About the Centre for Humanities Research

In a rapidly shifting social context of a post-apartheid society, the study of the humanities offers creative possibilities for dealing with the challenges of globalisation, rapid technological change, and the legacies of colonialism and apartheid. To this end, the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) is unique in developing partnerships across and between institutions, particularly universities, schools, public arts projects, museums, archives and art galleries, and nurturing future generations of humanities graduates, educators and cultural practitioners. To facilitate inter-institutional collaboration and partnership and to foster public engagement in the interest of building critical citizenry, the CHR’s two satellite initiatives in Athlone and the former District Six were established to convene a public lecture series and an arts education programme respectively. The public lecture series takes place at the Dullah Omar Centre for Critical Thought in African Humanities (DOCCTAH) and the arts education programme at the Factory of the Arts.

A humanities inquiry informed by location and history lends itself to asking pertinent questions from the South that will have significant impact for locating intellectual traditions in Africa in a global discourse on the contemporary human condition. The CHR builds a humanities discourse that is responsive to nurturing a discourse on the concept of the post-apartheid, and explores the relationship between the human and technology in our contemporary world, especially as this relates to rapidly transforming notions of society and politics. It also develops synergy between academic scholarship and cultural production and extends the reach of local and international humanities scholarship, as well as opportunities for arts education and cultural production, into communities on the Cape Flats.

Beyond public commitments, the CHR has championed humanities questions at the institutional site of the university, and in graduate education. Through sustained research on “War and the Everyday”, “Love and Revolution”, “Subversive Genealogies of the Humanities”, “the Subject of the Humanities” and a study of the foundational concepts of the humanities and their relation to the exercise of power, the CHR has forged an intellectual community of graduate students and faculty.

The CHR’s three research platforms are Aesthetics and Politics, Migrating Violence, and On the Becoming Technical of the Human.

Broadly anchored in the annual Winter School programme, convened in partnership with the SARChI Chair in Social Change at the University of Fort Hare and the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Change at the University of Minnesota, and the South African Contemporary History and Humanities Seminar, the CHR has emerged as a critical space in South Africa for graduate education in the Humanities. Today, partnerships include leading Humanities institutions in Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America and North America. Among the CHR’s partners are the Jackman Institute for the Humanities at the University of Toronto, the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in Addis Ababa, the Makerere Institute for Social Change at Makerere University, Uganda, the Universidad Nacional de San Martin, Buenos Aires, and the Jawarhalal Nehru University, India.

The CHR is supported by generous grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences in South Africa.

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