IEE Newsletter No. 31

Raffael Beier as a Gateway Fellow in South Africa

Raffael Beier reports on the first weeks of his research stay in Johannesburg

In December 2019, my application for the Gateway Fellowship of RUB Research School was accepted. The Gateway Fellowship allows young postdoctoral researchers (application is possible up to one year after your defense) to conduct a research stay for up to 9 months at an institution abroad. In my case, I chose the Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Sarah Charlton, associate professor and director of CUBES, as well as Prof. Marie Huchzermeyer, one of the examiners of my PhD thesis and founding member of CUBES, invited me to join their institute. The main objective of the Gateway Fellowship is to work together with your hosts in order to complete an application for a larger research grant. In my case, the idea was to apply for funding from either the DFG or the Volkswagen Foundation. As such, one of the main activities during the gateway Fellowship is to advance my new postdoctoral research project focusing on housing pathways of informal settlement dwellers and especially their post-resettlement moving activities.

Raffael 02
University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg, South Africa (Photo: Raffael Beier)

In March 2020, my Gateway Fellowship started, and I enjoyed my first week in office with a nice view over Johannesburg. Among my first activities was a presentation on my PhD research within the institute’s ‘Faces of the City’ seminar as well as contributions to teaching and a couple of discussions with CUBES staff on my research plans. I was happy to start in the first week of March, because just 2 weeks later, South Africa revoked all visas issued to German citizens and nationals of other ‘high risk countries’ to prevent a further outbreak of COVID-19 in the country. German citizens that had entered the country since mid-February could stay but were required to present themselves for testing. Testing negatively, my work at CUBES continued in an unusual way. We set up online teaching and held a couple of online meetings to organise our work for the next weeks. I also started supervising Master students that I have not yet met in person using online tools such as WhatsApp and Skype. At the end of March, South Africa further enhanced measures against the spread of COVID-19 declaring a lockdown of 21 days. Thus, as many people elsewhere, I have continued working from home, hoping to get back to my small office at Wits after 20 April.

BeierDr. Raffael Beier
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

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