The past year has been an extremely busy and productive time for members of the Faculty of Humanities. What is most exciting about it is not only the quantity and quality of research outputs but also the wide range of disciplinary areas and interests that they span.
One of the most gratifying aspects about the research activities in the Faculty of Humanities is the fact that it is spread out among the different categories and levels of academic staff, young and old, junior and senior and women and men. This is a tribute to the heads of the various sections, departments and schools who take care to support and encourage colleagues to engage in research.
For a full report on the many exciting, collaborative research projects that have taken place across the Faculty, please access the Humanities Research Report page on this website.
Professor Shose Kessi
Dean of the Faculty of Humanities
Publications by the UCT Research Office
Despite a commitment to child rights and a significant increase in child-focused policies, laws and programmes, much remains to be done to fulfil children's rights in South Africa. The University of Cape Town supports social responsive research, and has a long and proud track-record in providing an evidence base for policies and programmes that can help vulnerable communities, especially children.
Against this background, the Children's Institute aims to harness the collective academic capability at UCT to promote enquiry, to build capacity through teaching and training, and to present evidence to guide the development of policies, laws and interventions for children. In positioning itself as an independent broker of evidence, the Institute provides information to those who are advocating on behalf of children, and engages in own evidence-based advocacy.
Contact number: 021 650 1473
Centre for Contemporary Islam
Established for over a decade, since 1996, the Centre for Contemporary Islam (CCI) continues with its academic and publishing activity. The CCI's flagship publication is the Annual Review of Islam in South Africa (ARISA), which has been published every year since 1998.
Two major projects that the CCI ran successfully were: the South African Netherlands Research Project for Alternative Developments (SANPAD) between 2000 and 2003; the Islamic Law Project in Africa (ILAP) between 2000 and 2002.
Contact number: 021 650 3828
Centre for Creative Writing
The Centre for Creative Writing offers the premier creative writing programme on the African continent, which enables aspiring writers and poets to refine their work under the guidance of some of the best writers in South Africa.
Eminent writers like Professor Andre Brink, Professor Etienne van Heerden, Mike Nicol, Breyten Breytenbach, Damon Galgut and Christopher Hope have all taught in the programme, as well as up and coming writers like Henrietta Rose-Innes, Roy Robins, Rayda Jacobs and Andre Wiesner. Every year, UCT is blessed with writers who visit from overseas; these have included Zakes Mda, Zoe Wicomb, Willy Kgotsitsile, Jenefer Shute and Justin Cartwright.
Students at the centre, located in La Grotta on middle campus, undertake academic modules and craft workshops. Students critically evaluate each other's work, as well as doing a survey in either fiction or poetry. A programme of monthly readings by the MA students forms an essential part of the creative writing centre's annual activities. The literary magazine, New Contrast, while an independent organ, is closely affiliated with the UCT.
Centre for Rhetoric Studies
The Centre was founded in 1995, as an academic response to the establishment of democracy in South Africa, and in the wake of a large international conference on "Persuasion and Power" held in July 1994. The Centre is unique on the Continent and concerns itself with multi-disciplinary research in public rhetoric, deliberative democracy and argumentative culture. In 2004 the Centre underwent a formal Review which recommended its continuation. Since 2007 the Centre is affiliated to the Centre for Film and Media Studies.
The Centre offers a MPhil in Rhetoric Studies made up of graduates courses in rhetoric administered from the Centre for Film and Media Studies, a MPhil in Rhetoric Studies by dissertation alone and the degree of PhD.
Contact number: 021 650 3447
Centre for Social Science Research
The Centre for Social Science (CSSR) is an interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Cape Town dedicated to conducting and building capacity for systematic, policy-relevant social science research in South Africa, the region and across Africa.
The CSSR presently consists of the Sustainable Societies Unit (SSU), Democracy in Africa Research Unit (DARU), AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU) and Families and Society Research Unit (FaSRU), as well as a small Directorate. Unit Heads report on their research activities through the CSSR Director to the Dean of Humanities. The CSSR is also assisted by an Advisory Board that meets twice-yearly. We also continue to work closely with UCT's DataFirst Resource Unit (which was started as part of CSSR), an extensive digital archive of social science databases.
