Archive | Past events

Seminar led by Dr Melissa Tandiwe Myambo

On Wednesday 18 April 2018, Dr Melissa Tandiwe Myambo presented a seminar at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa at Wits University on ‘Class, xenophobia and xenophilia: Migrant experience in Jo’burg’s diverse Cultural Time Zones’.

Dr Myambo is an Honorary Research Fellow of the Wits City Institute, a Visiting Researcher at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, and a past JIAS Writing Fellow. The seminar was held under the auspices of the Wits City Institute.


In 2008 and 2015, South Africa’s most deadly and violent xenophobic attacks erupted. Dozens of people were killed, and thousands displaced. The dominant storyline in the media and the academy cast the figure of the migrant as the perpetual victim of xenopohobia. There was not enough emphasis on nuancing that statement to indicate that it is not all migrants who run the risk of deadly xenophobia, even if xenophobia is pervasive at all levels of South African society. Deadly attacks only took place in specific microspaces, or Cultural Time Zones (CTZS). Those living in the CTZ of the informal settlement were most vulnerable. Few migrants who live and work in economically privileged CTZs like the suburbs became victims of violence.

In this presentation, I examine the relationship between (micro)space and migrant experience. Through an analysis of Jo’burg as a cluster of radically different CTZs where language, skin colour, race/ethnicity, education, socio-economic class, etc. function in different ways to impact the migrant experience, I try to uncover the nuanced reasons why working-class migrants who work and live in socio-economically deprived CTZs may experience intense xenophobia, while middle-class professionals, especially those from Western countries, often enjoy high levels of xenophilia.

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Pop-up seminar on land reform

On Thursday 12 April 2018, Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi led a JIAS pop-up seminar on ‘Land reform in South Africa: some prospects and pitfalls’.

 About Mbongiseni Buthelezi

Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi holds a PhD and MA in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, New York. He also holds an MA in English Studies (cum laude) from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a BA (Hon) in English and Drama (cum laude) from the University of Natal. Working in various academic and activist capacities, Mbongiseni has been interested in how the state interfaces with citizens in areas including land restitution, the role of traditional leaders in governance, and heritage and public archives.

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Seminar led by Amrita Shah

On Wednesday 11 April 2018, the journalist and author Amrita Shah led a seminar at JIAS titled ‘A personal journey into history’. This was the fifth in the 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows Seminar Series.


‘As a child growing up in India, I was fascinated by the knowledge that my great-grandfather had travelled to South Africa at the turn of the twentieth century. Why had he gone there? Who was the woman he met along the way, who gave birth to my grandmother? And did he know Gandhi? My search for answers to these questions have led me to archives across South Africa, Mauritius, the United Kingdom and India, and revealed to me an alternative view of the past.’

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John Rapley leads seminar on new book

On Thursday 5 April 2018, Dr John Rapley led a pop-up seminar at JIAS on his new book entitled Twilight of the Money Gods: Economics as a religion, and how it all went wrong.



Imagine one day you went to a cash-machine and found your money was gone. You rushed to your branch, where a teller said that overnight people had stopped believing in money, and it all vanished. Seem incredible? It happened, and it could happen again.

Although it calls itself a science, economics is really a belief system. As capitalism arose and the old order died, it explained a rapidly changing world, and gave us new moral codes for living. But today, ten years after a devastating financial crisis it largely failed to anticipate, and with economic growth in the West suddenly falling behind that of the developing world for the first time in two centuries, economics is struggling to explain a world that is changing beyond recognition.

So writes Dr John Rapley in his new book, Twilight of the Money Gods. In this pop-up seminar, John discussed the book and its implications for South Africa’s future.

About John Rapley

Dr John Rapley has made a vocation of working, and living, at the frontier where theory meets practice. After beginning his career at Oxford University’s International Development Centre, he left for the developing world, where he spent the next two decades working as an academic, journalist and ultimately the co-creator and director of a policy think tank. Along the way, he worked at universities on three continents and, upon returning to the UK, lectured at the University of Cambridge’s Centre of Development Studies. He now lives in London as a writer.


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Seminar led by David Huang

On Wednesday 4 April, Dr David Huang of NTU Singapore led a seminar at JIAS entitled ‘Preparation for Learning Transfer: A research agenda’. This was the fourth in the 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows Seminar Series.

ABSTRACT: Using the author’s research on analogical transfer and generative learning as the point of departure, this seminar shares a series of studies on learning and transfer and presents a research agenda for future inquiry. The purpose is to examine the design of pedagogical activities that better prepare students and school leaders for learning transfer.

The seminar covers three sections. The first section provides an overview on education policy and education research in Singapore. It underscores the value of research on learning transfer in the Singapore context.

The second section presents two studies that the author conducted in Singapore schools. One is a case study on how school leaders use analogies to learn about diffusion of pedagogical innovations. The study suggests a possibility for ‘less’ to create ‘more’ in conceptual change: analogues that have fewer degrees of similarity to innovation diffusion were found to be more helpful in inducing school leaders’ conceptual change in innovation diffusion. The other study uses experimental studies to investigate how preparatory tasks prepare students for learning transfer in algebra word problems. The study varied preparatory tasks in terms of generating analogies versus comparing given analogies as well as more versus less task complexity. The study delineates boundary conditions of Productive Failure. The knowledge-learning-instruction dependency revealed in this study supports the expertise reversal effects.

