Archive | Past events

Workshop on life-writing

On Monday 6 August 2018, JIAS hosted a full-day workshop on life-writing entitled ‘Telling Lives: Trust, Lies, History’. The keynote speaker was Professor Carolyn Steedman of Warwick University in the United Kingdom.

The workshop was organised by the UJ History Department, the UJ Humanities Faculty, the Governing Intimacies Project, and the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Resarch ( WiSER). The convenors were Dr Stephen Sparks of the UJ Department of History and Prof Shireen Hassim of WiSER. The workshop formed part of WiSER’s Governing Intimacies project.

To download the full programme, click here.

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Launch of book by Vineet Thakur

On Friday 3 August 2018, the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press and JIAS hosted the launch of a book entitled Jan Smuts and the Indian Question by Vineet Thakur. The launch was held at JIAS, and took the form of a lunchtime seminar.

Vineet Thakur completed research for the book while working at JIAS as a post-doctoral student in 2015-16. Following an introduction, he was in discussion with Professor Dilip Menon, Director of the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA) at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Prof Peter Vale, Director of JIAS.

This book is the second in the series entitled ‘Off-Centre: New Perspectives on Public Issues’, a joint initiative between JIAS and the UKZN Press.

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Seminar led by Prof Steven J Diner

On Thursday 23 August 2018, JIAS, the Ali Mazrui Centre for Higher Education Studies at UJ, and the Wits City Institute hosted a seminar on ‘Cities and Contemporary Higher Education: A Historical Perspective’, led by Prof Steven J Diner of Rutgers University-Newark in the United States.

Steven J Diner is a Professor of History, former Chancellor, and former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-Newark.

About the seminar

Since the end of World War II, the vast majority of American college students have attended institutions located in cities and metropolitan areas. However, this represented a radical challenge to college leaders’ traditional negative view of cities in general, and their belief that cities were ill-suited locations in which to educate young men and women.

In this lecture, Prof Diner examined how the long history of collegiate anti-urbanism and the recent embrace of colleges in cities have shaped America’s extensive contemporary higher education system. He concluded that, despite higher education’s long ambivalence about cities, colleges in cities have profoundly shaped contemporary higher education.

While he focused on higher education in the United States, this perspective contains clear parallels to higher education in South Africa, which was explored in the course of the seminar.

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Colloquium on Multilingualism

On 28-30 June 2018, JIAS and the Department of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies in the School of Humanities of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore hosted a Colloquium on ‘The Future of Multilingualism’. The Colloquium was held at JIAS in Westdene, Johannesburg.

To download the programme, click here.

To download the Colloquium Report, click here.


The Colloquium was aimed at taking advantage of multilingual sites such as South Africa and Singapore to explore the future of multilingualism. Questions addressed included the following:

  • What is the future of multilingualism in these multilingual societies?
  • How do anti-colonial and post-colonial nations reconcile multilingualism in the face of new linguistic ecologies?
  • What are the challenges of nation-building when one is faced with multiple tongues?
  • What does the way in which multilingual postcolonial nations deal with multilingualism tell us about a possible alternative framework for understanding the relationship between language and nation?
  • How are present education systems and technologies dealing with multilingualism?

By approaching this conversation from archives across Asia and Africa, the Colloquium sought to look at multilingualism and its future trajectory by taking into account the specificities of a range of colonial experiences, political regimes, and current infrastructures.

The gathering at JIAS was also aimed at generating contributions to an edited volume emanating from the first round of conversations which were held in Singapore earlier in 2018.

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Second conference on colonialism and its implications

On 9—11 July 2018, JIAS and the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Johannesburg hosted a conference on ‘After the Prelude: Decolonisation, Evolution and Revolution’. This was the second in a series of three conferences on colonialism and its implications.

The convenors were Professor David Boucher of the Department of Politics and International Relations at UJ and Cardiff University (, and Dr Ayesha Omar of the Department of Politics at the University of the Witwatersrand (

For the provisional programme, click here.

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Conference on enslavement, conflict and forced marriage in Africa

On 25—28 June 2018, the University of the Witwatersrand hosted a conference entitled ‘Enslavement, Conflict and Forced Marriage in Africa: Methods, Ethics, and Knowledge Production’.

The conference was held under the auspices of Conjugal Slavery In War (CSiW), a partnership for the study of enslavement, marriage and masculinities, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.

