Reading groups meet regularly to tackle texts and topics germane to our field of enquiry. Using a combination of literature survey and close reading methods, the reading groups enable participants to gain familiarity with a wide range of material and to engage intensively with selected texts. Run along the lines of advanced seminars, the groups require participants from different disciplines to mine selected texts for crucial concepts and arguments that shape the terrain of critical archive enquiry. The idea is that participants then bring these new-found insights to bear on their own projects in innovative ways.
The reading groups elect their own topics on an ongoing basis. To date they have engaged questions of archive, memory, memorialisation, trauma and forgetting in relation to events like the Holocaust and 9/11, as well as South Africa’s present and past. Other topics have included notions of ‘the indigenous’ and silences in the archive. Texts that have come under our radar include Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever, Premesh Lalu’s Deaths of Hintsa, Giorgio Agamben’s Remnants of Auschwitz and Anne Laura Stoler’s Along the Archival Grain.
The reading group usually meets on Thursday mornings from 10.30am to 12.30pm.
2012 Reading Groups
This group will meet in 2012. It aims to survey the literatures on landscape across the disciplines including but not confined to literary theory, art, archaeology, anthropology, and establish a sense of the contemporary directions in the field.
New Perspectives on the Precolonial Past
Archive and Public Culture’s Precolonial Reading Group is a small, trans-disciplinary group that meets for an extended session after each APC quarterly research workshop. The group reads closely and discusses selected texts relevant to enquiry into the pre-industrial past. The reading group hosts external contributions and seeks to include input from scholars from a range of other disciplines. It also maintains contact with an informal reading group on the subject ‘Unpacking notions of precolonial pasts in southern Africa’ that has recently been set up by some historians and archaeologists at the University of the Witwatersrand, and aims for cross-fertilisation of ideas between the two groups.
One of the foci of the group is into how identity is handled in literature pertaining to precolonial southern Africa. Here the group has grappled with, amongst other things, the manner in which identity is recognised, treated, envisioned and managed within the discipline of archaeology using material culture, archaeology’s core evidential base. Another focus of enquiry is the question of how the study of past ‘societies’ and ‘communities’ as imagined into existence by archaeologists on the basis of excavated material remains can be articulated with the study of past societies and polities as identified by historians on the basis of evidence from recorded oral histories and from colonial documents
This reading group is directly linked to the development of multiple manuscripts: Simon Hall’s monograph on popular politics on the Highveld, Carolyn Hamilton’s study of identity and stratification in the Shakan kingdom, Hamilton and John Wright’s set of essays providing an overview of three decades of scholarship on the kingdoms of southern Africa, c.1750-1830, as well as Hall and Hamilton’s collaboration on cultural inheritances and the making of identity-based social categories in South Africa, c.1700-1840.
2011 Reading Groups
Interrogating the Concepts of Hybridity and Entanglement
This reading group, which ran from February to June 2011, comprised an exploration of key texts arising from the introduction to Sarah Nuttall's Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Post-apartheid (Witwatersrand University Press, 2009) in which she explores the concept of entanglement in relation to readings of literature, new media forms and painting, and moves ‘away from a persistent apartheid optic, drawing on ideas of sameness and difference, and their limits, in order to elicit ways of living and imagining that are just starting to take shape and for which we might not yet have a name’. Authors included: Homi Bhabha, Stuart Hall, Isabel Hofmeyr, Françoise Verges & Carpanin Marimoutou, Carolyn Hamilton, Leon de Kock, Mark Sanders, Michael Titlestad, Achille Mbembe, Paul Gilroy, Bill Brown, Annie Coombes and David Bunn. [For a detailed listing of specific texts and questions in relation to them, click on the title link above.]