Archive | Past events

Workshop on ‘Teaching IR globally’

Participants in the ‘Teaching IR Globally’ workshop at JIAS.

On 22-25 January 2018, JIAS, in collaboration with the World International Studies Committee (WISC), hosted a workshop on ‘Teaching IR Globally’. IR scholars from various countries discussed how International Relations (IR) as an academic discipline was being taught and should be taught globally.

Questions they considered included the following: Is IR necessarily biased towards a ‘national’ perspective, or could and should it break free from the ‘methodological nationalism’ in which so many academics in the social sciences and humanities seem trapped? If a ‘view from nowhere’ is impossible, how should the discipline reflect on this (potentially) inevitable perspectivity?

WISC ( seeks to bring together academics from all over the world – but especially from the Global South — to explore different aspects of international studies from multple perspectives. To this end, WISC has already funded a variety of ‘Exploratory Workshops’ in the Global South.

It co-sponsored an international workshop for Early Career Researchers on the theme ‘World Order and Peace:  International Politics in the 21st Century in a Global Perspective’ in December 2017, and will sponsor another one later in 2018. Its collaboration with JIAS forms part of this endeavour of reaching out beyond the Northern hemisphere.

The participants were:

Alexander Astrov (Hungary)
Navnita Behera (India)
Pinar Bilgin (Turkey)
Siba N Grovogui (Guinea/USA)
Stefano Guzzini (Italy/Germany/Denmark)
Gunther Hellmann (Germany)
Benjamin Herborth (Germany/ Netherlands)
Amy Niang (South Africa)
Meera Sabaratnam (India/UK)
Karen Smith (South Africa/ Netherlands)
Vineet Thakur (India/Netherlands/South Africa)
Arlene B. Tickner (Colombia/USA)
Ole Weaver (Denmark)
Heloise Weber (India/Australia)
Martin Weber (Australia)
Peter Vale (South Africa)

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Lecture by Prof Morten Kringelbach

On 6 December 2017, the NRF Science for Society hosted a lecture entitled ‘The Parental Brain: New Insights from Brain Imaging’, by Professor Morten Kringelbach. It was held at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg.

The lecture was the last in the Brain Matters Seminar Series, funded by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development and the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS), and supported by the Wits Cortex Club and the Southern African Neuroscience Society. It was presented in partnership with SAfm and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital.


For many people, becoming a parent is one of life’s most rewarding and transformative experiences, yet until recently little was known about how this experience changes the brain.

In this lecture, Professor Kringelbach of Aarhus and Oxford Universities shared new insights into how fast brain signatures (the rapid spread of neural activity) are evoked by the sight and sounds of babies.

He spoke about how the cuteness of infants – as a protective survival mechanism – shapes human lives. Lastly, he talked about cutting-edge research using new technologies in brain imaging that reveal specific areas in the brain that control the caregiving instinct.

Professor Kringelbach’s prize-winning research uses neuroimaging and whole-brain computational models of, for example, responses to infants, taste, sex, drugs and music to find ways to increase eudaimonia (wellbeing).

For a video of the event, click here.

For a Podcast, click here.

For a report on the NRF website, click here.

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Seminar on computational history

On 14-16 November 2017, JIAS hosted a ground-breaking seminar on ‘Understanding the pre-colonial world through computational history’.

The seminar was aimed at strengthening southern African input into the Interactive Global Histories (1205-1533) Project based at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

More specifically, it was aimed at assessing how machine learning techniques could contribute to historical databases on the precolonial world and provide data-driven modelling and simulations to fill a crucial gap in the study of Afro-Eurasian networks, namely sharing primary sources, and making them machine-readable.

The event was of interest to historians and scientists interested in the pre-colonial world, and to those interested in the developing field of the digital humanities.


The presenters included:

  • Andrea Nanetti, Mikhail Filippov and Joty Shafiq Rayhan of NTU;
  • Maarten de Witt of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University;
  • Simon Hall, Abigail Moffett and Nicholas Zachariou of UCT; and
  • Yussuf Adam and Mussa Raja of Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo.


For a book chapter and article illuminating this project and the growing field of computational history, click here.


