WiSER in 2018

Friday, 23 February, 2018 - 12:30

WiSER in 2018


WiSER warmly welcomes you to our 2018 programme. 

As always, WiSER staff will be publishing numerous books, book chapters and journal articles; implementing new regional, Southern-oriented and international research initiatives; and curating a series of events with the aim of convening new publics and enhancing and contributing to the training of a younger generation of scholars.


Major Events

Entanglements and Aftermaths: Reflections on Memory and Political Time This major conference will take place on February 22-24.  It is organized in collaboration with the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs based at the University of California, Berkeley.  It will investigate connections between histories that persist into the present and reflect on the role of memory in our understanding of political time. Do histories end when they are declared to end, or do they have an afterlife that makes it difficult to distinguish the past from the present? What is the role played by silence, repression and absence as technologies of forgetting? How are reparations claims shaped by the politics of memory? When and under what circumstances do the trials of memory, invested with the injunction to justice, turn from matters of personal or public healing to a reiteration of violence? These are just some of the questions that the conference will pose and confront across a wide range of sessions. Convened by Sarah Nuttall (WiSER) and Debarati Sanyal (University of California, Berkeley), the programme includes Paul Gilroy, Judith Butler, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Victoria Collis-Buthelezi, Marianne Hirsch and many others.


On Suspicion and the Contemporary Last year, we held a months-long advanced research seminar on the theme of suspicion. The seminar will culminate in a major international symposium to be hosted by WiSER on April 19-20. Some of the key questions to be addressed include: is suspicion the characteristic of modern subjectivity, or merely its excess, something to be relegated to the realm of irrationality? If so, what does the current global moment tell us about the state of the modern subject, who fears the unknown and is wracked by uncertainty? Abstracts have been received from across the continent and from around the world. The event is convened by Rogers Orock (Anthropology, Wits) in collaboration with Sarah Nuttall (WiSER). Keynote speakers will include Peter Geschiere (University of Amsterdam) and Achille Mbembe (WiSER).


Intellectual and Cultural Life under Conditions of Austerity For the last few years, WiSER and the African Studies Center at the University of Michigan, have been involved in a major transcontinental collaborative project centered around the remaking of the African humanities. This initiative has resulted in numerous seminars, colloquia and faculty exchanges. In collaboration with Kaleidoscopio and the Center of African Studies (Eduardo Mondlane University), this project will host a symposium, Intellectual and Cultural Life under Conditions of Austerity, in Maputo, from June 4-7. In times of enduring constraint, how have African cultural and intellectual institutions worked in fields as diverse as academia, newspapers, cinema, music, arts and performance, radio and television? How have academics, playwrights, artists, publishers and others involved in the curatorship of culture made up the shortfall between infrastructural deficit and political ideology? How have universities and other institutions been reorganized in response to scarcity, constraints and opportunity?  What relationships have research institutes had to centers of knowledge in the global North? How, in recent times, have research centers been transformed and remade to answer to the demands of consultancy and NGO work? The symposium will examine these and other questions relating to creativity in conditions of austerity. Keith Breckenridge (WiSER) and Pamila Gupta (WiSER) are the conveners of this event  


Research Programmes

WiSER runs numerous research programmes and special research foci. Here we feature some of them and their activities this year.


Medical Humanities is a multi-disciplinary field interested in the development of the social history of medicine, of medical sociology, and of medical ethics. It is interested in developing and studying approaches from the humanities to themes of health, suffering, therapy, pain, and illness. Emerging at the nexus of critical philosophy, history, literary and artistic work, as well as ethnographic analysis and political sociology, medical humanities scholarship aims to challenge and refocus medical, especially biomedical, knowledge and education. WiSER has worked in this terrain for several years and has a very active 2018 programme in place. This includes a monthly seminar series on Medical Memoirs, and symposia on sexualities, and on sleep. Medical Humanities is co-ordinated by Nolwazi Mkhwanazi and Victoria Hume


Governing Intimacies seeks to understand the terms on which gender is constituted in the contemporary global South, in particular in South Africa and India.  It aims to theorise gender in various manifestations - as identity, as regulatory force, as a mode of exploitation, as a political resource and as a political practice.  Under the leadership of Shireen Hassim and Srila Roy, the programme includes a teaching and mentoring component for a Masters and doctoral cohort. Among some of the events planned for 2018 are workshops on curriculum change, biographies and sexualities.


Oceanic Humanities Rising sea levels require new styles of oceanic research that speak to environmental and decolonial themes. Much oceanic research focuses on the surface of the ocean, tracing movements of people, ideas and objects. An oceanic humanities equal to the present must engage with both human and non-human aspects of the ocean, with the depth and surface. Such a project must also decolonize the histories of oceanic space, providing new approaches to aesthetic understandings of water. Under the leadership of Isabel Hofmeyr, this programme proposes a research agenda that can combine critical oceanic studies with postcolonial theorizations of the sea to evolve an oceanic humanities appropriate to the Global South.  A supra-national project, Oceanic Humanities has partners from Mozambique, Mauritius, India, Jamaica and Barbados. It includes a teaching, mentoring and public humanities component.


African Digital Humanities, based at the universities of Cape Town, Pretoria, Stellenbosch, Western Cape and the Witwatersrand, will address the key sources of strength and weakness in the South African humanities. It will examine current forms and practices of reading and re-animate digital publishing in order to encourage and support future African humanists' self-directed literary exploration. This programme aims to strengthen basic research and teaching in the humanities, re-energise digitization across the country, enhance the global visibility of locally produced research, the diversity of the canon, new strategies of digital librarianship and life-long reading. It will be managed by Keith Breckenridge and Hlonipha Mokoena.


Wits Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Humanities (WISH)

Coming attractions include Keith Breckenridge (What happened to the theory of African capitalism?), Isabel Hofmeyr (Object-oriented reading: the view from the Customs House), Claudia Gastrow (Infrastructure, rehousing and class in Luanda, Angola), Saarah Jappie (Muslim place and belonging in XIXth-XXth century Cape Town), Rogers Orock and Joshua Walker(Suspicious times), António Thomás (Urban nostalgia in postcolonial Luanda), Simamkele Dlakavu (The erasure of Black women in South Africa), David Johnson (Literature against Stalinism and the South African Left opposition from 1930 to 1960), Renee van der Wiel (The creation of a new generation of doctor-researchers), Siphiwe Dube (Religious political masculinities in South Africa) and Charne Lavery (Thinking from the Southern ocean).


Throughout the year as usual WiSER will host lunchtime seminars and once off lectures as well as book launches. In the second half of the year we will host short workshops and symposia, which we will announce mid-year. 


We very much look forward to seeing you at WiSER in 2018.