelihoods in a small Cape Winelands town. Her interdisciplinary research interests are in food, well-being, the body, temporality, and the complex patterning of kin, capital, affect and inheritance as vectors that edit life.  She can be reached at


Honours students

Khanyisile Chiganze is an Honours student researching the phenomenon of at-home care work, specifically that undertaken by migrant women working with infants in middle class homes. 

Darrin-Lee Grey, Rands for Reproduction Project. Research Question “drawing from a snowball sample of men who fit the criteria to be sperm donors, I will investigate the meanings attached to donation

Terena Koster is an honours student who wants to understand how various sites of control are elaborated in the event of an unscheduled caesarean section. 

Julia Munroe is an Honours student. She is researching a network created to address the issue of menstrual-related schoolgirl absenteeism, tracing the distribution of sanitary pads from NGO to schoolgirl.

Robyn Swannack is a Honours student researching everyday lives of families with d/Deaf children. The project will explore how institutions shape decisions and gender differences in women's and men's lives in association with their child's deafness. 

Shari Thanjan is an Honours student who is undertaking research on the preliminary roll out of the Western Cape Dept. Health's First 1000 Days of Life initiative.




Sandra Manuel is Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), Mozambique. She specialises in research on gender and sexuality.  

Esmeralda Mariano is a Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), Mozambique. Her research focuses on questions of infertility.

Nolwazi Mkhwanazi is a medical anthropologist who is interested in issues relating to gender and the politics of reproduction. Nolwazi is currently based at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, where she teaches courses in the anthropology of medicine and the body, medical anthropology, and ethnographic writing and analysis. Over the last two decades, Nolwazi has conducted long-term ethnographic research on early childbearing, kinship and care. She has also been involved in projects relating to the broader theme of youth, gender, sexual and reproductive health. These have including the evaluation of the medical male circumcision campaign in Swaziland, and advising on the Young 1ove campaign in Botswana.

Dr. Efua Prah is a lecturer in Anthropology at the University of the Western Cape. Her scholarly interests include critical methodological practice, violence, childhood studies, sexuality, pregnancy, and birthing.


Previous Project Participants


Mackenzie Hild  volunteer research assistant (Harvard, 2014)

Kate Abney Project manager (2015)



Muneebah Dawson Honours student (University of Cape Town, 2014)

Joe Eppel Honours student (University of Cape Town, 2014)

Nicole Ferreira Honours student (University of Cape Town, 2014)

Kylie Marais Honours student (University of Cape Town, 2014)

Yusra Price Honours student (University of Cape Town, 2013)

Miriam Waltz Honours student (University of Cape Town, 2013)



Ziyanda Majombozi  Masters student (University of Cape Town, 2015)

Shannon O'Rourke Masters student (University of Cape Town, 2015)

Miriam Waltz Masters student (University of Cape Town, 2015)