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Postdoctoral Projects

Susana Molins Lliteras's  APC post-doctoral project revolves around a book project, which while based on her PhD dissertation, is being framed by a completely different set of inter-disciplinary questions. Departing from a wider theoretical lens, she is looking at the co-production of archive and public discourse about the manuscripts of Timbuktu as a whole, through the lens of a family library. While Timbuktu has recently become known as ‘the iconic archive’ used to signify indigenous African writing and knowledge production before the advent of colonialism, nevertheless, an older association of the city as an impossible-to-reach, almost mythical location still lingers in popular imagination. Today, Timbuktu’s fame as a site of learning in Africa known to both the Islamic world and the West is being ‘rediscovered’ through the popularisation of, and research on, its famed manuscript collections. However, one particular private, ‘family’ manuscript collection, the Fondo Kati, has deliberately positioned itself apart from other libraries in Timbuktu. In first place, it claims a unique genealogical heritage linked to medieval al-Andalus and by extension modern-day Spain. Secondly, it ascribes a central role, and importance, to the marginalia of the collection—as opposed to the main texts of the manuscripts themselves. The book contends that unless we understand the processes of the creation, reception and success of this archive in different contexts and by different publics, we will fail to appreciate how, despite apparent contradictions, the Fondo Kati reflects modalities of knowledge production in and about Timbuktu. Thus, the archival biography of the Fondo Kati presented in the book demonstrates how historical knowledge in and about Timbuktu is continuously produced, reproduced and refashioned. It privileges the imbrication of textual, written ‘evidence’ with the circulation of oral sources and stories, combining regimes of historicity and temporality.  This production of knowledge in and about Timbuktu similarly reveals a particular understanding of Africa, challenging notions of its ‘marginality’ and positionality in world history.

 

Ettore Morelli's research project aims at finding a new way to study and narrate the history of the Southern African Highveld in the centuries before colonialism. Building on a PhD thesis on the same subject, the postdoctoral research analyses a previously unknown set of so-called ‘traditions’ located by Ettore in archives in South Africa, Lesotho, and the United Kingdom. It proposes a new reading of old published travel accounts, showing the dynamics of African knowledge production that were embedded in these texts. It includes French missionary sources, hitherto under-employed by scholars working on Southern Africa. The final objective of the postdoctoral project is the publication of a monography on the political world of the Highveld between circa 1600 and circa 1850.

 

Grant McNulty was a post-doctoral researcher at the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative from 2015 – 2019. The core of his research during this time was the Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA) project, an early endeavour in the burgeoning field of the digital humanities. The FHYA is a conceptual innovation designed to stimulate multi-disciplinary, cross-institutional research and enquiry into the neglected eras of southern African history prior to European colonialism. It does this by asserting that an archive for the past before European colonialism does indeed exist and by developing an exemplar – in the form of an online research tool – that is able to support historical research and enquiry into these eras. While the post-doc with the APC has been completed, the project is on-going.