The humanities, as a discourse that places the university in direct relation to society, assumes a transnational orientation, not least because of the ways in which its emergence brushes up against concerns of nationalism, troubling the securities of what we assume to be common sense about the human condition. To this end, the humanities function as a self-critical constellation of knowledge formations that always also open onto a future that has not yet been anticipated. In the interval between past and a future that is not yet, the humanities offer us different conceptions of the world we live in, and which we might potentially inhabit. With this broad understanding, the CHR’s particular contribution to elaborating a concept of the post-apartheid that is more than a reference to the experience of apartheid in South Africa brings it into conversation and dialogue with a range of academic and art projects around the world. A significant aspect of this discussion and dialogue has centred on our approach to the larger global debate on the future of the humanities, and what specifically in our view is a need to get beyond the limits of the perennial talk about the crisis of the humanities. Ours is an effort to ascribe to the humanities a potential with which it has not adequately reckoned and that is the very condition for unrelenting questioning. It is also to learn from the larger preoccupations of humanities scholars and arts practitioners in the world. To this end, the CHR hosts a cohort of leading local and international doctoral and post-doctoral fellows, with a significant proportion drawn from South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent, and a growing list of international visiting scholars eager to engage the CHR on its perspectives on the humanities.

The CHR is committed to reconstituting the study of the humanities in Africa through research partnerships that enhance our understanding of the human condition in an age of rapid technological change. The focus of such collaborations rests upon new approaches to pedagogy in the humanities that link university-based research with the visual and performing arts. With the support of sixteen international and five national institutions, the CHR aims to enhance scholarly exchange around its three main research platforms: Aesthetics and Politics, Migrating Violence, and the Becoming Technical of the Human. A major aspect of this exchange is the opportunity it affords the CHR to explore and exchange ideas about curriculum development.

The CHR is a member of the international Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes (CHCI).

Net vir Pret aims to work with children and youth from deprived communities in the Overberg (Barrydale/Swellendam Municipal Area), including those on the farms. We aim to encourage self-esteem, self-development, confidence, and a sense of responsibility among these children by providing activities which help to break the cycle of poverty, domestic violence and alcoholism/drug misuse within the family and community. We believe that every child has a right to a happy developmental childhood. By offering after-school, weekend and vacation activities, we aim to keep our children and youth off the street and out of danger and also to offer opportunities for them to develop individual skills and talents and to help them prepare for life after school.

The SARChI Chair in Social Change is the first Research Chair awarded to the University of Fort Hare and marks a significant milestone and exciting new development for innovative research. The research focus of the Chair in Social Change is located around exploring the historical and contemporary dimensions and dynamics of social change in the Eastern Cape and more broadly in South Africa and Africa. In relation to the research areas of social change, this entails attempting to explore the ways that ‘the social’ itself no longer conjures a common set of assumptions about society, culture, representation, or the methods by which we write and produce a history, or an understanding. Rather, it is a category and construct that needs to be explored, engaged, and researched. As such, the Chair has initiated a range of research programmes which cohere around the theme of Social Acts. The aim is to connect together these research engagements with the changing ways that the social arena is constituted and re-constituted in post-apartheid South Africa. This involves new ways of thinking about the subject and the itineraries, performativities, discourses and acts, actions, agencies, and actors that frame and are re-framed by changing circumstances.

The Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) houses the University of Minnesota’s graduate education and faculty research collaboration with the University of the Western Cape (UWC), South Africa. The initiative involves graduate student and faculty exchanges, co-taught courses between the campuses using web and ITV technologies, and has the goal of further developing other networks among institutions in the global south. The partnership is supported in part by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the partner universities.

ICGC and the CHR at UWC formalised a partnership in graduate education and faculty research through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), put in place during a visit to UWC by former Senior Vice President, Robert Jones, and ICGC Director, Karen Brown. Through the partnership between ICGC and the CHR (directed by Professor Premesh Lalu, an ICGC alumnus) at UWC, our collaborative graduate education and faculty research initiative offers faculty and student exchanges; graduate student fellowships; and joint research projects, workshops, conferences and courses. Current activities include an ongoing faculty and doctoral fellow exchange program with faculty and students from each institution spending time conducting research and engaging with students and faculty on the partner campus for periods of two to six months.

Supported by the Ivan Karp and Corinne Kratz Fund

Jointly run by Emory University and the CHR at UWC, the African Critical Inquiry Programme (ACIP) seeks to advance inquiry and debate about the roles of public cultural domains and institutions in shaping identities and society in South Africa after colonialism and apartheid.

The program has two components:

The first, an annual ACIP workshop and lecture in Cape Town, will provide interdisciplinary, cross-institutional contexts to address issues central to such debate and to develop comparative, critical frameworks that can yield fresh insights, innovative and informed practice, and lively interchange for those working in, and on, institutions of public culture in Africa.

The second component, doctoral research awards, will foster work by the next generation of scholar-practitioners.

In these ways, ACIP will strengthen public scholarship and institutions of public culture in South Africa and enhance our understanding of these vital sites of cultural production and social action.  

ACIP is supported by contributions from the Ivan Karp and Corinne Kratz Fund. The Fund was created to honour the late National Endowment for the Humanities Professor, Ivan Karp, whose work was monumental in the fields of anthropology, museum studies, African studies, social theory, and public scholarship.

The Fund will help continue his collaborative work with universities, museums and other cultural institutions in Cape Town, South Africa, through activities such as lectures, programs and student research support.

The CHR is a partner in the Andrew W Mellon Foundation supported project Re-Centring AfroAsia, which is a supra-institutional, multi-pronged research, mapping, and archiving project and based at the University of Cape Town. This project aims to not only revolutionise Humanities research in South Africa but also create an AfroAsian community of scholarship.

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