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Rhodes University :: Thinking Africa
Magazines | Education 2011-07-04 04:27:38
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    A project of Rhodes University's Department of Political and International Studies

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    Thinking Africa Origins In early 2010, the Department of Political and International Studies at Rhodes University launched its flagship project, Thinking Africa. The project seeks to unify a number of national, institutional, research and teaching related demands in a coherent post-graduate project that will, among other things, encourage post-graduate students to participate more actively in the various research projects of staff members. All the projects relate to Africa in some way, but each project has its own particular focus and approach. In launching this project, we are sufficiently ambitious to seek not only to contribute to existing academic work on Africa, but also to contribute to critical attempts to rethink the study of Africa. We anticipate that this closer collaboration between academics and post-graduate students will result in peer-reviewed publications, either solely authored by students participating in the various research projects, or as co-authored in collaboration with the project leaders. 1

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    2 Thinking Africa Intellectual Project In line with thinkers like Edward Said, Michel Foucault and V.Y. Mudimbe, Thinking Africa recognises that knowledge and power are intimately and inextricably linked. Knowledge can therefore never be neutral or apolitical, and this notion takes on particular urgency in the fractured and contested studies of Africa, be it in the fields of politics, history, sociology or philosophy. The study of the continent has been largely rooted in colonialism and imperialism and, to some degree, remains shaped by these forces. These roots have led to various fractures in African Studies; the most deepest cleft being between those (usually externallylocated) scholars that see Africa as the object of study, and those scholars that see themselves as part of an African community, producing knowledge for that community. At Thinking Africa we believe that the continent ought not to be treated as a laboratory where theories and models developed from the study of other parts of the world can simply be applied. Nor should it be treated as if its difficulties and triumphs were somehow exceptional and specific only to Africa. Rather, research on Africa should contribute both to our understanding of Africa and to our understanding of the broader human condition. Furthermore, while the study of Africa should lend itself to practical application in response to various "problems", research Lewis Gordon Patrick Chabal Gill Hart Michael O. Eze Michael Neocosmos

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    should not be reduced to a narrow concern with "problem-solving" at the expense of more general concern with the human condition. We do not believe that one has to choose between "solving problems" and generating new theory. At Thinking Africa we believe that we can systematically and thematically address what seems to be most urgent while generating original and exciting theory. In line with this, Thinking Africa will: 1. Profile African Studies at Rhodes * Create a hub of cutting-edge teaching and research in African studies; and * Encourage young researchers to study in South Africa by initiating collaborations with internationally acclaimed scholars who are aligned with the project as "Thinking Africa Associate Fellows". 2. Increase research output * Promote teaching-led research in which post-graduate students are encouraged to join academics in a collaborative, critical and collegial series of research projects for publication. 3. Share knowledge; produce knowledge * Fundamentally rethink the relationship between teaching and learning by exploring a combination of teaching-led research and research-led teaching. Raj Patel Bruce Baker Jane Gordon Grant Farred Chrissie Boughey Siba Grovogui 3

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    4 Teaching, learning, and Thinking Africa As Rhodes University increasingly positions itself as research intensive institution, we are required to consider how this ideal is to be pursued without compromising the university's reputation for outstanding teaching. Although often presented as two separate core activities of the university, most academics will agree that the distinction between "research" and "teaching" is really analytical. As scholarly activities they are related in complex and nuanced ways. One of the primary aims of Thinking Africa is to rethink the nature and role of teaching in a context that increasingly emphasises the importance of research. We aim to do this through an exploration of "teaching-led research" and "researchled teaching". In both these models teaching becomes less content driven and includes demonstrative aspects about how to conduct research. In so doing Thinking Africa aims to re-invigorate both teaching and research as collaborative and participatory processes. The ultimate goal of the research-based teaching we envisage for Thinking Africa is that it will enable a new generation of (South) African intellectuals to think and act independently as researcher and to act as a models for future generations of African Studies students.

