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The Indexing the Human panel discussion on the 14th of May 2015 guided its audience through a reflection on the undertaking of experiments in and on everyday life. Panel members Christopher Colvin, Andrew Charman, Lief Pietersen and Aditya Kumar provided rich descriptions and discussions of their respective research experiences and findings ranging from State and NGO health interventions in Khayelitsha as a site for an emergent form of humanitarian politics and citizenship to the (re)organisation of ‘shebeen’ spaces and the socialisation of patrons through experimental, behaviour-orientated signs in the Sweethome farming community in urban Cape Town. An experiment in conservation referred to as ‘Herbinisation’ –the conversion of sidewalks into green spaces – in Cape Town provides traditional healers access to medicinal plants while circumventing state legislation on the conservation of indigenous cape flora. And lastly a critical reflection on participatory development initiatives and the need for a paradigm shift that aligns informal settlement development discourse with climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in developing countries like South Africa where the poor will bear the brunt of the effects of climate change.

Although the wide disciplinary focus and contextual setting of each discussion might have appeared out of conceptual contact with another, they are in fact connected through the cohesive nature of the questions and reflections that arise from these seemingly normative everyday spaces and narratives to which they speak. Such question include: What are the socio-political implications and outcomes for conducting research in or on everyday life? What methods do we as social scientist employ in shaping modes of socialisation? And what worlds are made possible when we become aware of the myriad creative ways in which people can exert greater control over their modes of existence. What connects these questions is the shared importance of reflecting on the (un)intended outcomes of research that involves active participants.

When these question arise it becomes clear that experiments on and in everyday life allow not only for respective research question to be answered, but also provides illumination of the emergence of new narratives, political discourses and social modalities that help us to question the status quo of everyday life in and around Cape Town, and in our imaginations shape as much as in reality a city able to emerge from the disenchantment of urban modernity and its historically privileged development trajectory.

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