WISER and the University of Michigan ASC Mellon Collaborative Workshops

The Global South as a Source of Theory

May 5 - 19, 2014

The application deadline is March 17.


The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has provided funding for collaboration between the African Studies Center at the University of Michigan, and the WITS Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), Johannesburg. The title of this collaboration is “Joining Theory and Empiricism in the Remaking of the African Humanities: A transcontinental Collaboration.” Our main goal is to strengthen research relationships between scholars at the two institutions.

The core of this collaboration will be a series of ten Workshops that will alternate between Johannesburg and Ann Arbor. The first of these will be held in Johannesburg from May 5 to May 19 under the theme “The Global South as a Source of Theory.” A significant part of the first workshop will focus on in-depth discussions of this theme. The Workshop will be held at WISER in Johannesburg and at the Wits Rural facility in the Lowveld. It will consist of combined reading sessions, break-out thematic discussions, ample time for writing and the discussion of writing, and presentations of work in progress. We intend to use the Workshop to sponsor a series of publications that follow from the discussions. We will also take some time to plan future workshops.

May 5: introductions
May 6-9: combined and break-out reading sessions at WISER
May 10-11: weekend off
May 12-15: writing and discussion at Bakubung Bush Lodge
May 16-17: presentations at WISER

Those who wish to participate in this Workshop should:

  1. Submit a 500 word statement about how you would like to engage with the workshop’s theme. This statement should be biographical as well as interpretative. It should explain how your research is linked to the theme, but also what you understand the theme to mean. For example, how does, or might, your work contribute to an understanding or imagining of the Global South as a concept or approach? What is distinctive about the Global South? Are there theoretical lines of inquiry that are opened up as well as foreclosed by identifying with “the Global South”?
    Note: It is vital to keep this submission short. We will have plenty of time to expand during the workshop; for now, the idea is to produce short texts that we can all read in advance, and that can serve to initiate conversation.
  2. Submit suggestions for common readings. It would be most helpful if you could add a brief annotation explaining the relevance of the reading for our workshop.

To apply, please fill out this simple online form:
http://wiser.wits.ac.za/page/sugarman-workshop-1-registration

The application deadline is March 17.

Proposals will be read by a team of scholars at the University of Michigan and at Wiser to make the final determination of participants. Our expectation is that any faculty member whose statement addresses the workshop’s theme and who can commit to participating in at least one of the subsequent workshops will be able to attend this initial, planning workshop.

Future Workshops

Each year for the next five years, two 2-week workshops alternating between Johannesburg and Ann Arbor (for a total of 10 including the initial workshop in May 2014). These Workshops will be interdisciplinary in nature, focusing on significant questions that inform scholarship in the Humanities broadly conceived. Their focus will be determined through a competitive call for proposals at the University of Michigan and WISER each year. Each workshop will be run by a different committee consisting of faculty from both WISER and University of Michigan. Participants will include faculty and graduate students from both institutions. Graduate students and junior faculty from other African and American institutions may also be invited to participate. The workshops will combine research presentations, critical readings in the literature, and field trips (to heritage sites, museums, performances, art exhibitions, etc – as appropriate to the theme).

The next workshop -- to be held Ann Arbor -- will address the theme of “Digital Humanities.” Derek Peterson and Danny Herwitz have agreed to coordinate this workshop at University of Michigan. This will take place in early November.

The ten workshop themes funded by Mellon are listed below. While there is a binding expectation on the part of the Mellon Foundation that we work with these topics, there is room for each workshop’s planning committee to shape the event, and we might envision combining these themes in a variety of ways.

  1. The Global South as an idea and a source of theory
  2. Legacies of the imperial archive in post-colonial history, museums, and performance
  3. Textual analysis, visual culture and the state in the making of African publics
  4. Interrogating Neoliberalism as idea and explanation
  5. The politics of literacy, legibility and expert knowledges in Africa
  6. Narrative, visual forms and biopolitics in the medical humanities
  7. Cultural studies of science and technology in Africa
  8. Intellectual property and curatorship in the digital humanities
  9. Public spaces, informality and infrastructures in the desegregating city
  10. Vernacular literatures in the making of transnational movements and subjects