CSSR projects are usually team-oriented bringing together multiple local and international researchers, and offering post-graduate students significant opportunities for hands-on training by involving them in all stages of projects. Research findings are presented and discussed at regular weekly seminars and published as CSSR Working Papers.
Substantively, the CSSR conducts research in the broad areas of democratisation, development, poverty and public health.
- The Social Surveys Unit (SSU) conducts research on a range of social dynamics using survey data (especially the Cape Area Panel Study, and the Cape Area Study) and related qualitative data.
- The AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU) conducts research on the social impacts of HIV/AIDS, including issues of parenting, disclosure, sexual behaviour and public welfare, again using both survey and qualitative data.
- Families and Societies Research Unit (FaSRU) promotes research that links economic and social aspects of families and households and employs mixed methods combining qualitative and quantitative research. The unit aims to become a hub for research in the field of families, kinships and households in South and sub-Saharan Africa.
Contact number: 021 650 4656
The Research Institute on Christianity and Society in Africa
The Research Institute on Christianity and Society in Africa was headed by Professor Asonzeh Ukah and engages in high quality research on Christianity in public life and action in the context of challenges of globalization, diversity and identity in Africa.
Its major current activity is through the International Religious Health Assets Programme (IRHAP), a multi-site, interreligious, transdisciplinary collaborative research project, with the Africa hub located at UCT.
The International Religious Health Assets Programme (IRHAP)
Initiated in 2003 with colleagues from Emory University, USA, it includes two other Collaborative Centres at Wits University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and works with several other collaborating partners in Africa, Europe and the USA.
IRHAP is primarily involved in work on the interface between religion and public health in Africa, and engages in mapping and assessment of RHAs, policy development and practice, capacity building (especially through supporting masters and doctoral research), publications, a resource centre, and building a long-term network of scholars and practitioners.
Numerous publications have been generated.
Social History Project
RICSA has also completed a multi-year project on "The Social History of Christianity in South Africa, 1487-1994", with multiple volumes, archives and a database now available on CD-ROM, two volumes of which are published by Unisa Press.
Contact number: 021 650 5818
Institute for Comparative Religion in Southern Africa
At ICRSA a dynamic and vibrant team of researchers is dedicated to the postcolonial study of religion and religions. Since 1991, under the guidance of its founder and director, Professor David Chidester, ICRSA has been engaged in the Comparative Religion Project, which has produced the first history of religions in South Africa, a history of comparative religion anchored in Southern Africa, and a three-volume annotated bibliography that provides a valuable resource for anyone studying religion in Southern Africa.
At the same time, the ICRSA Religion and Education Project has been involved in developing national policy and international collaboration in finding new ways for teaching and learning about religion, religions and religious diversity in schools.
Contact number: 021 650 5818
Institute for Humanities in Africa
The humanities have long been vital to the creative and critical energies of societies in the throes of profound change. HUMA - the Institute for the Humanities in Africa - is a global initiative at UCT, with a Pan-African framework intended to create a space of dynamic interdisciplinary community for scholars and students in the humanities at large. Fostering top-end academic research, HUMA seeks also to draw on that work to nurture critical public debate, promoting UCT's vision of itself as a civic university contributing to the making of democratic citizenship.
Located in the Faculty of Humanities, HUMA takes a broad view of the humanities, encompassing other fields such as the social sciences, environmental sciences, health sciences, engineering, computer sciences and others.
HUMA's intellectual agenda is driven by one overarching but inclusive research theme, which informs and structures three primary objectives:
- to conduct and promote research that is historically grounded and theoretically engaged, with an eye to the 'big' theoretical and ethical questions that anchor African issues in wider fields of experience and analysis. The combination of intellectual focus and breadth provided by HUMA's research themes is intended to open up spaces for dialogue, collaboration and argument across disparate theoretical, epistemological and methodological traditions, and in ways that help examine the project of interdisciplinary work.