The convenors were Prof Joel Quirk, a Senior Associate Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation at the University of Warwick, and Head of the Department of Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand; and Annie Bunting, Associate Professor in the Law & Society programme at York University in Toronto.

Bunting is the CSiW project director, and York University its host institution. The Department of Political Studies at Wits University is one of a number of project partners on several continents. While the SSHRC was the primary conference funder, JIAS provided additional support.

The conference focused on the different ways in which knowledge of patterns of enslavement, conflict and marriage in sub-Saharan Africa have been – and should be — collected and disseminated. It took place in both French and English (with simultaneous translations).

PROGRAMME: To download the programme, click here.


The CSiW network encompasses academics and practitioners working on questions related to forced marriage in war, broadly defined, across six countries in Africa, namely the DRC, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda. The main goal of the project is to explore different methods for undertaking research into patterns of gender-based violence in both conflict and post-conflict settings in Africa.

This includes reflection on the challenges associated with undertaking research which provides reliable and accurate information, ethically capturing and representing experiences of violence, trauma, vulnerability and stigma, and analysing the ways in which research findings can be influenced by funding streams, political calculations, and different target audiences.


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Launch of book on water by Larry Swatuk

Trevor Balzer (left) and Prof Larry Swatuk at the launch of ‘Water in Southern Africa’.

A book by Prof Larry A Swatuk entitled Water in Southern Africa was launched at JIAS on 26 July 2018.

Larry Swatuk is a professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED) at the University of Waterloo, Canada, and an Extraordinary Professor in the Institute for Water Studies at the University of the Western Cape. The book is the first in the JIAS / UKZN Press Off-Centre Series.

The opening remarks were due to be delivered by the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Gugile Nkwinti. However, the minister was called away to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with his Chinese counterpart at the BRICS conference in Sandton, and his speech was read by Trevor Balzer, Deputy Director-Genera: Strategic and Emergency projects in the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Prof Swatuk then discussed the book, followed by a question and answer session.


When it comes to water, we are fed a daily diet of doom and gloom, of a looming crisis: wars of the future will be over water; nearly one billion people lack access to clean water; river basins are closed, so there is no more water to be allocated despite ever-growing demand; aquifers are overdrawn to such an extent that a global food crisis is just around the corner; and major cities, such as Bangkok and Mexico, are sinking. And let us not forget about pollution or vector-borne diseases.

The challenges for sustainable water management are massive. Yet, as shown in this book, there are many positives to be drawn from the southern African experience. Despite abiding conditions of economy underdevelopment and social inequality, people rise to the challenge, often out of necessity and through self-help, but sometimes through creative coalitions operating at different scales – from the local to the global – and across issue areas, from trans-boundary governance to urban water supply. This first volume in the Off-Centre series argues that we must learn to see water and the region differently if we are to meet present challenges and better prepare for an uncertain, climate-changing future.

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Inaugural Moses Kotane Memorial Lecture

The inaugural Moses Kotane Memorial Lecture was delivered at the University of Johannesburg on Thursday evening 31 May 2018. The event was hosted by Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, UJ Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

The lecture, entitled ‘Moses Kotane, Chief Architect of the Struggle’, was delivered by Dr Bonginkosi ‘Blade’ Nzimande, current General Secretary of the SACP.

Kotane served as General Secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) for almost 40 years, from 1939 until his death in 1978. He was also a leading member of the ANC.

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Reading of play by Hans Pienaar

On Tuesday 22 May 2018, the journalist and author Hans Pienaar staged a reading at JIAS of his latest play, ‘My Brother My Hero’. Hans is a 2018 JIAS Writing Fellow. This is his first new work since ‘The Good Candidate’, which was written in 2014.


The brother of a sports hero who is in jail after having killed his girlfriend has a huge dilemma. Must he reveal crucial evidence in the case that he has hitherto kept to himself, or must he destroy it? Issues around the pitfalls of celebrity, sexual identity, sibling rivalry, and what it means to be human are explored in this one-hander.

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Seminar led by Niq Mhlongo

On Wednesday 23 May 2018, the acclaimed South African author Niq Mhlongo led a seminar at JIAS entitled ‘Paradise in Gaza: Exploring the themes of African myth by using the elements of magical realism’. This formed part of the 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows Seminar Series.

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