Archive | Past events

South Africa’s strategic role in Africa

ON 12-14 July 2017, the South African Council on International Relations (SACOIR) held the first of three interactive seminars about South Africa’s place, role and standing in Africa.

Organised by the SACOIR working group on Africa, the seminar series is aimed at engaging with experts in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), other relevant state actors, and analysts in academia and the non-state sector to assist it with:

  • Examining and assessing South Africa’s current role and standing in Africa;
  • Determining its will and capacity to lead Africa’s renewal in governance, development and security; and
  • Recommending appropriate steps to decision-makers in government and the non-state sector for achieving these objectives.

The event was co-hosted by JIAS as well as the School of Governance of the University of the Witwatersrand. Prof Peter Vale, Director of JIAS, serves on the SACOIR Working Group on Africa.

Keynote address: Global trends, U.S. policy and Africa

The opening address was delivered by Gregory F. Treverton, chairman of the US National Intelligence Council under the Obama administration, and previous director of the RAND Corporation’s Centre for Global Risk and Security, Intelligence Policy Centre and International Security and Defence Policy Centre.

Entitled ‘Global Trends, U.S. Policy and Africa’, the address contained projections about the global future over a five-year and 20-year period. It concluded with an analysis of US policy under the Trump administration and what it might mean for Africa – and South Africa – in the context of these broader global trends.

The presentation provoked a lively discussion. More presentations and discussions followed over the next two days.

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Seminar on ‘Decolonisation and Big Data analytics’

On Thursday 17 August 2017, JIAS and the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) at UJ hosted the first in a four-part seminar series on ‘The Challenge of Big Data’.

Prof Saurabh Sinha, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, spoke on ‘Decolonisation and Big Data analytics’.

To access the slideshow that accompanied the presentation, use the following link: https://goo.gl/m5j4bQ

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Third Brain Matters seminar

The third in the Brain Matters Seminar Series, which is supported by JIAS, was held at Wits University on Friday 18 August 2017.

Prof Mark Solms, Director of Neuropsychology at the University of Cape Town, spoke on ‘The Neural Mechanisms of Dreaming’.

About the Brain Matters seminar series

The Brain Matters Seminar Series is a joint initiative of the University of the Witwatersrand, the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS), the Southern African Neuroscience Society (SANS), and the Wits Cortex Club.

It explores the past, present and future of neuroscience in southern Africa, with the aim of building a network of researchers dedicated to advancing the field in the region.

The seminars have a multidisciplinary neuroscience focus, and cover topics that are both locally relevant and internationally significant. The first two were held in April and May, and the last two will be held in October and December.

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Conference on expulsions

On 17 and 18 August 2017, the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA), the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS) and JIAS hosted an international conference entitled ‘Expulsions: Histories, Geographies, Memories’.

Participants included Sana Aiyar (MIT), Faaeza Ballim (Wits History Workshop), Neilesh Bose (Victoria), Linell Chewins (Wits, History), Thomas Blom Hansen (Stanford), Anneeth Kaur Hundle (UC Merced), Jonathan Klaaren (Wits, WISER), Christopher Lee (Lafayette), Andrew Macdonald (Wits, History), Dilip Menon (Wits, CISA) and Edgar Taylor (Wits, CISA).

A conference report will be available soon.

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Seminar on language policy in multilingual societies

On Tuesday 8 August 2017, JIAS held a seminar entitled ‘Language policy in multilingual societies: a Singapore—South African conversation’.

The seminar was led by Prof Ying Ying Tan, Head of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Prof Pamela Maseko of the School of African Languages at Rhodes University, and a 2017 JIAS Writing Fellow.

It was the first in a series entitled ‘Language Matters’, which will build towards a Colloquium entitled “Why Language Matters’.

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Prof Ihron Rensburg on leadership under crisis

On Thursday 27 July, Prof Ihron Rensburg, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, presented a seminar on ‘Leadership under crisis: the case of the University of Johannesburg’. The event was hosted by the Ali Mazrui Centre for Higher Education Studies in the UJ Faculty of Education and the UJ Postgraduate School.