- to nurture the expertise and enthusiasm of graduate students interested in an academic career, through a combination of intensive and supportive doctoral supervision, and a broader programme of seminars, symposia and workshops that help develop the intellectual versatility and confidence which an academic career requires.
- to bring scholars and graduate students into conversation with interested publics, around issues of shared and topical concern. HUMA hopes to promote what public intellectuals in the humanities do best, which is to de-familiarise and unsettle established ways of seeing, think creatively about pressing social and political questions, and keep the imagination of alternative futures alive.
This mission is embedded in a particular understanding of our location in Africa. Africa is a landmass with a deep and complex history of connection and disconnection amongst its many inhabitants; being African means being party to formative relationships of connection and disconnection that shape the ways we think and act. Our scholarship and debate, then, is positioned in Africa, even if the focus of our deliberations is global.
HUMA has been funded by grants from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation and Anglo-Gold Ashanti.
HUMA's research themes are deliberately broad and expansive. They are intended to function in two ways simultaneously: on one hand, to constitute a collective intellectual project, which gives coherence and cohesion to the intellectual life of the Institute, and on the other, to create space therein for individual researchers to make their own way into the issues. An architectural metaphor perhaps captures this best: if the Institute is imagined as a building, the research themes give it size and shape, at the same time as creating many rooms which individual researchers can inhabit in their own way.
Each theme encompasses three modes of analysis: theoretical and conceptual; empirical; and ethical. While separable in some respects, these are also closely interconnected, and the research themes create opportunities to explore these linkages too.
The research themes are envisaged as vehicles of interdisciplinary research and engagement - with the intention of discussing and debating what interdisciplinarity might entail.
On being human
If modern histories of racism and colonialism exposed the contradictions at the core of Enlightenment affirmations of a shared human nature, late modern identity politics - associated with violent, sometimes genocidal, assertions of irreducible difference - have also blighted efforts to establish peaceful and mutually respectful modes of living.
This theme aims to contribute to resurgent scholarly interest in questions of what we humans share, even if in recognition of profound differences - as the basis for grappling with the contours of 'a good life'.
To this end, the theme is structured around three key concepts and their obverses: 'human', 'humane' and 'humanist; and obversely 'non-human', 'inhumane' and 'anti-humanist'.
- Human/non-human: The human/non-human frontier is a critical, even foundational, question for most disciplines, in constituting their object of knowledge and appropriate modes of inquiry. This means too, that debates about interdisciplinarity should include efforts to revisit disciplinary genealogies of the human and their points of convergence. Of particular interest here are the prospects for reformulating and revisiting the old 'nature-nurture' debate in the light of the new genetics and its challenge to socially constructivist epistemologies that have dominated the humanities in recent years. ¨Particular modes of defining and distinguishing the human have been equally formative of varying regimes of law, culture and power, across space and time. This research theme aims to explore the epistemological, as well as historically contextual and comparative, dimensions and implications of the ways the human has been defined and distinguished from what it is not - be it animal, material or spectral. ¨Such questions have global resonance, both in respect of varying national and transnational histories as well as in the emergence of regimes of international law and regulation. ¨In the South African case, the concept of a shared humanity is at the very core of South Africa's democratic constitutionalism: written into the constitution, the cornerstone of the doctrine of human rights, and the ethical driver of the project of 'national reconciliation'. It is, however, a surprisingly ill-defined concept - as was the idea of the 'reconciliation' to which the country aspired. This research theme brings legal, philosophical and socio-historical scholars into conversation, about different versions of our humanity, 'reconciliation', the much-vaunted notion of 'ubuntu', and the juridico-legal, ethical and political consequences thereof. Such questions are of local and global interest, and engaging them allows for a comparative reflection on Africa's experience of democratisation and its imprint in more global experiments in humanistic 'reconciliation'.