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Seminar on ‘Big Data and Distributed Ledger’

On 2 November 2017, Associate Professor Bo Xing, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Intelligent Systems in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment FEBE) at UJ, presented a seminar at JIAS entitled ‘Big Data and Distributed Ledger’. This was the final seminar in the series entitled ‘The Challenge of Big Data’, hosted by FEBE and JIAS.

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Seminar by Pascal Lamy

On 24 October 2017, JIAS and the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) hosted a seminar led by Pascal Lamy, former Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), on ‘Challenges and opportunities for a small open economy such as South Africa in the late globalising world’.

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Launch of book by Lesego Rampolokeng

ON 14 September 2017, JIAS, the UJ Department of English and Deep South hosted the Johannesburg launch of the novel Bird-Monk Seding, by Lesego Rampolokeng.

Lesego Rampolokeng is a poet and performance maestro and the author of 12 books, including two plays and three novels. He has collaborated with visual artists, playwrights, film-makers, theatre and opera producers, poets and musicians. His no-holds-barred style, radical political-aesthetic perspective and instantly recognisable voice have brought him a unique place in South African literature.

 Bird-Monk Seding, Rampolokeng’s third novel, is a stark picture of life in a rural township two decades into South Africa’s democracy. Listening and observing in the streets and taverns, narrator Bavino Sekete, often feeling desperate himself, is thrown back to his own violent childhood in Soweto. To get through, he turns to his pantheon of jazz innovators and radical writers.

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Second seminar on the challenge of ‘Big Data’

On 7 September 2017, Prof Qing-Guo Wang, Distinguished Professor: Institute for Intelligent Systems in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) at UJ, presented a seminar at JIAS entitled ‘Investment Portfolio Management: Brief Introduction and New Results’.

This was the second in a four-part seminar series on ‘The Challenge of Big Data’, hosted by FEBE and JIAS.


Part I is a brief introduction to portfolio management problem, including importance of finance, financial bubbles, key factors of investment, theory and problems.

Part II will deal with a multi-period portfolio management problem over a finite horizon. The objective is to seek the optimal investment policy series which maximizes the weighted sum of a linear combination of the expected return and the variance of portfolio over all the investment periods. This formulation enables the investor to adjust weights for any period and have full freedom and control over their best trade-off between return and risk over each period.

We show that such a problem is a convex quadratic programming problem in terms of the decision variables, regardless of price dynamic nature (either linear or nonlinear cases). By solving the convex quadratic programming problem directly, an optimal solution is developed for its original problem without using dynamic programming. The solution is simplified  for a general linear price model with high-order and coupled asset dynamics and shown to be implementable with historical price data.

Simulation is carried out on USA and China stock markets with real data, which demonstrates feasibility and better performance of the proposed solution than the special case considered in the literature. In particular, the proposed solution with suitable non-zero weights on intermediate time periods offers higher return at the same risk level, compared with one involving the terminal wealth only in the objective function.

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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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Workshop on opioids and harm reduction in SA

ON 21-22 August 2017, JIAS hosted a workshop on ‘Opioids and Harm Reduction in South Africa: Opening a Multidisciplinary Conversation’.

 The workshop was co-sponsored by the Department of History of the University of Johannesburg, and funded from a Knowledge Interchange and Collaboration (KIC) grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Opioid addiction and overdose deaths are drawing renewed attention to questions about chemical dependency and treatment. Shifts in drug policy paradigms, from criminalisation to harm reduction, have been guiding new thinking worldwide, and this is also the case in South Africa.

South Africa has a unique history in which chemical controls and controlling chemicals have been imbricated with colonial and apartheid regimes. Currently, dilemmas around drugs and addiction are compounded by scarcity, socio-economic disparity and polarized public opinion.

What can humanities research and multidisciplinary collaborations offer in support of local initiatives and civic interventions aimed at transforming policies and treatment practices, so as to reduce harms for drugs users and for society more generally?

This workshop brought together some pioneering researchers and civic actors who focus and guide thinking and policy discussions on these issues.

For a workshop report, click here.

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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:

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