School of Social Sciences

UKZN Celebrates Legacy of Professor Fatima Meer

Speakers and audience at the Fatima Meer Lecture.

The extraordinary life of South African human rights activist, academic, author, prisoner and sociologist Professor Fatima Meer was commemorated at the second annual memorial lecture at UKZN.

Meer’s grandson Mr Zen Marie served as programme director, while fellow activist and friend Ela Gandhi had the audience captivated with personal memories and reflections on Meer’s life.

The annual Professor Fatima Meer Memorial Lecture – PFMML acknowledges Meer’s contribution to South African social justice. Launched virtually in 2022 in the School of Social Science – College of Humanities it has firmly a platform to build on Meer’s legacy.

This year’s keynote address was delivered by Dr Same Mdluli on Defiance and Resistance: Meer’s Cultural Creativity, Social Capital and Artistic Vision intersections of Meer’s Creativity. ‘As we remember and honour Professor Meer’s achievements and contributions, we welcome insights and critical engagement that will undoubtedly continue to enrich meaningful discussion.’

Meer’s work is preserved in the Professor Fatima Meer Archives and Special Collections to intensify research. Dr Roshini Pather of UKZN Library Services said: ‘We believe that digitising such delicate material will also increase the material’s visibility and accessibility. Our responsibility is to accurately maintain the history, social, cultural, religious, political, educational, and recreational lines of the community by making these resources available to the community.’ She encouraged the donation of artefacts and materials for the Meer archives (for more information visit

UKZN’s Professor Mariam Seedat-Khan, chair of the FMMLC and Meer’s grandniece awarded the first in person Clinical and Applied Sociology Book prize, reflected that ‘The vision for a Clinical and Applied Sociology Programme was born under Professor Meer and Mr Ramesh Harcharan’s mentorship in the early 90s at the Institute for Black Research-IBR. As a master’s candidate, I worked tirelessly, conducting research, driving, filing, sorting, interviewing, transcribing and archiving documents.

‘A professional and personal experience that thrust me into the field of Clinical and Applied Sociology. Acknowledging and extending deep gratitude for my internship at IBR has culminated in multiple collective local and global efforts that undoubtedly seek to advance the intellectual project. Meer deserved far more recognition for her pioneering work dismantling systemic and institutional patriarchy – her work is by no means complete. We at UKZN and the broader academic community are grateful to be tasked with memorialising and sustaining her life’s work. As an early Southern woman sociologist and prisoner of apartheid she disrupted the narrative that dehumanised and de-conscientised her then and us today. Meer responded to racist and gendered brutality with reconciliation and love for her country. She expressed her love for life by repeated references to “bluer than the blue sea” and “bluer than the blue sky”,’ said Seedat-Khan.

Seedat-Khan conferred the 2023 Professor Fatima Meer Clinical Sociology Book Prize on Laureate Ms Viyuktha Deoparsad whose research focused on: The Impact of Apartheid Legislation on Three Schools in Pietermaritzburg. ‘Deoparsad has demonstrated exceptional capabilities and proficiencies in post-apartheid education. She is currently developing a clinical intervention for schools in her immediate community committed to positive change,’ said Seedat-Khan.

Deoparsad said she was humbled to receive the prize. ‘It’s never a good sign when your professor calls, so when I received a call and personal invitation from Professor Seedat-Khan to attend the Memorial Lecture, I was surprised.

‘Growing up in Pietermaritzburg I remember learning, studying and hearing family talk about the magnanimous Professor Fatima Meer. I came to recognise her altruistic role and her tireless struggle against apartheid. While reading for my degree, I was introduced to her writings, with increasing curiosity in her sociological research,’ she said. ‘I discovered her writings that demonstrated that advanced thinking always disrupted traditional views. So, receiving this prestigious award is surreal.’

The FMML featured a musical performance by Natalie Rungan and Niel Gonsalves.

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