APC October-November 2018 Research Development Workshop

24 Dec 2018 - 14:00
Caption: Thokozani Mhlambi and Luis Gimenez Amoros performing at the launch of Gimenez's book at Byblos Cafe. (Photo Courtesy of Thokozani Mhlambi)


The APC's second research development workshop of 2018 took place from 31 October to 2 November at a new venue, Inyathelo in Woodstock.  The open, bright, spacious seminar room was a welcome change and proved conducive for both our workshop discussions and the book event which followed.  This research workshop epitomised the now-customary critical and engaging discussions of pre-circulated work-in-progress across disciplines and academic expertise, yet also encompassed a remarkable walk-about through an art exhibition and two book events, making it especially noteworthy.

On day one, the question of expertise—who claims it, how it is claimed, what is presented as 'evidence' of it, and who decides—permeated the discussion. In Susana Molins Lliteras' paper it was framed in relation forgery and the 'skills' of forensics, while in Saarah Jappie's it concerned the different types of people—and archives—that produce knowledge of Shaykh Yusuf both in Indonesia and South Africa.  Leslie Witz's paper, epitomised a history 'expert' looking back on the journey of expertise, and how ideas of it change, from 'popular,' to 'communal,' and the unintended consequences of archives.  Similar questions on the paradigms of 'evidence' and 'skills' were raised in the discussion on curation—its inherent violence and possibilities of healing—in Tracey Randle's paper, and in Henry Fagan's paper, in relation to how a concept such as 'trade' could be constructed at a different time and through a different lens.  The last formal session of the day included two papers on the FHYA, a flagship project of the APC, in the context of the digital humanities and curation, and the possibilities of a technological intervention disrupting the concept of 'archive.'  We ended the day with a tour by Gerald Machona of his "Greener Pastures" exhibition at the Goodman Gallery, a hauntingly beautiful exploration of questions mobility, belonging and 'tradition' through sculpture and photography.  

Day two brought into focus the question of 'voice' and its multifaceted manifestations.  Litheko Modisane's paper was a prime example of how to make an 'local language' concept do work while Rehana Odendaal's placed the focus on the refining the notions of the 'popular' in relation to the 'public' in the context of the university.  Steven Kotze and Regina Sarreiter's papers concentrated on the issue of the 'collection'—how/when a collection is constituted, the effects of curation, and again going back to the theme of the first day, the role of 'expertise' in its creation, reconstitution and display.  Questions of praxis as research and methodology, when theory becomes practice, were salient to Nashilongweshipwe Sakaria's  presentation of his PhD proposal, while Katleho Shoro's paper grappled with notions of indigeneity and sensibility in our current context.  The day ended with a book event where Vibeke Viestad, in conversation with Erica de Greef, launched her recent publication, Dress as Social Relations: An Interpretation of Bushman Dress (Wits University Press, 2018), an exploration of the meanings of the bodily practice of dress through research on both material culture and oral narratives.

During the final day, the theme of 'praxis', latent during previous discussion, surfaced with force, accompanied by questions of temporalities.  Camalita Naicker's papers offered a theoretical apparatus to explore the sedimentations of political praxis in the present from the past, while Ayanda Mahlaba's surfaced the tensions inherent applying linear concepts of time and history to inter-generational memory and transmission of knowledge about the past.  John Wright and Cynthia Kros' historiographical paper similarly raised questions of what are considered as historical 'sources' and 'evidence,' while Carolyn Hamilton's demonstrated her hesitation with the idea of differentiation of categories of 'evidence' while making a theoretical argument about using political praxis discursively.  Himal Ramji's PhD proposal exploded the question of temporalities by attempting to write a history of the future in South Africa while Thokozani Mhlambi's paper explored the possibilities opened by a local concept for expert, like that of Inyanga, as a method and archive of the sonic.  We concluded the day with a focus on the sonic, with Annette Hoffman's paper highlighting the operation of 'opacity' in the archive of recordings of POW's and Lee Watkins presenting the work of the International Library of African Music at RU and the complexities of working with a 'colonial' music/sonic archive.  Finally, we ended the workshop with the launch of Luis Gimenez Amoros' book Tracing the Mbira Sound Archive in Zimbabwe (Routledge Focus, 2018), punctuated by his performance of mbira music, exemplifying once again questions of praxis as method.