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Postdoctoral Fellow

Ettore Morelli

Dr. Ettore Morelli is a Postdoctoral fellow at the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative, funded via the NRF South African Research Chairs Initiative. He studied in Italy, obtained his university degrees in Milan and Pisa, and received his Ph.D from the School of Oriental and African Studies. His research includes precolonial Southern African history, theory and history of slavery, oral traditions, history of early modern colonialism and empires, missionary history, African political thought, philosophy, and religion. He has published on precolonial forms of slavery in Southern Africa.

His PhD thesis dealt with the precolonial history of the Southern African Highveld up to 1800, the region and time period he is specialised on. The approach privileged the written remains of the oral culture of the region and reconstructed parts of the political philosophy and of the political history of the communities who lived on the Highveld before 1800. He is currently working on turning the thesis into a book.

His research project at the APC addresses a series of unpublished manuscripts in which were stored several oral testimonies on the history, myths, and culture of the Highveld, and are now held at the Royal Geographical Society in London and in several Southern African archival institutions. His objective is both to employ the contents of these manuscripts and to analyse the form containing them. Product of dense personal relationship that were forged in Southern Africa during the segregation and apartheid eras and involved individuals from very different backgrounds, these manuscripts need to be treated as complex archival objects. The ultimate aim of the project is to understand the themes, structures, and role of the oral history-making of the precolonial communities of the Highveld, and to better understand the history of the region before colonialism.