Professor Premesh Lalu is the former Director of the DST-NRF Flagship Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. Following an MA from the University of the Western Cape, he was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Doctoral Fellowship to read towards a doctorate in History at the University of Minnesota. In 2003 he successfully defended a doctoral dissertation titled “In the Event of History”. After sixteen years in the Department of History as an Associate Professor, Lalu was awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to convene a fellowship programme on the Study of the Humanities in Africa. He was promoted to full professor upon being appointed as Director of the Centre for Humanities Research in 2008.
Lalu has published widely in academic journals such as History and Theory, Journal of Southern African Studies, Afrika Focus, Journal of Higher Education in Africa, Kronos: Southern African Histories, Current Writing, Afrika Focus, Journal of Africa, Middle East and Asian Studies, Social Dynamics, and History in Africa. Lalu’s writing has appeared in newspapers and online platforms such as the Mail and Guardian, Dailymaverick, Africa is a Country, Business Day, the Cape Times as well as in edited publications. His book The Deaths of Hintsa: Postapartheid South Africa and the Shape of Recurring Pasts (2009) argues that a postcolonial critique of apartheid is necessary in order to forge a concept of apartheid that allows us to properly formulate a deeper meaning of the post-apartheid. He is co-editor of Remains of the Social: Desiring the Post-Apartheid (2017) and Becoming UWC: Reflections, Pathways and Unmaking Apartheid’s Legacies (2012). Lalu is a board member of the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes, former chairperson of the Handspring Trust for Puppetry in Education, and former trustee of the District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa.
In 2019, Lalu was awarded a writing fellowship at the Humanities Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin where he worked on a monograph titled The Techne of Trickery: Race and its Uncanny Returns. He has previously held fellowships at Emory University, Amherst College, and the University of Minnesota. Lalu has been invited to lecture at Cornell University, University of Virginia, Shanghai University, Northwestern University, University of Bologna, Addis Ababa University, American University of Cairo, Ghent University, Macalester College, University of Minnesota, Columbia University, University of Fort Hare, Rhodes University, University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, and Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam), among others. As director of the CHR, he is the Principal Investigator for the DST-NRF Flagship on Critical Thought in African Humanities and served as PI on seven major Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grants at the University of the Western Cape. With a stellar team of colleagues at the CHR, Lalu hosted the international annual meeting of the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes and co-convened the Global Humanities Curriculum Workshop with Homi Bhabha, director of the Mahindra Humanities Institute at Harvard University.