Invite | HINTERLANDS - A Project in the Rural, Literary and Environmental Humanities | 3 June

Thursday, 3 June, 2021 - 13:00

You are warmly invited to attend an online public session of the workshop



A Project in the Rural, Literary and Environmental Humanities.


Hosted by WISER Johannesburg and ASCA Amsterdam

Johannesburg time (SAST / GMT+2)


June 3, 1-3pm


In this session, WISER Johannesburg and ASCA Amsterdam think together in relation to the concept of the hinterland in the aftermath of binaries between country and city that continue to dominate rural scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. How might hinterlands help us think through some of today’s impasses pertaining to the afterlives of colonialism, impending environmental collapse, and rural-urban divides and inequalities? What kinds of affective economies recalibrate the political power of desolation, exhaustion or indignation? How is the conceptualization of the hinterland rendered complex via its literal meaning as a peripheralized place and its metaphorical association with that which lies beyond what is visible or known?


Opening remarks

Professor Sarah Nuttall, Director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research

Professor Esther Peeren, Director of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis

Road, Town, and Mountain: On Trying to Localise the Hinterland

Dr. Hanneke Stuit, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis


In this talk I use three spatial points of entry – the road, the town and the mountain – in order to ask if and how the concept of the hinterland helps to see beyond the colonially inflected triad of the South African rural as sublime wilderness, a place of failed service delivery, or as an agricultural setting, in all of which racially sorted access to the rural as idyll has dominated for so long. The hinterland is not a neutral descriptor and refers to a situation that is itself always already skewed. It is not a rehabilitative or reparative term, but rather a concept that seeks to describe and sharpen for analysis situations of discursive, economic, material and political disavowal that are associated with a spatial remove or demarcation of specific places from what metaphorically counts as civilization or the good life. By offering readings of the pastoral in Henriette Rose-Innes short story “Poison” (2010), of death worlds in Michael Matthew’s film Five Fingers for Marseilles (2017), and of personhood in John Trengrove’s Inxeba (2017), I seek to explore how the hinterland can be thought and represented in South Africa and beyond, and what kind of extractions, genres and affects the concept makes visible, particularly in comparison to related terms like rural, countryside and periphery.


Washed with Sun: Hinterland Landscapes of India and South Africa

Professor Pamila Gupta, Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research


In this keynote talk, I take up Jeremy Foster’s evocative term ‘washed with sun’ (2008) to map out material knowledges and landscapes from two distinct hinterland locations in the Global South—India and South Africa.  I also reflect on the role of affect, including light, colour, the visual, and sensorial in the making of these hinterlands that can perhaps be thought of relationally across time and space. 


For more information on the full workshop, see here.


Zoom link: