The Constitution of Public Intellectual Life (PUIL) project was established by Carolyn Hamilton in 2004 and ran at the University of the Witwatersrand until 2008.   The project focussed on the forms and conditions of public deliberation in post-repressive regime South Africa. 

The project had three components:

Research: trans-disciplinary research into the nature of public deliberation in historical and contemporary South Africa;

Pedagogy:  development of a post-graduate pedagogical model capable of supporting trans-disciplinary student research in an emerging field; 

Public Interventions: engaging the terrain of public deliberation. This was achieved primarily through a sub-project: The Platform for Public Deliberation, led by Dr. Xolela Mangcu. 


Core Research projects 2004-2008.

The Media and Public Debate research node: This project began in the media and public deliberation node of the Constitution of Public Intellectual Life project, in which researchers examined a number of media-related themes. With the conclusion of the Public Intellectual Life project, Media and Public Debate became a project of the Wits Journalism programme, led by Lesley Cowling, inheriting some of the original themes and inaugurating new ones. The project aims to contribute to an understanding of the role of the media in public deliberation in South Africa. It does this by conducting original research, immersing working journalists in the study of media debate, and through public discussion of the findings. For more on this project, see here.

Conference: Paradoxes of the Postcolonial Public Sphere: South African Democracy at the Crossroads, 2008.

Exceeding Public Spheres (Two –part symposium) – Social Dynamics, 35(2), 2009 & 36(1), 2010

Worthy Ancestors: Archive, Public Deliberation and Identity in South Africa

To the Brink

Other publications 2004-2007

Public Engagement

Identity and the Archive and Public Lecture series 2006.

Public Conversations on African Leadership 2007

Public Lecture, in collaboration with the South Africa –India Research Group, 2007: Amitav Ghosh in conversation with Achmat Dangor and Pamila Gupta, chaired by Xolela Mangcu.

National System, Public Interest: A conference on archive in South Africa Archives at the Crossroads: Open Report to the Minister of Arts and Culture, 2007