It is with a very heavy heart that we have to announce that our beloved, recently retired colleague Dr Paul Hebinck has suddenly passed away, while on holidays in France. Paul was a colorful, committed and extremely collegial development sociologist who worked at Wageningen University from 1989 until his retirement in 2019. Specialized in rural development, land and agrarian reform, resource management and agricultural livelihoods, Paul was happiest doing long-term research in what he referred to as his ‘dorpies’ (local villages) in Kenya, Namibia and South Africa. His commitment to the people that he worked with, studied and supported was unwavering, akin to his commitment to his many students, colleagues and academic friends all over the world. Transformation, Paul consistently taught us, needs to be studied and supported ‘from below’, and must be inspired by and rooted in the people that work the land. This is a lesson we hold dear at the Sociology of Development and Change and Rural Sociology groups, and that we will continue to spread and teach. Paul did not want to retire and was indeed still very active with publications and projects. Those who knew Paul understand that the world truly is a lot quieter without him. We will miss Paul dearly and think of his wife, children, family and friends.
On behalf of the Sociology of Development and Change Group and the Rural Sociology Group, prof. Bram Büscher, prof. Han Wiskerke
Notions of land and agrarian reform are now well entrenched in the everyday life of a significant number of people in post-apartheid South Africa. What reform actually means for everyday life varies considerably, however. The same counts for how we study and understand land and agrarian reform processes. The purpose of the book is not to provide an extensive review of academic debates or to argue that land reform has ‘failed’ to achieve its set goals so much as to document the different ways in which land and agrarian reform policies are experienced and practised at the grassroots level and the kind of responses they generate at the level of the state, policymakers and civil society (interest and lobby groups, non-governmental organisations, etc.). The book sets out to contribute to existing critical reflections by engaging with the policy debate along with the academic one in South Africa and elsewhere. These debates surround a number of themes and pertinent issues, in turn informing and shaping the collection of papers brought together in this book. The title of the book, ‘In the Shadow of Policy: Everyday Practice in South Africa’s Land and Agrarian Reform’, is telling for the nature and character of the argument. The book aims to elucidate how a range of social actors involved in the land and agrarian reform process (e.g. policy makers, state officials, beneficiaries, extension workers), engage with the ideas and actions of policy institutions. In this way the book documents how these ideas are transmitted, contested, reassembled, and negotiated at the points where policy decisions and implementations impinge upon the life circumstances and everyday lifeworlds of so-called ‘lay’ or ‘non-expert’ actors.