UWA students explore Indian Ocean regionalism via collaborative study in South Africa

Eight UWA Master’s students had a unique international study experience in Pretoria, South Africa, from 7-16 July 2019. The six credit unit SOCS5105 International Collaborative Study Experience is an ongoing annual partnership between UWA, Universitas Paramadina (Jakarta) and the University of Pretoria. The unit brings together academic staff and students from Australia, Indonesia and South Africa to explore the theme of International Relations in the Indian Ocean Region, enabling students to ‘study International Relations while practicing international relations’.

This was the third annual iteration of the course and the first in South Africa following delivery in Jakarta in 2017 and 2018. The ten-day intensive course exposed students to a range of different perspectives on the Indian Ocean region—canvassing key issues such as trade, security, strategic rivalry, cooperation, migration, blue economy, climate change, identity, regional governance—and considering different national and regional interests, capacities and priorities. Several sessions focused specifically on the host location, featuring discussions on South Africa’s history and contemporary society, politics and foreign policy.

The annual course is co-designed and co-delivered by AfREC’s Dr David Mickler and Dr Nikola Pijovic, Paramadina’s Dr Shiskha Prabawaningtyas and Pretoria’s Prof. Maxi Schoeman, and featured a range of presentations by other academics and student leaders from the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Humanities Students also engaged directly with experts from the Institute for Security Studies, Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, Institute for Global Dialogue, South African Navy, Agricultural Business Chamber, South African media, as well as Pretoria-based diplomats from Australia, India, Indonesia and South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DICRO). Delivering the course in Pretoria was timely given that South Africa is the current Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and a highlight of the trip was a roundtable meeting with H.E. Ambassador Anil Sooklal, South Africa’s IORA ‘Sherpa’ and a leading expert on Indian Ocean regional dynamics.

In mixed groups, students worked collaboratively to research and deliver group presentations at the end of the course. Topics chosen included maritime security cooperation, the nature of military bases in the region, the blue economy, and challenges facing IORA. Students also undertook cultural immersion via visits to the Apartheid Museum (Johannesburg), Soweto, and the Reitvlei Nature Reserve, and participated in a parallel international conference hosted by the University of Pretoria on Unsettling Paradigms: The Decolonial Turn in the Humanities Curriculum at Universities in South Africa. Students and staff were accommodated at the University of Pretoria’s brand new Future Africa campus.

UWA students’ travel was supported by the UWA Global Learning Office and the School of Social Sciences. Discussions are currently underway on delivery of the 2020 iteration of the collaborative course, including to expand the number of partners and to formalise the program under IORA.

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