About Prof Ihron Rensburg

Prof Ihron Rensburg became Vice Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg in 2006. Prior to that he was CE Strategic Services at the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Deputy Director General of South Africa’s Department of Education, and General Secretary of the National Education Crisis Committee. In May 2015, he completed his term as Commissioner of South Africa’s National Planning Commission, where he chaired the Working Group on Social Protection and Human Capabilities. The National Planning Commission chartered South Africa’s first National Development Plan 2030.

Together with South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Education, Rensburg is Co-Chairperson of Education Dialogue SA. He recently served as Chairperson of the South Africa as well as the Southern Africa Universities Vice Chancellors Associations, Chairperson of the Ministerial Committee on Student Accommodation in South African Universities, a Member of the Ministerial Committee on the Funding of South African Universities, Councillor of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, and Board Member of the Commonwealth of Learning.

Prof Rensburg holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in International Comparative Education from Stanford University in the United States, obtained with distinction with a dissertation entitled “Collective Identity and Public Policy: From Resistance to Reconstruction in South Africa, 1986-1995”. He holds an MA degree in Political and Organisational Sociology, also from Stanford University, and a B. Pharmacy degree from Rhodes University. In 2004 he completed the Global Executive Development Programme with distinction at the Graduate Institute of Business Science (GIBS) at the University of Pretoria. His dissertation was entitled “Unleashing Peak Performance and Resilience in Times of Great Challenge: How True Leaders Make the Difference.”

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Seminar by Henk van Rinsum

ON MONDAY 17 July, JIAS and the Ali Mazrui Centre for Higher Education Studies at UJ hosted a seminar by Dr Henk van Rinsum on ‘Religion, Knowledge and Knowing: Dutch (academic) interaction with the Colonial “Other”, 1636-2017’.

Dr Henk van Rinsum is a historian and anthropologist, and executive secretary of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences of Utrecht University. His academic interest is in the intersection between university, intellectual, and colonial history. He has published on the history of academic relations between the Netherlands and South Africa, and on the political history of honorary doctorates at the University of Stellenbosch.

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‘Almost-Times: South African Temporalities’

On 5 May 2017, JIAS, in collaboration with Penn, hosted a one-day workshop on ‘ Almost-Times: South African Temporalities’. The abstract provided to participants read as follows:

‘In April 2016, Sisonke Msimang wrote passionately in the Daily Maverick about a pervasive feeling of precariousness, uncertainty, and stuckness in South Africa: ‘All I know,’ she declares, ‘is that we are living in the almost-times.’ It is hard to know whether ‘we are ascending or descending,’ whether people will take action in order to make themselves proud in retrospect, or whether South Africans will remain ashamed—ashamed especially, of a president who is notably unashamed of his reversal of the promises of a hard-won democracy.

‘The experience of living in almost-times is distressing; but it does mean that intellectual space has opened up for an urgent critical reconsideration of time in South Africa—a movement away from the earlier focus on space and geography in the 1990s and 2000s. We have heard much talk in the academy about the transitional and the post-transitional, of the post-post-apartheid and post-anti-apartheid, of deferred dreams and suspended revolutions. The recent waves of political protest have self-consciously placed themselves in the lineage of anti-apartheid struggle. All these things evidence a profound but frustrated desire to project the slippery present onto a meaningful historical metanarrative. But is it possible to step away from the desire for broad historical periodization and home in, instead, on the lived experience of time—on temporality, defined as the way we experience and imagine the relation between past, present, and future?

‘We invite participants to meditate on the various affective structures (progress, decline, nostalgia, melancholia, hope, disappointment, etc) through which time has been experienced, understood, and written in apartheid-era and post-apartheid South Africa. Brief provocations and thought-experiments from all disciplines and angles are welcome.’

The speakers were:

Khwezi Mkhize of UCT on ‘Postcolonial disenchantment, or a brief genealogy of South African exceptionalism’.

Sikhumbuzo Mngadi of UJ on ‘Reflections on presentism’.

Sarah Nuttall of WISER on ‘Coeval time: the shock of the new old’.

Daniel Roux on ‘Doing time: post-apartheid temporalities and the case of Eugene de Kock’.

Ronit Frenkel of JIAS on ‘Post-liberation temporalities and three new South African novels’.

Danai Mupotsa of Wits University on ‘Against love’.

