25 Years

Transnational Knowledge Production

This research circle grew from the ongoing collaborations among scholars at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the University of Minnesota, as well as colleagues at the University of Fort Hare. It reflects shared intellectual and research agendas on the future of the humanities and its relation to the debate about the altered demands on and of the modern university.

Over the years, ICGC and the Centre for Humanities Research at UWC have fostered exploration of and ongoing conversation about several research platforms and themes such as the program on the study of the humanities in Africa, the project on war and the everyday, the aesthetics and politics study circle, the African program in museum and heritage studies, and the cities in transition project. These have been drawn together to pose a larger set of questions pertaining to the future of the humanities through a series of ongoing winter schools that bring together graduate students and faculty across the three institutions.

Our ongoing collaborative activities have led this research group to focus on a more careful formulation of the meaning of apartheid and on a reconsideration of what it might mean to engage with this term specifically with regard to its consequences for the current debate on the humanities. At the very core of its inquiry is the belief that apartheid has been inadequately theorized, and that a more careful elaboration of its presuppositions may lead us to new research possibilities in the humanities. Such possibilities help to reorient scholarship on the relationship of the humanities, academic institutions, and museums to debates in the public sphere about issues such as race, identity, community, citizenship, and power in Africa and in the postcolonial world. These in turn are part of broader debates on the ways in which knowledge in and about Africa is produced, how it is disseminated, and how it is received, particularly in the United States, and a shared commitment to new intellectual exchanges in which Africa is both a site and a producer of contested knowledge.

A second set of questions engaging participants in this research circle has been collected under a theme of "love and revolution." Nationalist struggles since the 1960s, certainly in Africa, suggest the transformation of individual subjectivities in the midst of political struggle and social change. More generally, there are deployments of revolutionary language to express the personal, and narratives of affect to lay claim to the political and the economic. It would seem that ‘love’ is a knowledge-producing event. There are shared revolutionary texts and affect across territories, oceans and continents, producing transnational political-affective communities. But in transitioning from the colonial to the postcolonial, is there a loss of the revolutionary subject? Do forces such as structural adjustment, neoliberalism, the end of the Cold War and colonialism bring an end to revolution and maybe love, leaving a sense of abandonment, a nostalgia for retrospectively defined affective bonds, and for the homosocial worlds of resistance?

A series of three conferences convened around the theme of love and revolution have focused on how to approach knowledge production across epistemologies and geographies. The conferences have taken place at the University of the Western Cape, the University of Minnesota, and the Nehru National Museum and Library (Delhi).

Conferences

  • Love and Revolution IV, October 2012
  • Love and Revolution III, January 2012
  • Love and Revolution II, March 31–April 2, 2011 (Conference Program)
  • Love and Revolution I

Contact

Helena Pohlandt-McCormick
Mellon Research Chair
Department of History
pohla001@umn.edu