Archive | Past events

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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Workshop on computational history

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

The workshop was aimed at assessing the scope for 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 Wit 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.

Workshop Report

To download the workshop report, click here.


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Focus on financial services and entrepreneurship in Africa

On 27 and 28 November 2017, JIAS and the UJ College of Business and Economics hosted two events focusing on financial services and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa.

The first was the launch of a book entitled Developing Africa’s Financial Services: The Importance of High Impact Entrepreneurship, edited by Dr Dana T Redford, and published by Emerald Press.

The second was an all-day workshop on the same subject. Both the launch and workshop were addressed by Dr Redford, founder and president of the Policy Experimentation and Evaluation Platform (PEEP), and an international expert on entrepreneurship and public policy.

More about the book

The book contains a chapter by Grietjie Verhoef, Professor of Economic, Business and Accounting History at the UJ College of Business and Economics entitled ‘The rise of financial services in Africa – an historical perspective’.

The backtext reads as follows: ‘An in-depth portrait of the financial services sector and high-impact entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa, this book reveals a region that, despite many challenges, saw tremendous growth over the last decade and is rapidly becoming a global powerhouse.

‘It features a detailed economic history of the region, case studies focused on its entrepreneurial banks, and a closer look at development trrends, such as impact investing, which are redefining Africa’s financial services. Comprehensive and insightful, it is an invaluable reference for students, practitioners and policymakers with an interest in the future of Africa’s financial services.’

Dana T Redford is the founder and president of the Policy Experimentation and Evaluation Platform (PEEP) and has taught at UC-Berkeley and Universidade Catolica Portuguesa. He is an internationally recognised expert on entrepreneurship and public policy, and has worked with the US Department of Commerce, the European Commission, the  OECD, the UN, and various European and African governments.

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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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Conversation on gender and cartooning

On Thursday 19 October 2017, JIAS hosted a conversation on ‘Gender and Cartooning in South Africa’.

The speakers were Stacey Stent, South Africa’s only woman cartoonist, whose work is currently being exhibited at JIAS, and Brenda Schmahmann, NRF Research Professor in South African Art and Visual Culture at UJ.

The event was chaired by Prof Sarah Gravett, Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research at UJ.

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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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