The contradictory conceptions of research in Historically Black Universities
Research is conceptualised in multiple and contradictory ways within and across Historically Black Universities (HBUs) with consequences for knowledge production. Under the apartheid regime, research was deliberately underdeveloped in such institutions and this continues to have an impact. We argue that if HBUs are to move from the constraints of the past into the possibilities of the future, there is a need for a thorough understanding both of how research is currently conceptualised, and of the consequences of such conceptions for research output. We used a critical discourse analysis of interviews, documents and survey data from seven HBUs to identify the dominant discourses about the purposes of research. The findings are four dominant conceptions of research that sometimes contradict each other across and within the HBUs. These are research as integral to academic identity; research for social justice; research as an economic driver and research as an instrumentalist requirement for job security, promotion and incentives. These conceptions seemed to emerge in part because of the history of the institutions and create both constraining and enabling effects on research production.