Information about past and present research Centres and Chairs located in the ASL department can be found below.



Centre for African Studies (CAS)

African Studies at UCT is an interdisciplinary teaching and research cluster located in the Department of African Studies and Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.  It consists of two sections, the Centre for African Studies and the African Studies unit. Between them they carry out and support a large number of projects and programmes.

The African Studies section of the Department of African Studies and Linguistics  offers a full academic programme, concentrated at the graduate level but also including some undergraduate courses. Typically, our students are interested in critical, interdisciplinary scholarship that takes the location of being in Africa as a vantage point to study Africa and the world. They are interested in thinking outside of the frameworks of an inherited set of knowledge projects. And they are interested in taking seriously the critical and intellectual traditions of the global south.

The Centre for African Studies is the longest-established institution of its kind. Re-launched in 2012, it carries a mandate for promoting and supporting African Studies across the various Faculties of the University of Cape Town.

Together, the Centre for African Studies and the African Studies unit house and support a number of projects, including:

  • The African Studies Gallery
  • The AC Jordan Chair of African Studies
  • The NRF Chair in Land Reform and Democracy in South Africa
  • The journal Social Dynamics
  • The Harry Oppenheimer Institute, a granting committee that supports African Studies at UCT
  • We also support a growing list of international collaborations, new research projects, seminars and conferences, socially engaged research with public intellectuals and community organisations, and various publication initiatives.

The Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town has been an important flashpoint in the life of the institution which has generated important debates about the study of Africa, colonial pasts and postcolonial futures. Part of the mission of African Studies at UCT is to draw on the resources of these debates, as well as other similar debates in universities across the global south, to re-imagine and reconfigure inherited architectures of knowledge. In our pursuit of a critical humanities and social sciences we understand ourselves to be situated at the cutting edge of new knowledge formations,  engaged in critiques of inherited institutional and disciplinary forms, while immersed in a rigorous engagement with the critical and intellectual traditions of Africa,  situated comparatively. We endeavour to draw on these traditions of knowledge to re-write the past, to contribute to better understandings of the major predicaments of the present, and to facilitate  the imaginings of new futures.


The current director of the Centre for African Studies is Prof. Suren Pillay




The AC Jordan Chair in the field of African Studies was established at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 1993 and is named after Archibald Campbell Mzolisa Jordan who was a pioneer in the field of African Studies under Apartheid.

The AC Jordan Chair champions the integration of African Studies into teaching and learning at undergraduate and postgraduate level within the various Faculties at UCT.

The current holder of the AC Jordan Chair is  Prof. Suren Pillay

Previous holders of the A C Jordan Chair

Professor Lungisile Ntsebeza (2012-2022)

Professor Mahmood Mamdani (1996-1999)


Archie Mafeje Chair in Critical and Decolonial Humanities


Emeritus Professor R Mesthrie - Migration, Language and Social Change:

Emeritus Professor Mesthrie was appointed to this position in view of the significance of sociolinguistics in understanding heritage, culture and social change in a multilingual society. The chief focus of the research chair will be on migration, language and social change, examining sociolinguistic practices “from below” in relation to the fostering of multilingualism, the further intellectualisation of local languages and the continuing prestige of English. Emeritus Professor Mesthrie will continue as President of the Linguistics Society of Southern Africa.

More information about  the research chair can be found on Professors Meshtries' website on: Sarchi Chair Background.

Emeritus Professor L Ntsebeza - Land Reform and Democracy in South Africa: State and Civil Society Dynamics:

Emeritus Professor Ntsebeza is a UCT Principal Researcher in a major joint research project involving UCT and the Human Sciences Research Council. This project focuses on the Land Reform programme in South Africa with specific reference to the land rights of rural women. He continues to lead this project and uses it as a base to develop and highlight the importance of conducting research on the land question, a topic that is often marginalised in South Africa.