Areas of Focus

Under the direction of the AW Mellon Chair in Aesthetic Theory and Material Performance, this project brings together an experiment in public arts practice and humanities scholarship on the question of the practice of post-apartheid freedom. At the core of the Laboratory of Kinetic Objects is the question of how to think of aesthetics and the domains of artistic creation as sites to read and comprehend the dynamics of change in post apartheid South Africa. Research projects which explore how, and to what ends, artistic practices such as object theatre and puppetry arts might address themes such as truth and reconciliation, gender and identity formation, subject-object relations and legacies of the past so as to bring another perspective on contemporary predicaments in South Africa and Africa more generally, are especially encouraged.


The popular nature of xenophobia, the violence involved in labor disputes on the mines, and the violence of citizenship regarding who belongs, are vivid reminders of how migrancy continues to pose a challenge for critical thought, and provides insights into the nature of political practice and democratic promise in Africa. Through the figure of the “migrant” we wish to understand how instances of violence in South Africa remain embedded in the legacies of colonial citizenship. We invite applications that address themselves to dilemmas of citizenship in postcolonial Africa, from a Southern African vantage point.

In order to encourage new thinking that speaks to the predicaments of our times, we invite proposals from candidates in philosophy and political theory working on questions of Citizenship and Justice. These two concepts have a capacious and canonical presence in political philosophy, and in our understandings of both the classical and modern worlds. We encourage reflection on Citizenship and Justice in ways that seek to understand these in the wake of the plurality of sources of knowledge, and the histories and genealogies of these concepts immersed in the concrete politics of knowledge, power and political practices that have constituted our modernity. What might it mean then to teach and research political theory and political philosophy in an African university in the contemporary world?


What are the outlines of an aesthetic education, constitutive of an “aesthetic field,” which may open onto other understandings of the concept of the post-apartheid and the postcolonial, both in and beyond South Africa? What are the shifting dynamics of the relationship between the human and technology, between technogenesis and race, that impinge on the debate on aesthetic education? Research projects that explore these questions in relation to arts practice and humanities scholarship, specifically in relation to film, music and theatrical forms, are particularly encouraged.

In addition to the awards made through the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the DST-NRF Flagship, the CHR is also home to the National Research Foundation SARChI Chair in Visual History and Theory. The Chair in Visual History and Theory promotes innovative research that brings images into larger questions of history and the humanities, and supports new critical directions that engage with visual archives and contemporary theory in the arts and media. Fellowships are intended to promote research and build a postgraduate community in this field.

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