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Researchers engage with theoretical ideas about archive and public culture, while, in the same instant, giving close attention to the record. In the spirit of trans-disciplinary exchange, the project brings together scholars from across the humanities and social sciences, while also supporting research on archive in the fields of science, law and medicine. As part of UCT’s drive to enhance the quality of post-graduate training, it assembles emerging researchers and students alongside well-established thinkers, providing a supportive space for the testing of ideas.

National Research Foundation (NRF) Chairs are charged with nurturing a new generation of high-performing researchers and academics. In an effort to vivify this vision of human capital development, the Initiative is structured around intensive post-graduate engagement, mentoring and support for junior academic staff, underpinned by sustained pedagogical reflection and experimentation.  
‘I have been privy to many ongoing seminars in my time, including the one I run at the Michigan Institute. I have never seen a more free, non-hierarchical space than this. African graduate students feel utterly free to think out loud, everybody talks, and talks on point, there is a sense of comradeship in mission while also plenty of argument, controversy, difference in position… The point is to make work in progress better, to have it progress. And I think, around the table, this happens for all….Here both advisor and student seem to share a pact that thinking out of the box deepens the message, that writing is something to be pored over by many different kinds of readers, that freedom of thought is a good thing.’

Professor Daniel Herwitz, Honorary Research Fellow

The development of an active cross-institutional, trans-disciplinary research group comprising senior established scholars, new academics, post-doctoral fellows, doctoral, masters and honours students, as well as research-active professionals in cognate institutions and practitioners in public life, underpins a collaborative approach to developing an active teaching and learning environment within a research context.

The Research Initiative promotes a number of pedagogical innovations designed to build research capacity and to foster critical, independent enquiry. These include schooling students in relevant theory by encouraging a breadth of familiarity and depth of systematic engagement through careful reading of selected works, developing analytical skills, honing methodologies and driving processes of writing up and publishing research.

The research programme is structured around quarterly research workshops; a directed reading group; a weekly seminar; monthly supervision meetings, with systematically generated supervision records; structured co-supervisions; multi-year core funding and independently raised top-up funding; conference attendance promotion and publication support.

Networks are developed and sustained through the participation of national and international honorary research fellows who are regular visitors, research partners on sub-projects and student consultants. In these ways the Research Initiative welds graduate students and advanced researchers into a mutually supportive, diverse but focused research group - an active community of practice, breaking the research isolation often typical in the Humanities.

'Having just completed another three-day Archive and Public Culture workshop, I'd like to applaud its character. It struck me as being a kind of "republic" in the sense that the space is democratic, but also one that blurs the boundaries between the arts, humanities, public and private life, since some of the students and faculty come from civil society (working for the city on heritage, having former lives in poster art/struggle politics, art writing...). To achieve this level of cohesion and focus among a group of students coming from such diverse backgrounds is impressive.'                                                

Professor David William Cohen, Honorary Research Fellow