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    * * * * Research project(s) Public lecture Colloquium Winter school Thinking Africa Annual Programme Each year, a selection of national and international scholars whose research interests are aligned with the Thinking Africa project for that year, will come to Rhodes and participate in a public lecture and a three-day colloquium with some staying on in order to teach a summer or winter school on the same topic. Our launch programme for 2011 gives an idea of the programme that will be repeated annually. Thinking Africa Publications The importance of publishing world-class scholarship not only on Africa, but also from Africa, cannot be overestimated. Thinking Africa recognises the urgency not only to produce and disseminate such research, and as such will publish an annual Thinking Africa book series. This book series will be the result of 5

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    6 Launch programme overview 6-15 and 25-31 July 2011 * Public Lecture - 6 July: To be delivered by V.Y. Mudimbe * Colloquium "Fanon: 50 Years Later" - 7-9 July * Winter school - 11-15 July * Post-graduate writing workshops - 25-27 and 28-31 July. Presented in association with the Rhodes Humanities Faculty * Mind of the Oppressed - 13 Week Post-graduate course on Fanon. Research project leader: Richard Pithouse the work produced at each annual (or bi-annual) colloquium and will be edited by the relevant project leader. In addition to this core research output, Thinking Africa has also introduced other fringe outputs. We have initiated weekly reading groups centred on the current year's selected theme. The reading group is well-supported by academics and postgraduate students from a range of disciplines. Thinking Africa has also started an online blog, which encourages intellectual discussion and reflection on the reading group. The blog also provides a useful forum for students to practice and hone their writing skills whilst getting constructive feedback from readers through the blog's comment facility.

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    Thinking Africa Steering Committee Thinking Africa People Professor Leonhard Praeg has published books on African Philosophy and on Collective Violence in post-colonial Africa. He has been the recipient of the (Rhodes University) Vice-Chancellors' Distinguished Teaching Award (2006) and the (Rhodes University) Vice Chancellor's Book Award for The Geometry of Violence (2007). His research interests include African Philosophy, Complexity Theory and the work of Continental Theorists. 7

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    8 Sally Matthews is currently a senior lecturer in the Department of Political and International Studies. Her research interests include post-development theory, race and reconciliation in South Africa and poverty and privilege. She teaches African Studies and Comparative Politics. Richard Pithouse studied philosophy in Durban. He writes on and teaches contemporary political theory and the urban crisis in South Africa. He has a long standing interest in the work of Frantz Fanon and regularly contributes to newspapers around South Africa. Mike Mavura was a doctoral student at Rhodes in 2011. His research draws on his interest in cross border migration in Southern Africa (particularly between Zimbabwe and South Africa) and how that's linked to identity, citizenship, development and statehood. Mavura has co-taught international relations in the Department of Political and International Studies. Siphokazi Magadla joined the Department of Political and International Relations in January 2011. She teaches Introduction to International Relations, and African security and development. Her research interests are the security-development nexus in post-conflict Africa, the role of the African Diaspora in postconflict reconstruction, women in peace and security, and South African foreign policy.

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    Some Thinking Africa Associate Fellows (2011) Ato Sekyi-Otu is Professor Emeritus in the Division of Social Science and the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought at York University, Toronto, Canada. Originally Ghanaian, Sekyi-Out is an oft discussed writer on Franz Fanon, and frequently writes about African literature and social thought. Chrissie Boughey is Dean of Teaching and Learning at Rhodes University. Chrissie came to South Africa in 1999 after spending many years teaching English as a second/foreign language in places such as Spain, the Middle East and the United Kingdom. Patrick Chabal is Chair in African History and Politics at Kings College London. His research has been concentrated on the political analysis of contemporary Africa within the framework of the comparative study of the developing world, as well as the postcolonial history, politics and literature of Portuguesespeaking Africa. Chabal continues his research on the modern history of Africa, with a special interest in the comparative analysis of the continent since independence. 9

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