Nadine Moonsamy of the University of Pretoria on ‘A country out of time: nostalgia and nationalism in the South African imaginary’.

Danyela Demir of UJ on ‘Fragmentation, space-time collapse, and melancholia: reflections on Lesego Rampolokeng’s Bird-Monk Seding’.

Timothy Wright on ‘Chronotopes of Johannesburg: mutant futures, evacuated presents, and the ghost of 1994’.

Steven Robins on ‘”Slow activism”: reflections on post-revolutionary time’.

Rita Barnard on ‘The year of the tapeworm and other times: closing remarks’.

Readings were done by S J Naude and James Whyle.

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South Africa after Marikana

ON 19-20 JANUARY 2017, Prof Peter Vale, director of JIAS, and Ronit Frenkel, associate professor in the Faculty of Humanities at UJ, hosted a transdisciplinary conference on ‘South Africa after Marikana’. The conference was held at JIAS in Westdene, Johannesburg. Participation was by invitation only.

Ronit Frenkel commented as follows on the rationale behind the conference, and the framework for the discussions:

‘We invited scholars focusing on various aspects of South Africa after Marikana from literature to politics, sociology to history, cultural formations to philosophical configurations, to the two-day conference devoted to understanding South Africa through a variety of disciplinary lenses.
SA on cusp of new shift

‘The South Africa of the present is on the cusp of another major shift. Xenophobic violence, service delivery protests, new versions of student activism, racialised discourse, predatory capitalism, waning support for the ANC, and extraordinary levels of violence and poverty mark a country which is also circumscribed by a post-liberation imaginary that things can be fought over and changed.

‘New undercurrents are flowing through South African cultural formations, with the very tenets of the negotiated settlement for a new South Africa being questioned as a born-free generation finds its voice, red berets form a vocal opposition to government hegemonies, and trust in post-apartheid institutions wane.

‘While South Africa may not have fulfilled the dreams of a post-independence good life for all, a post-liberation belief in the ability to change things remains and seems to be taking on new forms in the present: from the use of excrement as political protest to the EFF’s violent removal from parliament, the #Rhodesmustfall movement, the #Open Stellenbosch movement and the (trans)national #Feesmustfall movement, escalating corruption scandals and constitutional crises, the transcendent ideologies of the struggle era past are changing in this new context of escalating risk post-Marikana.

The question is, then, what kinds of narratives are shaping South Africa post-2012 after the first major government-involved massacre after liberation irrevocably shifted the terms of South African life.

Shifting global signifier

‘These changing ideas are also tied to South Africa as a shifting global signifier. Post-1994, South Africa lost its image as a signifier of racial oppression and became one of how suffering and oppression could be overcome, partially through a transnational circulation of cultural production and reception dominated by certain kinds of narratives (such the Rainbow Nation). But this image of South Africa shifted fundamentally again after the Marikana massacre; coupled with changes in South African public cultures, a more sinister narrative is ascending in the global imaginary, and South African politics is recalibrating internally.

‘What terms and narratives do we currently have that can adequately make sense of this shifting context where old nomenclature is inadequate? Can we think through understandings and terms that reflect the nuances of the present better? The transdisciplinary discussions at this event were aimed at investigating these issues in an attempt to expand our understanding of the present.’
Participants

Participants included Achille Mbembe, Sarah Nuttall, Thad Metz, Michael Neocosmos, Pamila Gupta, Jacob Dlamini, Liz Gunner, Imraan Coovadia, Helene Straus, Ashraf Jamal, Andy Carolin, Keyan Tomaselli, Khwezi Mhkize, Andrea Spain, Tim Wright, Melissa Myambo, Kirk Sides, Johnny Semelani, Peter Vale and Ronit Frenkel.

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Revisiting the history of capitalism

IN June 2016, JIAS collaborated with the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA) at Wits University to stage a major workshop entitled ‘Revisiting the History of Capitalism’. Held at Wits University, and attended by scholars from three continents, the workshop formed part of growing efforts to revise Eurocentric perspectives on capitalism and its origins proceeding from the standpoint of producing knowledge from the Global South.

The workshop was funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, with additional funding from the School of Commerce, Law and Management and the Humanities Graduate Centre of the University of the Witwatersrand. A report on the proceedings has been completed. To download the report, click here.

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