Current Postdoctoral Projects

Alírio Karina's research project, Africa After Anthropology, explores how the idea of Africa is an afterlife of anthropology, and considers what it might mean to do African studies—and to think Africa—in a way autonomous of anthropology, though cognizant of its histories. Building especially upon the work of Valentin-Yves Mudimbe and Archie Mafeje, it responds to a further foundational question for African Studies: can there be a post-independence African discourse that is neither nativist nor an imitation of the West? To resolve these questions, the project works to distinguish the idea of Africa from the anthropology of Africa, and to develop a materialist and semiological theory of the post-anthropological African continent. Taking as its immediate objects of study various media forms inflected by anthropological ideas (including postcards, monographs and literary texts, and focusing primarily upon museum objects) and addressing them through the perspective of several interlinked disciplines, including political economy, cultural theory, postcolonial and race studies, the project considers what African life and thought might look like if anthropologized forms of African difference—however troubled by colonial history—were relieved of their status as sites of socio-political anxiety, and could instead become avenues through which to consider projects of sociality, solidarity and autonomy.

Past Postdoctoral Projects

Duane Jethro’s 2016 APC research project involved developing a book proposal and manuscript, based on his Phd dissertation. This led to the publication of his book, Heritage Formation and the Senses in Post-Apartheid South Africa: Aesthetics of Power, with Bloomsbury Academic (now Routledge). He was intensively involved in thinking about the recovery and recycling of material of and from the apartheid past as archival traces of a kind. This resulted in the publication of the journal article, Liberated Waste: heritage and materiality at Robben Island and Constitution Hill, South Africa. He has continued to think about the exciting, dynamic conceptual potential of the APC’s FHYA digital archival tool for archival practice in digital space in South and southern Africa, and has a publication in progress based on this work.

Susana Molins Lliteras's  APC post-doctoral project revolves around a book project, which while based on her PhD dissertation, is being framed by a completely different set of inter-disciplinary questions. Departing from a wider theoretical lens, she is looking at the co-production of archive and public discourse about the manuscripts of Timbuktu as a whole, through the lens of a family library. While Timbuktu has recently become known as ‘the iconic archive’ used to signify indigenous African writing and knowledge production before the advent of colonialism, nevertheless, an older association of the city as an impossible-to-reach, almost mythical location still lingers in popular imagination. Today, Timbuktu’s fame as a site of learning in Africa known to both the Islamic world and the West is being ‘rediscovered’ through the popularisation of, and research on, its famed manuscript collections. However, one particular private, ‘family’ manuscript collection, the Fondo Kati, has deliberately positioned itself apart from other libraries in Timbuktu. In first place, it claims a unique genealogical heritage linked to medieval al-Andalus and by extension modern-day Spain. Secondly, it ascribes a central role, and importance, to the marginalia of the collection—as opposed to the main texts of the manuscripts themselves. The book contends that unless we understand the processes of the creation, reception and success of this archive in different contexts and by different publics, we will fail to appreciate how, despite apparent contradictions, the Fondo Kati reflects modalities of knowledge production in and about Timbuktu. Thus, the archival biography of the Fondo Kati presented in the book demonstrates how historical knowledge in and about Timbuktu is continuously produced, reproduced and refashioned. It privileges the imbrication of textual, written ‘evidence’ with the circulation of oral sources and stories, combining regimes of historicity and temporality.  This production of knowledge in and about Timbuktu similarly reveals a particular understanding of Africa, challenging notions of its ‘marginality’ and positionality in world history.

Ettore Morelli's research project aims at finding a new way to study and narrate the history of the Southern African Highveld in the centuries before colonialism. Building on a PhD thesis on the same subject, the postdoctoral research analyses a previously unknown set of so-called ‘traditions’ located by Ettore in archives in South Africa, Lesotho, and the United Kingdom. It proposes a new reading of old published travel accounts, showing the dynamics of African knowledge production that were embedded in these texts. It includes French missionary sources, hitherto under-employed by scholars working on Southern Africa. The final objective of the postdoctoral project is the publication of a monography on the political world of the Highveld between circa 1600 and circa 1850.

Grant McNulty was a post-doctoral researcher at the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative from 2015 – 2019. The core of his research during this time was the Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA) project, an early endeavour in the burgeoning field of the digital humanities. The FHYA is a conceptual innovation designed to stimulate multi-disciplinary, cross-institutional research and enquiry into the neglected eras of southern African history prior to European colonialism. It does this by asserting that an archive for the past before European colonialism does indeed exist and by developing an exemplar – in the form of an online research tool – that is able to support historical research and enquiry into these eras. While the post-doc with the APC has been completed, the project is on-going.

Thokozani Mhlambi was a Post-doc Fellow in Innovation at the APC (2017-2019). The project consisted both of creative outputs and research-based outputs aimed at bringing the archive to life, in socially-engaged formats - bringing archival insights to the public, and bringing public responses to the archive.