The University of Zimbabwe’s Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) is a Department within the Faculty of Social Studies.
The history of the Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) dates back to when the Centre for Inter-Racial Studies was established at the University of Rhodesia in June 1970. Professor Marshall Murphree became the inaugural professor of Race Relations. The Centre constituted an independently financed unit for the study of race relations in a country where race was of critical political and social significance, and was located in an institution uniquely endowed for the purpose. The Centre was created to promote research and teaching in race relations, had departmental status within the University and was allocated in the Faculty of Social Studies. The important aspect of the programme involved the identification, classification and collection of contemporary data on race relations in Rhodesia.
In 1982, the Centre for Inter-Racial Studies which he directed became the Centre for Applied Social Sciences. Prof. Murphree started to embark on research in peripheral areas of Zimbabwe, largely in fragile environments that were not suitable for intensive commercial agriculture. This led to an interest in environmental and equity issues, which he pursued through teaching and research.
Research interest in environmental and equity issues resulted in Professor Murphree spearheaded the wildlife proprietorship initiatives. His efforts led to the creation of the world acclaimed Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) programme. The programme, though encompassing other natural resources, was centred on wildlife in communal areas adjacent to National Parks and other protected areas. Professor Murphree together with students, largely from CASS, provided academic and professional advice to CAMPFIRE.
Changes in Zimbabwe’s macro-economic environment beginning in 2000 have led CASS to widen its research focus. Although the main research focus is still on natural resources, the following thematic areas are becoming increasingly important in CASS’ research effort:
- Environment and Sustainable development
- Conflict Studies
- Governance and Equity
- Community Development Strategies
- Climate Change and Variability
- Global Environmental Politics
- Land Reform and Agrarian Studies
- Political Economy of Development
- Rural Livelihoods Strategies
- Food Security (Sovereignty)
- Gender Studies
- Social Impacts of Epidemiologies
- Human Wildlife Conflicts
To become a pre-eminent international centre of excellence in transforming society through research and teaching.
To provide multi-disciplinarity graduate and policy-relevant training and applied research to various constituencies so as to enhance the process of societal transformation.
CASS’s Core Business
CASS has developed a reputation for innovative and independent social science scholarship at both national and international levels. This has been achieved through the Centre’s strategic approach that combines:
- Promoting longitudinal, participatory methodologies
- Effectively delivering research results and
- Focusing on policy relevance
The Centre’s teaching and research interests have been in the field of environmental policy and management. A symbiotic relationship has developed between the teaching and research programmes where mutual feedback allows for further development of each of the programmes.