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Wrapping up 2019

17 Dec 2019 - 13:00
Photo at APC’s year-end lunch. Photo courtesy of Ayanda Mahlaba.
Photo at APC’s year-end lunch. Photo courtesy of Ayanda Mahlaba.


2019 was an exciting, jam-packed year for the APC, notable for the number of research papers and theses produced and for the realisation of the first significant results from the APC’s investment in its digital humanities initiative, the Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA) project.

The FHYA completed its work experimenting with the leading open source archival software Atom, and handed its customised system over to the designers of Atom, Artefactual, for fine tuning. Post-doc on the FHYA project, Dr. Grant McNulty, and project PI, Prof. Carolyn Hamilton, wrote up their critique of Atom. It forms the spine of their contribution to a coming Routledge Handbook of the Decolonial Digital Humanities.

The critique of Atom underpins the FHYA’s new collaboration with UCT computer scientist and digital archive specialist, Prof. Hussein Suleman, set in motion in 2019. This is designed to produce a low-resource alternative to Atom, geared to the conceptual needs of researchers in the global south. The first trials of this system using the FHYA material commenced in November, with this new iteration of the FHYA officially christened Emandulo. In 2020, challenges of the new approach which this system entails will be tackled in projects by Computer Science Honours students working with Prof. Suleman.

November also saw the launch of a new series of graduate student projects to be featured on Emandulo, including Ayanda Mahlaba’s “Reading Ilanga” project, Benathi Marufu’s research on the archive/curation nexus in relation to Digital Curation, Henry Fagan’s Online Bibliography, and Daniel Dix’s work with Carolyn Hamilton on an experimental online curation of a research paper on public deliberative activity in colonial Natal in the Responsible Government period. Watch this space!  

The FHYA launched its collaboration with three other regional digital archives projects, under the umbrella of the multi-institutional Mellon-funded Afridig initiative. In 2019 the collaboration involved two joint workshops, a joint fieldtrip and a variety of spin-off projects from the collaboration.

In 2019 the APC held two well-attended Research Development Workshops, as well as the Entangled Oralities workshop, featuring some fifty pre-circulated papers by novice and veteran researchers from a wide range of disciplines, local and international, as well as numerous performances. APC researchers and students also participated actively in the History Department’s two History Access Graduate Conferences.  APC researchers and students presented work in many other fora, much of which has been reported in the earlier Gazettes and elsewhere in this Gazette. Notable achievements of 2019 include the graduation of three APC doctoral students, Tebogo George Mahashe, Erica de Greef and Carine Zaayman (the latter in this December graduation).

The APC post-docs likewise each notched up substantial achievements. The FHYA progress is due in large measure to the work of Dr. Grant McNulty, ably supported by archival content manager Debra Pryor and project manager Rifqah Kahn. Dr. Susana Molins Lliteras organised all the workshops and produced a draft book manuscript which will go to press early in the new year. In 2019 she was an African Studies Association Presidential scholar and rounded off a productive year with a high-powered lecture tour of the USA organised under the auspices of the ASA. The highlight of Dr. Thokozani Mhlambi’s year of work was the extraordinarily accomplished and exciting performances of Early African Intellectuals as Composers of Music. Congratulations are also due to Dr. Duane Jethro for the publication of the book that was the focus of his earlier post-doc with the APC. Further details on all of this elsewhere in this gazette.

The APC was an active partner - some of us as teachers and others as students - in the development of a new History department graduate course, History in Public Life, offered for the first time in 2019. APC research associate Cynthia Kros reports on this landmark development in more detail in this Gazette. 2019 also saw the APC take initial steps in developing working relations with History Curriculum designers and History teachers in developing new materials for use in schools.

All in all, 2019 was a remarkably productive year, with all of this achieved on a shoe-string core budget. We wish everyone a well-deserved rest over the break. Happy holidays!