Archive | Past events

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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Seminar on anti-slavery activism

On Wednesday 7 March 2018, Prof Joel Quirk of Wits University presented a seminar at JIAS entitled ‘The marketplace of anti-slavery activism: towards decent work?’

Prof Quirk is one of eleven 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows. This was the second in a weekly seminar series presented by the Fellows, selected scholars and writers from several continents and five countries who are currently in residence at JIAS.



The last three decades have been marked by increasing awareness and investment regarding the global challenges associated with severe labour exploitation and related forms of human bondage. This challenge has been classified and analysed using a variety of overlapping schemes, with some of the most popular starting points being human trafficking and modern slavery.

While there is no question that humanitarian impulses driving these activities can be important and laudable, there is also now a significant body of work that raises challenging questions regarding how much of this activity has translated into effective and appropriate responses.

Most important for the purposes of this seminar is the foundational division between ‘extreme’ and ‘lesser’ or ‘everyday’ exploitation and abuse. Within this context, the language of ‘slavery’ tends to do a great deal of analytical and political work, as contemporary analysts and activists seek to harness to the infamy and iconography of slavery and its legal abolition in order to both prioritise and dramatise a wide range of contemporary problems.

One of the most important effects of this division is that it treats ‘modern slavery’ as a singular and exceptional problem, which is tacitly assumed to stand apart from other ‘lesser’ problems and ‘normal’ practices. Targeting exceptional cases is not only very difficult in practical terms, it also tends to create an informal separation between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ cases. Instead of concentrating our energies upon a subcategory within a larger population, it is instead preferable to think in terms of the rights and protections afforded to all migrant workers, sex workers, supply chain workers, and other vulnerable workers.


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Seminar on cancer in Kenya

On Wednesday 28 February 2018, Dr Geoffrey Maiyoh, one of eleven 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows, presented a seminar entitled ‘The upsurge of cancer in Kenya: risk factors, pathogenesis and feasible preventive measures’.

Dr Maiyoh is a senior lecturer and postgraduate programme coordinator in the Department of Medical Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Moi University, Kenya.

This was the first of a series of seminars to be presented by the 2018 JIAS Writing Fellows. A full schedule of seminars will be posted as soon as this becomes available.

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Lecture by Prof Barbara Wilson

ON Monday 29 January 2018, Prof Barbara Wilson of the Oliver Zangwill Centre in Cambridge in the United Kingdom presented a lecture on ‘Integrating Theory and Practice in Neuropsychological Rehabilitation’ at Wits University.

The lecture was a continuation of the Brain Matters Seminar Series, supported by the DST-NRF Centre for Excellence in Human Development at Wits University, JIAS, the Wits Cortex Club, and the Southern African Neuroscience Society.


Practising neuropsychologists working in adult brain injury rehabilitation use a range of theoretical approaches in their clinical work. In 2002, Prof Barbara Wilson of the Oliver Zangwill Centre in Cambridge in the United Kingdom published a study which argued that rehabilitation was one of many fields needing a broad theoretical base incorporating frameworks, theories and models from many different areas. This presentation considered some of the theories and models that had have had the greatest influence on neuropsychological rehabilitation.

Professor Wilson is a clinical neuropsychologist who has worked in brain injury rehabilitation for 40 years. She has won many awards for her work, including an OBE.

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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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