Archive | Past events

‘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 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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Science Diplomacy in Africa

On 15 April 2016, JIAS hosted a workshop on ‘Science Diplomacy in Africa’, organised in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand; the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship at the University of Pretoria; and the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy at University College London (UCL STEaPP). For the edited proceedings, click here.

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Johannesburg: Performative Urbanisms

On 8-10 September 2015, JIAS hosted a three-day interdisciplinary workshop entitled ‘Johannesburg: Performative Urbanisms: fighting for and over the city; expressing the city; knowing the city’. It was jointly organised by JIAS; the Wits City Institute; the editors of the international journal Thesis Eleven: Critical Theory and Historical Sociology; the Thesis Eleven Centre for Cultural Sociology at La Trobe University in Melbourne; and the Chair of Culture and Society at Curtin University in Perth. Some contributions to the workshop have been collected in a publication entitled The Politics of Urban Life: Social Activism and the City of Johannesburg. Hard copies are available from the Wits City Institute. To download a desktop version, click here.

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al-Bashir and the crisis in South Africa’s foreign policy

On 22 July 2015, JIAS hosted a discussion forum entitled ‘al-Bashir and the crisis in South Africa’s foreign policy: Problems and Prospects’, co-organised with the SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at UJ. Speakers included Prof Chris Landsberg (UJ), Dr Siphamandla Zondi (Institute for Global Dialogue), Siphokazi Magadla (Rhodes University), Nicole Fritz (executive director, Southern Africa Litigation Centre), Prof Jeremy Sarkin (UNISA), Dr Leon Wessels (University of the Free State), Yasmin Sooka (Foundation for Human Rights), Prof Hennie Strydom (UJ), Prof Alexander Mezyaev (Chair, Academy on International Law and Governance, Russia) and Adv Patric Mtshaulana, SC (Duma Nokwe Group). For a proceedings report, click here.

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Contemporary thinking on and methods of international relations

On 7 May 2015, JIAS hosted a workshop on ‘Contemporary thinking on and methods of international relations’. Lead-in papers presented by Prof Anna Leander (Copenhagen Business School) and Prof Stefano Guzzini (Danish Institute for International Affairs). Other speakers included Sithembile Mbete (UP), Dr Mvu Ngcoya (University of KwaZulu Natal), Eben Coetzee (University of the Free State), Prof Joel Quirk (Wits University), and Anthony Bizos (UP).

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Universities and constitutions

On 20-21 April 2015, JIAS hosted a follow-up conversation on ‘Universities and constitutions: What does research-based knowledge and higher education mean for constitutional democracies?’ Papers were delivered by Prof John Higgins (UCT), Prof Tor Halvorsen (University of Bergen), Prof John Peter Collett (Oslo University) and Prof Henriette Sinding Aasen (University of Bergen). Participants included Prof David Blichitz (UJ, Dr Leon Wessels (University of the Free State), Prof Anton Harber (Wits University), Prof Noeleen Murray (Wits University), Prof Brenda Schmahmann (UJ, Prof Jane Duncan (UJ, Dr Vashna Jagarnath (Rhodes University) and Prof Salim Vally (UJ).

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International Relations and IR theory

On 6 March 2015, JIAS presented a seminar on ‘International Relations and its Theory: An End? Whose End?’ The seminar formed part of the JIAS Series of Conceptual Conversations on International Relations. resentations were made by Dr Siphamandla Zondi (Institute for Global Dialogue), Dr David Hornsby (Wits University), Prof Peter Sutch (Cardiff University), and Dr Vineet Thakur (UJ).

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