Learning from the past studies, the third section shares a research agenda for future inquiry. More specifically, it reviews the literature and seeks to understand how learning activities, such as generation, imitation, analogical comparison, and contrasting comparison lead to differentiated knowledge that influences transfer. It also seeks to understand how, bounded by neurocognitive constraints, integrating and sequencing the learning activities could interweave this knowledge and better prepare students for learning transfer. Conjectures and hypotheses are drawn from the literature review for future investigation.

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Talk on ‘Ahmedabad: A city in the world’

ON Thursday 22 March 2018, Amrita Shah, a 2018 JIAS Writing Fellow, gave a talk at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA) at Wits University on ‘Ahmedabad: A city in the world’.

At a time when India is moving towards a capitalist economy with the urban as its framework, Ahmedabad, the country’s fifth largest city, showcases the experience of a highly entrepreneurial society in one of India’s longest surviving cities.

Founded in 1411 by Ahmed Shah of the Gujarat Sultanate, Ahmedabad has been a trading post and manufacturing centre for cotton textiles, a base for Gandhi after his return from South Africa in 1915, and a site of endemic communal as well as other forms of mass violence in the post-independence era.

The early decades of the present century have seen the city emerge as a showpiece of the socio-economic and majoritarian vision known as the ‘Gujarat model’, which catapulted Narendra Modi to the prime ministership in 2014. An exploration of this complex and fascinating city reveals the processes underpinning the ethos of contemporary India.

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Seminar on scholarship and freedom

On Tuesday 13 March 2018, Geoffrey Galt Harpham of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University presented a seminar at JIAS on ‘Scholarship and Freedom’, jointly hosted by JIAS and the Ali Mazrui Centre for Higher Education Studies at UJ.


All over the world, universities and academic work generally are being placed under pressure by governments, by the constant increase in corporate sponsored research, and often by hostile public opinion. Is scholarship really value-neutral, or does it contain an implicit set of values, even a politics or an ideology, that might conflict with others?
Geoffrey Galt Harpham is a Senior Fellow of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He previously served as director of the National Humanities Center (2002-2015), and taught at Tulane University, Brandeis University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

A specialist in literary theory, linguistics, and the history of criticism, he is the author of nearly one hundred scholarly articles and ten books, most recently The Humanities and the Dream of America, and What Do You Think, Mr. Ramirez?: The American Revolution in Education.

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Seminar by Prof Kevin Riordan

On Wednesday 14 March 2018, Prof Kevin Riordan of NTU presented a seminar at JIAS on ‘The Modernist Theatrum Mundi: Jean Cocteau’s Around-the-World Performance’. This seminar was the third in a series presented by the 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows.


In 1936, in the midst of what his biographer would call his ‘lesser decade’, Jean Cocteau mounted his most ambitious theatrical production to date. He adapted Adolphe d’Ennery and Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days by making their hit play site-specific, all the way around the world. Casting himself as Phileas Fogg, and his lover as Passepartout, Cocteau would re-enact d’Ennery and Verne’s dramatic fiction as an eighty-day durational performance while writing short dispatches for the Paris Soir.

In this talk, I discuss Cocteau’s performance in his tour du monde to reckon with how it might affect our own personal and shared senses of the ‘world’ as a category, a fiction, or a place. Cocteau’s theatrical production on the largest of stages, I argue, challenges our own orientations in the world by illuminating what happens to our critical positions when we read and write about the world while performing within it.

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Workshop on language vitality at NTU

Several South African academics participated in a workshop on ‘Language Vitality in the World of Englishes’, held at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore on 15—16 March 2018.

Convened by Tan Ying Ying of NTU, the workshop was jointly organised by JIAS and the Linguistics and Multilingual Studies Faculty at NTU, with support from the NTU President’s Office Global Dialogue and the Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS), CoHASS NTU.

The South African participants were Matthias Brenzinger of the University of Cape Town, Susan Coetzee-Van Rooy of North West University, and Morwesi Sitto of the University of Johannesburg.

The workshop also featured presentations by scholars from the United States, Singapore, Cameroon, and Canada.

For the workshop programme and abstracts of the presentations, click here.

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Workshop on ‘Illustrating the Brain’


On Wednesday 28 March 2018, JIAS hosted a one-day workshop on ‘Illustrating the Brain’ presented by Professor Oliver Turnbull of Bangor University in the United Kingdom. The workshop formed part of a series entitled ‘Brain Matters: Accelerating Southern Africa Neuroscience’. The workshop was fully subscribed, and was very successful.

About the workshop

‘Illustrating the Brain’ was a one-day workshop (based on Bangor University’s ‘Visceral Mind’ programme) aimed at postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers as well as academic staff with a background and interest in cognition, emotion, and mental health.

It covered  the fundamentals of human anatomy by adopting the classical approach of ‘anatomy through drawing and rehearsal’. It involved sessions of anatomical drawing, followed by supervised observation of brain prosections. Students were provided with a diagrammatic workshop, and practised the drawing and labelling of core brain structures. They also visited the the Hunterian Museum of Anatomy at Wits University.

About Professor Turnbull

Professor Oliver Turnbull is a neuropsychologist and clinical psychologist. He is Professor of Neuropsychology and Pro Vice Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) at Bangor University in the United Kingdom.

His interests include emotion-based learning and the experience we describe as ‘intuition’; the role of emotion in false beliefs, especially in neurological patients; and the neuroscience of psychotherapy. He is the author of a number of scientific articles on these topics, and (together with Professor Mark Solms) of the popular science text  The Brain and the Inner World. He is a previous editor of the journal Neuropsychoanalysis.

The ‘Brain Matters: Accelerating Southern African Neuroscience’ seminar series is sponsored by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development at Wits University and JIAS, and supported by the Wits Cortex Club and the Southern African Neuroscience Society.

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