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Graduate Study 2015-2016, Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative, UCT

In 2015-6 the research initiative of the NRF chair in Archive and Public Culture, in collaboration with the Department of History, will run a special focus on questions of archive and the longue durée of southern African history. In so doing we are especially interested in what it means to pay attention to the role within the long durée of the often neglected eras of the southern African past before European colonialism.

The special focus is wide-ranging in scope, concerned both with life in the past, and what people know or think, or have known and thought, about life in the past. It attempts to think about what has been termed “the precolonial” beyond the strictures of prepositional time. Academic orthodoxies teach us to approach it as distant, as an evacuated experience, and as a domain of specialists. And yet, our everyday scenes are stamped by its uncanny fecundity, its untheorised proximity, and its entangled lives in the contemporary.  In a variety of different ways – imaginatively, expansively, subjectively, critically, affectively – artists, writers, family and clan historians, politicians and intellectuals engage the body of inherited materials that academics and lawyers use as “sources”, often with very different purposes, from the celebratory through the denunciatory to the parodic.  All of these engagements, by historians, artists and others, with the eras of the past before European colonialism, and with the ways in which the colonial and apartheid eras dealt with the earlier periods contribute to contemporary understandings and meanings of the past and fall within the purview of the special focus. 

The special focus thus involves critical engagement with the making of the available archive and its constraints, as well as with the historical development of specialised disciplinary apparatuses as appropriate for the investigation of the remote past.  The approach is concerned with both the production of the past across time, and the possibilities of new lines of enquiry into, and engagement with, the past.

Prospective post docs and graduate students at all levels who are interested in working in this area are welcome to propose research projects of their own, or to undertake research within existing projects.

Existing projects in the APC pertinent to this focus include the NRF Chair, Prof. Carolyn Hamilton’s critical enquiry into “Ethnologised Pasts and Archival Futures,” the multi-institutional digital project, “The Five Hundred Year Archive” run by APC post-doc, Dr. Grant McNulty; and APC senior researcher Dr. Mbongiseni Buthelezi’s project on “Oral Literature, the Archive and Making Meaning of the Past in Post-apartheid South Africa”.  There are also a number of projects, and supervision possibilities outside of the APC at UCT that offer opportunities to students who join the APC.  Prospective students are encouraged to look at relevant research being undertaken at in the History department by, amongst others, Nigel Penn, Shamil Jeppie, Bodhisattva Kar, Anne Mager, Maanda Malaudzi, Mohamed Adhikhari, and Nigel Worden.  Relevant research is also being undertaken in archaeology by Simon Hall, Shadrack Chirikure and John Parkington; in African Studies by Lungisile Ntsebeza, Nick Shepherd and historiographer Chris Saunders; in Fine Art by Pippa Skotnes; and in Linguistics by Matthias Brenzinger and Ana Deumert.  See also the Department of Library and Information Science’s MA in Digital Curation, which offers coursework in digital curation principles, theory and philosophy alongside specialisations in information architecture, metadata and technology platforms.

Successful applicants will receive core NRF funding via the Chair and may be eligible for top up funding from other sources. The primary academic home of the student will be in the APC, and will include access to research facilities and other forms of support. The APC seeks wherever possible to offer part-time work opportunities in the APC to APC graduate students.  Students would normally be expected to be present at UCT and to participate in the activities of the APC. These activities are designed to provide ongoing research support and to facilitate the development of the necessary cross-disciplinary familiarities and competencies that this kind of enquiry requires. Students will be registered in a home discipline and will need to meet the basic requirements of graduate study in that discipline. This is usually ensured through the mechanism of co-supervision between the APC and the home discipline. Where students undertake a Masters degree involving coursework, the courses will be selected from those available in the relevant disciplines.

Applications from any disciplinary base are welcome, including the various visual and performing arts. Where these occur in the disciplines historically concerned with the remote past, students should be prepared to engage in an intellectually critical way with the discipline’s methods and theory. Where these occur in disciplines which have not historically regarded this past as their object of focus, students should be prepared to develop an understanding of how it has been studied in the disciplines that have historically focused on that past.
Other relevant websites include (see especially the focus on ancestral stories) and

Dr. June Bam
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Tel: 27 21 6502077

SOURCE: APC website

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