- Humane/inhumane This conceptual couplet draws attention to historically and geographically varying patterns of violence, cruelty, exploitation etc., and their limits - with a particular interest in Africa more widely, India, Latin America and post-Soviet Russia. We are as interested in the different experiences of the inhumane as in the conditions which produce and sustain the humane, such as care, empathy, love, as well as the pursuit of dignity and virtue. This includes empirical studies of the relationships, institutions and networks associated with the humane/inhumane -- including the effects of gender relations, family forms and modes of domesticity, religiosity and modes of faith, communal organisations, support groups etc.
- Humanist/Anti-humanist These concepts signal one of the major sites of ethical debate in the contemporary world - with a long history of intellectual and political engagement on the kind of society we want to inhabit. We are interested in a genealogy of humanist thinking and its critiques, with a particular interest in the resonances of these issues in South Africa and the continent at large. Also of interest are concepts of human rights, as well as projects of humanitarianism and the ideological and political interventions associated with them.
Contact number: 021 650 2415
Isaac & Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies & Research
The Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research was established in 1980 under the terms of a gift to the University of Cape Town by the Kaplan Kushlick Foundation and is named in honour of the parents of Mendel and Robert Kaplan. An autonomous centre, with its own governing body, the centre is the only one of its kind in South Africa.
The centre seeks to stimulate and promote the whole field of Jewish studies and research at the University with a special focus on the South African Jewish community. Multi-disciplinary in scope, scholars are encouraged to participate in a range of fields including history, political science, education, sociology, comparative literature and the broad spectrum of Hebrew and Judaic studies. The centre is engaged in research and acts as a co-ordinating unit in the University.
Its resources are used to:
- invite distinguished scholars to teach Jewish-content courses within established University departments;
- initiate and sponsor research projects;
- run seminars and conferences; and
- strengthen the University's library holding of books, microfilms and archival sources.
These research materials are made available to members of the University and to accredited visitors from the wider academic community.
For courses in Hebrew Language and Literature see School of Languages and Literatures; for courses in Judaism and Jewish thought see Department of Religious Studies, and courses in Jewish History see Department of Historical Studies.
Contact number: 021 650 3062
Lucy Lloyd Archive & Resource Exhibition Centre
The Lucy Lloyd Archive Resource and Exhibition Centre is a research centre at the Michaelis School of Fine Art that was established in 1996, following the Miscast exhibition (curated by Pippa Skotnes) held at the South African National Gallery. The Miscast exhibition embodied a creative curatorial methodology which was richly interdisciplinary, strongly historically constrained and dependent on display strategies which were seen as generative of future research projects in the fine arts. The considerable archive of material as well as equipment, furniture and display items were worthy of preservation and to that end space was provided and external funds were raised for the renovation of the rooms and facilities.
Today LLAREC occupies space at the rear of the Old Medical School Building consisting of a workshop area, a display and office area, and two storage spaces. Facilities include computer and digitizing equipment, large-scale printing equipment, various cameras, and hand and electrical tools. LLAREC projects also depend, to some extent, on facilities available in the Michaelis School of Fine Art.
LAREC was established to promote the visual as a site of knowledge and research in the fine arts. Concerned essentially with the making of art objects and the production of exhibitions, artists have, in our opinion, a particular responsibility within the academy. Here, the potential for interdisciplinarity and the necessity for subjecting creative work to intellectualization and theorisation, provide special opportunities for the realisation of research in creative projects.
Curatorship is deemed to be the facilitating strategy through which research insights are revealed and the mechanism whereby new knowledge is created. Curatorship, in this context, is understood to be the creative process which deflects attention away from individual objects and images, and onto the real or implied relationships these bear to each other and to history and society. Through curatorship, objects are allowed to become both sites of meaning and mnemonics through which reference can be made to a wider resonance of meaning. At the heart of our curatorial practice is the issue of representation and many of our projects have interrogated the ways in which the historical, social and medical construction of identity has been revealed through representation. We are also concerned to reveal the ways in which the visual or artists' book is, and can be, an act of curatorship.
LLAREC is comprised of three separate but interrelated units:
- The Archive Resource
- The Museum Workshop
- The Print Cabinet
Department email: pippa.skotnes
Department contact number: 021 650 7112