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The Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) was formed in 2006 following the closure of the Institute for Historical Research. Under the leadership of Professors Ciraj Rassool and Leslie Witz (UWC History Department), the Centre emerged as a space for reseach and study of the critical questions confronting the humanities in South Africa. At the heart of the CHR was the relocated History Department and Institute for Historical Studies Seminar Series which had been inaugurated in 1993 []. Renamed the South African Contemporary History and Humanities Seminar, the CHR built on the very solid reputation established by its early originators, Leslie Witz and Colin Bundy, and successive convenors that include Gary Minkley, Andrew Bank, Ciraj Rassool and Premesh Lalu.The newly established CHR was home to the Masters, Doctoral and Postdoctoral initiative called the Programme on the Study of the Humanities in Africa (PSHA) directed by Premesh Lalu and supported by an advisory board drawn from colleagues in the Faculty of Arts. With the support of a generous grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Ford Foundation, the PSHA brought together graduate fellows and faculty in a study of the foundational concepts of the humanities and their specific relation to the excercise of power in Africa. The contributions of postdoctoral fellows had a long-lasting impact on the formation of several research platforms in the CHR. These include research on themes such as War and the Everyday, Aesthetics and Politics, Cities in Transition, and Love and Revolution.

Since 2006, the CHR has emerged as a leading research hub in Southern Africa with an extensive international reach amongst scholars in the humanities. It has developed an extensive research collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) at the University of Minnesota, and partnered with the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies at the Open University (U.K.) for the 2009 Re-imagining Postcolonial Futures Conference. The CHR continues to attract a wide range of researchers and academics from Asia, North and South America, Europe and other parts of the African continent. One reason for the steady flow of academic exchange relates to the positioning of the CHR in the debates about nationalism, postcoloniality, disciplinary reason and the foundational concepts of the humanities in Africa. Discussions in the CHR are known for their commitment to theory, philosophy, and critique that enables us to think our way out of the legacies of authoritarianism.   

Since 2008, the CHR has developed an increasing interest in questions of politics and aesthetics. While some of the initial research focussed on the grids of intelligibility of making sense of the relationship between politics and aesthetics, we are now increasingly seeking to track the shifts from politics to aesthetics. The results of the research lends itself to expanding what can be said of the history of liberation struggles in Southern Africa while enabling research on building a new aesthetics in post-apartheid South Africa and postcolonial Africa. With this new emphasis, the CHR is developing productive partnerships with the Handspring Trust in the areas of performance studies and puppetry arts.

Completed Masters

Maurits van Bever Donker

Riedwaan Moosage

Mark Espin

Zulfa Abrahams

Completed Doctorates

Charles Mulinda Kabwete [Department of History]

Jill Weintroub

Ludivine Huet-Haupt




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