Grant gives wheels to knowledge diversity seminar

04 August 2008

The Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town is celebrating a major international award: a Sawyer Seminar grant of US$150 000 from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation.

The award, for the Knowledge Diversity and Power: Science, the Indigenous Movement, and the Post-Colonial University seminar series, was made to Dr Lesley Green, Associate Professor Fiona Ross and Dr Susan Levine after an international competition involving over 40 universities.

The grant will enable the department to host several visiting academics during the year, and will cover fellowships for one postdoctoral and two doctoral students.

The project will initiate ongoing scholarly dialogue on knowledge diversity and power across disciplines and regions, with a view to supporting debates at UCT on the intellectual tools required to explore the value of diverse knowledge practices and concepts.

"UCT has for several years strongly encouraged academics to develop socially responsive research," said Green, project leader.

"In the process of engaging with different ways of being in the world, academics have often had to rethink the applicability of core concepts. Notions of personhood or of the body, for example, can find very different expression in different socio-cultural contexts, and their nuances may have significant implications in fields such as law, psychology, or nursing.

"Similarly, different ways of understanding the relationship between nature and culture may be extremely valuable in disciplines like marine biology, botany and geography. By drawing on contemporary anthropological work, we hope to support multidisciplinary exchanges about knowledge diversity."

Staff and graduate students within the department already have formal collaborations with colleagues in a wide range of disciplines.

"One of the goals of this project is to strengthen dialogue between our discipline and interested scholars from different faculties," said Green.

"The grant will enable UCT to host anthropologists who are able to offer ideas and approaches that are useful in the task of broadening scholarship beyond its current limits."

The Dean of Humanities, Professor Paula Ensor, warmly congratulated Green, Ross and Levine.

"This is a highly prestigious award, which brings great honour to the academics involved, and to the faculty. The Sawyer Seminar will promote scholarly engagement across different faculties at UCT, as well as with leading academics internationally. It will make a significant and unique contribution to current debates on indigenous knowledge."

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