APC’s April 2019 Research Development Workshop
The APC’s first research development workshop of 2019 took place from 10 to 12 April at Inyathelo in Woodstock. This workshop was followed by another APC event, “Entangled Oralities,” which was held the following week. Following similar formats, both events highlighted the productiveness of critical and engaging discussions of pre-circulated work-in-progress across disciplines and academic expertise. The presence of our special guests for both events, Prof. Karin Barber and Dr. Paulo de Moraes Farias (University of Birmingham, UK), exemplified how fruitful and cross-fertilising collaborative discussions can arise between highly experienced academics and emerging young researchers based on different continents.
We began the first day with an introduction to the work of both of our guests, whose research grounded in Nigeria and Mali strongly resonated with many of the themes of interest to APC’s researchers, especially in this workshop. Karin’s work on early African print cultures was especially relevant to new research proposed by MA and PhD students on Day 2, while both Karin and Paulo’s work on ‘organic’ or ‘contact’ intellectuals would prove to be one of the unifying leitmotifs of the workshop, as several papers discussed different aspects of the ‘mediating’, ‘brokerage’ and ‘innovative’ roles played by these figures at different points in time. Susana Molins Lliteras’ paper, with the discussion of a palimpsest as ‘unreadable’ source, opened another thread of discussion on the nature the ‘work’ done by different kinds of ‘evidence,’ while John Wright’s paper raised questions of how to write ‘decolonial’ histories with the type of evidence found in the James Stuart papers, as the case of Thununu.
Questions of temporality, and the ‘enfoldedness’ of time were highlighted by several papers. Firstly, in relation to working with the digital object as a new epistemological regime in the one on the FHYA by Carolyn Hamilton and Grant McNulty; and in Himal Ramji’s PhD proposal on discursive modes of producing the past and the future. Daniel Dix’s MA proposal and Anandaroop Sen’s paper looked at questions of the languages of governance and ‘governmentability’; the former in magistrates courts and the latter in British expeditions and the frontiers of colonial India. Day 2 continued with similar themes from the previous day. The discussion on the first two papers highlighted the possibilities opened when what qualifies and is taken as sources are interrogated and expanded to include other ‘brokers’ as intellectual producers; in Abigail Moffett and Simon Hall’s paper in relation to 19th c. ethnographic sources and in Henry Fagan’s chapter in his ‘source criticism’ of the historiography of southern eastern Africa’s late independent era.
Wade Smit’s intriguing MA proposal returned to the thread of the palimpsest, this time in relation to place and raised the question of language and translation in the academic journey. Sizakele Gumede’s MA proposal and Tomohiri Kambayashi’s paper explored other aspects of ‘brokerage;’ the former through Harriet Colenso’s relationship with Dinuzulu and the Zulu royal house and the latter through an examination of Zulu essay competitions in the first half of the 1900s. ‘Cobbling’ as methodology, of historical narratives, of theoretical approaches, was another theme highlighted in this workshop, surfaced by Ayanda Mahlaba’s paper on his Gogo’s narrative as ‘matriarchive.’ The second day ended with a stimulating discussion on the expressions of interest of new research by Sibusiso Nkomo, Luvuyo Kiti and Precious Bikitsha centred on the early vernacular black press, its contribution to the formation of opinion, public debates, the circulation of ideas and their ‘take up’ in other mediums.
The last day of the workshop began with the question of what constitutes ‘intellectual work’ and how can we identify it, its effects, reception, and textual proliferation, in the discussion on Billy Keniston’s paper on the 1972 Schlebusch Commission. Similar questions in relation to the university as an institution and the ‘public space’ it occupies surfaced in Rehana Odendaal’s conclusions to her MA thesis, while Katleho Shoro’s paper discussed issues around the ‘work’ that poetry teaching does in the classroom. The discussion on Lebogang Mokwena’s paper continued with this thread, how the ‘work’ of museums becomes tangible and how it is shaped by the discursive field around it, while the museum is itself a palimpsest of different periods. Greer Valley’s PhD proposal returned to the question of the ‘decolonial’ but this time in the museum, what would its praxis be in this context. The last two papers of the workshop surfaced some of the themes from the previous days. Thokozani Mhlambi’s on sound archives again retuned to the question of ‘brokerage,’ this time in relation to music and the forms of amplification and recording technologies needed for preservation, which constitute its ‘archival’ turn. Finally, Nashilongweshipwe Sakaria’s contribution ended with some other archival questions, oudano as an ‘ephemeral’ archive of remainders, of the tension and juxtapositions and of the ‘work’ that it does.