THE CONSTITUTION OF PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL LIFE PROJECT
The Constitution of Public Intellectual Life Project was a trans-discipinary research project at the University of the Witwatersrand, 2004 – 2008. It pioneered a model of postgraduate research based on a supportive research context for doctoral fellows, and occasionally Masters and Honours students. Through intensive research workshops, extended publications and publication preparation support, conference attendance, and paper presentation, the Project put students at the centre of the learning process. The students worked closely with their advisers and peers, bridging the gap between isolated studentship and actual academic citizenship. The success of these arrangements is attested to by the high levels of student publication, excellent peer reviews, and in the quality of the research as evinced by examinersí reports.
Parts of the wider effects of the Constitution of Public Intellectual Life Research Project are to be found in the work of Journalism and Media Studies graduate programme at the University of the Witwatersrand. Public intellectual life is a topic with special interest for journalists and other media practitioners. Indeed some theorists argue that, in the contemporary world, the media are the public sphere. The Project partnered with the Journalism and Media Studies Programme in a joint research focus on Media and Public Debate. For the work of the ongoing Media and Public Debate focus, under the leadership of Lesley Cowling, consult the Media Observatory at www.journalism.co.za. Through this partnership, the Project was able to add its research capacities to the journalism programme and to participate in the development pipeline within a field often weighted in favour of developing professional competencies.
The findings of the Project were presented, inter alia, at the conference, Paradoxes of the Postcolonial Sphere: South African Democracy at the Crossroads held from 28 to 31 January 2008 at the University of the Witwatersrand. Research papers from the conference were published in two special symposia of the journal, Social Dynamics, Vol. 35, 2, September 2009, and Vol. 36, 1, March 2010. Research was also presented in post-graduate theses and in further publications.