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CCS Webinar:Applying Photography to Trace the Slow Violence of Environmental Disaster

The UKZN Centre for Civil Society is inviting you to a CCS Seminar Series incorporating two seminars focused on applying photography to understand narratives of home and neighbourhood and to trace the foot print of environmental disaster following the flood events of 2022 in KwaZulu-Natal.

Seminar:Applying Photography to Trace the Slow Violence of Environmental Disaster
Speaker:Alexandra Howland and Emily Ragus
Date: 02 August 2023
Zoom Link:

In this seminar, Alexandra and Emily trace the footprint of slow violence as a result of an environmental disaster following the unprecedented weather event of the 2022 Durban floods. A flooding event that intersected with four years of overlapping catastrophes to include COVID-19, multiple environmental disasters and widespread civil and political unrest. The focal point within Durban is an informal settlement precariously located on the low-lying banks of the Palmiet River. This urban environment is enmeshed with environmental changes that are exacerbated by apartheid era spatial inequalities. Employing a methodological framework grounded in ethnographic inquiry, photography, and the utilization of arts-based methods for research co-creation, Alexandra and Emily aim to understand the ways in which individuals negotiate and exercise their own agency within the context of escalating instability. Ultimately, the project seeks to illuminate the individual process of endeavouring to transcend from spaces of injury and aspire towards spaces of healing.


Alexandra Rose Howland (1990, US/UK) has spent much of the last decade living in the Middle East creating work that challenges traditional coverage of the region and its geopolitics. As her projects on climate, migration, conflict, and post-conflict evolve, her work has expanded into North Africa and Europe. Howland’s background as an abstract painter continues to impact her practice, leading to a multidimensional approach using imagery, found objects, collage, sound, and video. Her projects span years and often result in vast archives that seek to examine people and places from multiple perspectives, all of which challenge the accepted narrative. Howland's work challenges us to reimagine the stories we have already seen. Howland has shown internationally with both solo and group exhibitions including ‘Leave and Let Us Go’ (solo), FOAM Amsterdam; ‘Road to Mosul’ (solo), London; ‘Textured to Only Us’ (solo), Los Angeles; Photo Lux Festival (group), Tuscany; ‘Where I Lay My Head’ (group), Sydney, among others. Howland published her first book ‘Leave and Let Us Go’ with GOST Books in 2021 and regularly works with National Geographic, Le Monde, de'Volkskrant and Wall Street Journal, among others.

Emily Ragus was the recipient of the Sir John Monash scholarship where she is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Amsterdam. Her research explores the impact of the 2022 KwaZulu Natal floods on injuries across the physical, social and environmental body. Emily is particularly interested in the entanglement of people and their environment, and how this influences their health. Emily completed her masters in Global Development at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. She has a professional background of 15 years emergency nursing experience, which includes disaster coordination and management, helicopter trauma retrievals, and most recently as a prehospital delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Malaysia, Azerbaijan, Jordan and Ukraine. Emily’s interest in disaster management came from her experience of being a member of a health team that was activated to retrieve patients during a mass casualty event in the Indo-Pacific. From this she was awarded a Winston Churchill fellowship to study a diploma of Humanitarian Assistance at Fordham University in New York.

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