Researchers during lockdown (7)


© Sophie Dulucq

Dr. Chaymaa Hassabo is a Research Associate at the Department of Sociology, University of Johannesburg (UJ).  

She is a specialist of Egypt and wrote her doctoral thesis in political science about the transformations of the Mubarak authoritarian regime during the 2002-2010 period.  Dr. Hassabo came to South Africa three years ago as a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Social Change (University of Johannesburg). Her research focuses on the history of protests in Egypt, authoritarianism, activists’ trajectories and revolutions. She is currently writing a book about the end of Mubarak era in Egypt. 

More recently, she started studying informality and her interests have expanded to include South Africa, from a comparative perspective with the Middle East. The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown in South Africa raised the issue of inequalities in the informal sector. Dr. Hassabo therefore decided to study the impact of Covid-19 and the level 5 lockdown on informal workers, their work and daily lives. The key element of this study is to understand the life trajectories of informal workers in order to better capture the effects of the pandemic on their lives. From car guards to domestic workers and waiters, this study understands informality with a broad definition. 

Like many researchers, Dr. Hassabo explains that the pandemic and lockdown delayed many of her research projects. In addition, it was challenging to find a balance between professional and personal life during the lockdown in a household with a young child where both parents work.  

Nevertheless, the level 5 lockdown inspired her new project about informality and Covid-19. With her research team, Dr. Hassabo conducted more than 60 interviews in Johannesburg and Cape Town about the effects of Covid-19 on informal workers. This very enriching project in the field of human and social sciences could be further developed at a national or international level (namely between countries of the South) in the future.