Other Universals, is a supra-national project supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, over a five year period. The project creates a consortium of scholars across a number of universities, in South Africa (UWC, UCT, and Witwatersrand), East Africa (Makerere University), the Middle East ( American University of Beirut), Caribbean (University of West Indies: Cave Hill)and the West Africa University of Ghana-Legon. Whilst it brings together a range of institutions, at is core is the idea of creating a forum for a small number of scholars working at these universities and across these regions, to be in conversation around a common set of intellectual-political preoccupations. The idea is to create research hubs, who will meet annually, in either a colloquium or a small summer school; additionally, there is support for graduate student fellowships at the PhD level at the participating universities.

Other Universals seeks to contribute to the widening of circuits of knowledge production that often favor the Northern Hemisphere, toward a more equitable inclusion of thinkers based in, and thinking from postcolonial locations. It seeks to develop comparative scholarship on traditions of thought that speak to universal predicaments from historically specific locations. It will actively foster national and international networks to which such scholars can turn for intellectual support as well as other resources in the furthering of their research, teaching, and institution building. Whilst the content of the project is very open to what the interests of members of the consortium wish to investigate are, among the animating questions that it seeks to foster research on, are:

  1. Revisting Marxist traditions and the global South- what has been the relationship of Marxism/s to race, ethnicity, religion and sexuality? What can a living tradition of Marxist thought proffer to our current imaginings of a future beyond coloniality?
  2. Thinking from and Across Margins and Peripheries- Caribbean, African and Modern Arab political thought: how do we read figures, texts and objects in political thought from a location in the South? What does it mean to think about the idea of Black Radical Tradition? What does it mean to think about Arab political thought as modern? How do we do translation and comparison across and within traditions of political thought? What does it mean to read a text, figure or object conjuncturally?
  3. What is Critique? How do we historicize the practice of critique? How do we think of it in relation to secular criticism and modernity, and the larger framing of secular knowledge as distinct from religious knowledge, as foundational to the modern university; universal knowledge and particular knowledge; the location of critical thought.
  4. Identity and Identification: Black, Queer, Dalit, Muslim, Jew- what is the relationship between identity and identification in political and aesthetic worlds in the present? What modes of cultural citizenship and idioms of difference define insider and outsider? How do notions of majority and minority work to produce the nation?

Through this consortium, Other Universals will also provide an infrastructure for co-creating curricula that participants can take home to their various institutions to assist in the restructuring of Masters and PhD programs.

For further information, contact the PI for the project: Suren Pillay at spillay@uwc.ac.za

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The CHR fellowship programme will continue in 2021 primarily through online platforms. Regulations permitting, the CHR plans to host limited live events in compliance with current COVID-19 protocols. Please follow our events page for updates about seminars, workshops, and arts events.

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