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JIAS Facility

Conferences, Seminars and Colloquiums

Jias hosts academic conferences, seminars and colloquia on some of the most important questions and topics in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. These events are held at our beautiful facility in Westdene and sometimes at various venues at the University of Johannesburg campus in Auckland Park. 

The conferences, seminars and symposia that JIAS organises and hosts on cutting edge research in the natural sciences and humanities has attracted participation of major scholars in the relevant fields. For instance, the three-months colloquium on ‘Why the Brain Matters’ was attended by more than 50 leading experts in the field from 27 countries. Some of the seminars JIAS has organised have been on subjects such as the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Future of Work which brought in leaders from business, trade unions, government and the academy; on Opioids and Harm Reduction; on Decolonisation and Big Data Analytics; on Language Policy in Multilingual Societies; on Computational History; on Land Reform; on Epidemics and Health Systems in Africa; a colloquium on Digital Finance in Africa which was attended by banking executives, government leaders, tech developers and academics.


Due to COVID-19 there were no major events.


Department of Politics and International Relations

Language, Culture and Colonization: The 3rd JIAS Conference on the Legacies of Colonialism and Imperialism


Date: 2-4 September 2019
Venue: Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study, 1 Tolip Street, Westdene, Johannesburg, South Africa

Convenors David Boucher, University of Johannesburg and Ayesha Omar, Witwatersrand University.

Colonialism and Imperialism imposed alien cultures and languages on their subject peoples with the consequence that the legacy in each society, or nation, to varying degrees, was a process of ‘Creolization’ giving rise to cultures and languages with mixed origins. Contemporary decolonisation movements confront this tendency by calling for the reassertion of indigenous practices and languages. The aim of this third JIAS conference on colonialism and imperialism is to explore the effects of ‘creolization’ and to investigate the respects in which they have been both negative and positive, particularly in the areas of language and culture.  Two of the most influential theorists and activists in the national liberation movements of the 1960s and ’70s, for example, took opposing view on the use of the colonizer’s language. For Frantz Fanon, an endemic aspect of the destructive process of colonisation was the acquisition of the coloniser’s language. He contends: ‘A man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language’. Cabral, on the other hand views language in purely instrumental terms. Portuguese, for him, was not a threat to the culture of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, ‘because language isn’t evidence of anything, but an instrument for men to relate with one another, a means for speaking, to express realities of life and of the world.’ Cabral argues that ‘we of the Party, if we want to lead our people forward for a long time to come – to write, to advance in science – our language has to be Portuguese’.

The organisers welcome expressions of interest with abstracts of proposed papers exploring issues of culture and language in relation to decolonization. 

Deadline 15 May, 2019.

Please send them to: and

State of Dis-ease

The study of health and illness raises questions at the very heart of our humanity: questions of how we live and die. Health is neither purely medical, nor a purely biological question. Instead, it holds profound implications for our social lives, surfacing patterns of power and privilege, puzzles of mind and body, as well as practices of care and healing. Studies of health and illness have significant instrumental value for us all: helping us to advance justice, improve lives, inform policy and stave off suffering. But they also hold intrinsic importance. To investigate illness is to force a confrontation with human fragility: it is to wrestle with the fact that human life, with all its ingenuity and imagination, is lived with the constraints of a body.

In March 2019, The Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS) held a workshop, launching a project on South African health and illness, titled State of Dis-ease. The workshop provided an opportunity for researchers, practitioners, artists and the public to engage in genuine collaboration, that combined and transcended disciplines.


Workshop on ‘Teaching IR Globally’ 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 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?

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. Based on Bangor University’s ‘Visceral Mind’ programme, it was aimed at postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers as well as academic staff with a background and interest in cognition, emotion, and mental health. It comprised sessions of anatomical drawing, followed by supervised observation of brain prosections. Students practised the drawing and labelling of core brain structures. They also visited the Hunterian Museum of Anatomy at Wits University. 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. 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 also a previous editor of the journal Neuropsychoanalysis. The workshop was fully subscribed, and was very successful.


South Africa’s Strategic Role in Africa

On 12-14 July 2017, the South African Council on International Relations (SACOIR) held the first of three interactive seminars about South Africa’s place, role and standing in Africa.

Organised by the SACOIR working group on Africa, the seminar series is aimed at engaging with experts in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), other relevant state actors, and analysts in academia and the
non-state sector to assist it with:

  • Examining and assessing South Africa’s current role and
    standing in Africa;
  • Determining its will and capacity to lead Africa’s renewal
    in governance, development and security; and
  • Recommending appropriate steps to decision-makers in
    government and the non-state sector for achieving these objectives.
    The event was co-hosted by JIAS as well as the School of Governance
    of the University of the Witwatersrand.


Decolonisation and Big Data Analytics

On 17 August 2017, JIAS and the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) at UJ hosted the first in a four-part seminar series on ‘The Challenge of Big Data’. Prof Saurabh Sinha, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, spoke on ‘Decolonisation and Big Data analytics’. More than 60 people attended.


A seminar titled International Relations and its Theory: An End? Whose End? was held on the 6 March 2016, and presentations were made by Dr Siphamandla Zondi (Institute for Global Dialogue associated with UNISA), Dr David Hornsby (University of the Witwatersrand), Professor Peter Sutch (Cardiff University) and Dr Vineet Thakur (University of Johannesburg).

Annual Colloquium

From 12 September – 2 December 2016, JIAS will host its first annual colloquium, on “Why the Brain Matters”. The colloquium will be divided into four consecutive three-week sessions, namely:

  • Brain Studies: History and Emerging Issues (12-30 September, 2016);
  • The Cognitive Brain (3-21 October, 2016);
  • The Creative Brain (24 October – 11 November 2016); and
  • The Social Brain (14 November – 2 December 2016).

The first week of each session were devoted to seminars led by global authorities in their fields; the second, to reflection and public outreach; and the third to writing. Lectures were delivered by scholars from South Africa, the United States, the United Kingdom, various European countries, Australia and Singapore.


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