JIAS Writing Fellows 2019

JIAS has selected nine Writing Fellows for its four-month 2019 Writing Term which will run from February to May. Drawn from hundreds of applicants, they include outstanding young scholars, writers and artists from several continents. As previously, they will stay in private suites at the JIAS complex in Westdene, Johannesburg, which will offer them a quiet space for work and reflection as well as opportunities for academic community-building. Pictures and biographical notes of the Writing Fellows follow.

romain dittgen 2

Romain Dittgen is a Human Geographer with a PhD from the University of Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne). He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow (under the ‘Life in the City’ Research Grant) of the African Centre for Migration & Society and the South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis & City Planning (SA&CP) at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. His research interests, framed around the spatial expression of capital and subsequent changes experienced by urbanites, speak to the evolving nature of cities within Southern Africa. He has previously worked as a senior researcher at the SA&CP, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, and an assistant lecturer in the Department of Geography at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. He has also been a Visiting Fellow of the African Studies Centre and International Institute for Asian Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands He is currently working on a book on Chinese urban spaces in Johannesburg and in Lusaka, co-authored with a Zambian architect, Dr Gerald Chungu.

Lorena Nunez-Carrasco is a Chilean social anthropologist specialising in Medical Anthropology, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her broader academic interest is in topics that intersect with culture and health. In her research, she explores the linkages between migration and health, with a focus on mental and reproductive health. Her current comparative project explores the role of the state and civil society through policies and practices in the realm of health care in relation to migrants in South Africa and Chile. It poses the questions of how and when common categories of differentiation such as class, race, or gender become more or less salient in relation to migrants in the area of health care.

Julie Grant started working with South Africa’s indigenous ‡Khomani Bushmen in 2006 when she undertook field work for a PhD thesis. In 2009 she started to work with the !Xun and Khwe Bushmen, also in South Africa. She continued this research as a post-doctoral fellow of the Centre for Communication, Society and Media Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. From 2014, she worked alongside the ‡Khomani to implement a development project, while liaising with the ‡Khomani’s lawyers and the South African Human Rights Commission to facilitate government development. In 2017 she returned to research. Her interests include land reform; perceptions of poverty and development; indigenous knowledge; the indigenous mindset; and culturally responsive education, health and social care.

Dr Tanya Zack is a South African urban planner, writer and reflective practitioner who straddles the worlds of planning practice, policy, academia and creative writing. Her planning experience in Johannesburg over the past 25 years has encompassed academic writing and research, policy development, the development of framework plans, and participatory and activist planning in a scope of work that includes informal settlement upgrading, community participation processes, the informal economy, migrant entrepreneurialism, inner city policy for transformation, and a host of housing-related work. Besides her professional work in the inner city, Tanya’s curiosity and compulsion to collect stories have broadened the scope of her intrigue to personalities who inhabit the spaces not often exposed in literature about Johannesburg. She is the author of a series of ten photo books entitled Wake Up, This is Joburg. She is currently writing a book about the so-called Ethiopian quarter in the Johannesburg inner city. Tanya grew up on the edge of inner-city Johannesburg.

Anthea M Lesch is a lecturer, scholar, activist and qualitative researcher based in the Psychology Department at Stellenbosch University. She adopts a community psychological approach to examining inequality and its impact on the health and wellbeing of marginalised and oppressed groups. Her current research focuses on exploring processes of community engagement in biomedical HIV prevention research, using creative research methodologies to explore the sexual and reproductive health literacy of black women, and documenting the lived experiences of people living on the streets of urban Cape Town. While at JIAS, she intends to write a series of reflexive essays in which she will use auto-ethnographic and political narrative approaches to explore race, racism and the racial collective consciousness in contemporary South Africa.

Thabo Jijana: Spanning colonial history, the politics of space, and the self, Thabo Jijana’s book of 100 errata entries is driven by an enthusiasm for that which is rural-centred and seeks to problematise how the rural has been imaged in Mandelafrican popular culture. Reading rurality into Césaire’s notion of absent presence and Mafenuka’s avowal re: ukurhuda ude ubhodle as anti-fiction in order to perpetually foreground questions on his rural identity, he strives to correct erroneous portrayals of village living by assigning a variety of refreshing but no less in-depth, well-articulated, sui generis interpretations of present-day village life, as a way to show how the rural has for too long suffered from a devastating misrepresentation by writers, musicians, filmmakers, opinion-makers and artists who have generally overburdened it with false, harsh, unbalanced, patronising and ignorant depictions. In 2016, Thabo won the Ingrid Jonker Prize for Poetry for his volume Failing Maths and My Other Crimes, and in 2018 his work was included in an exhibition entitled To see this better, close your eyes in the Reid Gallery in the Glasgow School of Art, Scotland. Thabo hails from eNgqushwa in rural Eastern Cape, and is a publisher at Black Letter Media, Johannesburg.

Ivan Panović is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies in the School of Humanities at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Prior to this appointment, he was an Andrew W Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford. Ivan is a sociocultural linguist who draws on ethnography and multimodal discourse analysis to study vernacular writing and literacies as social practices, language ideologies, language creativity, sociolinguistic aspects of migration and social and spatial mobility, as well as the relationships between language, gender, and sexuality. He is currently completing a monograph on vernacular literacies in contemporary Cairo, Egypt.

Ada Agada holds a PhD from the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, Nigeria, and is a Research Fellow of the Conversational School of Philosophy at the University of Calabar in Cross River State, Nigeria. He has published numerous articles in national and international journals. In 2015, his highly original work Existence and Consolation: Reinventing Ontology, Gnosis and Values in African Philosophy was named as a 2015 Choice/American Association of College and Research Libraries’ Outstanding Academic Title (OAT). Dr Agada specialises in African philosophy, metaphysics and existentialism. He is currently working on a book that brings African, Western and Oriental philosophies into an intercultural dialogue. He is also a poet and novelist. He is an exponent and major proponent of consolationism, a 21st-century African philosophical synthesis that seeks to describe the universe in terms of what he calls ‘consolation’.

Jodi Mikalachki is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Burundi. A Canadian by birth and upbringing, she holds a doctorate from Yale University, and has taught in the United States, Kenya and Burundi. She writes about national stories, with a particular interest in questions of gender and violence. Exploring how communities find passages through violence, she reflects on nonviolent social and aesthetic practices of solidarity. She is currently working on a novel set in the cyclical violence of post-colonial Burundi which follows individuals, families and the nation as they negotiate trauma and the ruptures it leaves in their histories. Bringing together characters from different Burundian social groups as well as foreign missionaries, it examines the fascinations, dangers, impasses and opportunities of cross-cultural relationships.

Thando Mgqolozana is a novelist. His books include A Man Who is Not a Man (2009), Hear Me Alone (2011), and Unimportance (2014). He was selected as one of the 100 Most Influential Africans (2016), awarded the Mandela Rhodes (2006) and Canon Collins (2018) scholarships. His is the co-author of Inxeba: The Wound (2018), an Oscar-shortlisted, record breaking film; and he is the founder of Abantu Book Festival, a hallmark annual literary event staged in Soweto.

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