A Southern African dialogue

21 May 2020

This special issue showcases some of the papers presented at the 2017 Colloquium titled “A Southern African Dialogue on the Professions and Professional Work” held at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. While the special issue contributes to the conversation on professions and professionalism within southern Africa (see also Bonnin & Ruggunan, 2013; Bonnin & Ruggunan, 2016; Erasmus & Breier, 2009; Young & Muller, 2014), it also opens up a conversation between southern Africa and the economic/political North. Writing in 1972 Johnson (p. 281) noted that “the sociology of professions, as a specialist field, today stands almost alone in ignoring the third world”. Forty-seven years later, it feels as if not much has changed. Annisette (2007, p.245) points to the repeated calls for “greater spatial and temporal diversity in historical research in accounting”, while her focus here was on accounting, this call resonates with most research fields in the professions. However, we would argue that not only is there a need for “spatial and temporal diversity” but also a need to recognise that the professions in both the global south and the economic north are shaped firstly by colonialism and imperialism, and later, through globalisation and neo-imperialism. Just as Johnson (1982, cited in Annisette, 2000) argued that professionalisation in Britain and its former colonies are linked through the project of imperialism, so the globalisation of professions through the global reach of professional service firms (Faulconbridge & Muzio, 2007), transnational companies and multilateral organisations continues this mutual shaping albeit in a different form (Hopper et al., 2017; Lassou, Hopper, Tsamenyi, & Murinde, 2019).