The AXL for African studies

18 May 2012

This time last year, there was much passionate debate in the national and local news about the future of the Centre for African Studies (CAS) at UCT. The debate included ideas about creating new departmental linkages, and ranged from scepticism about the possibility of the creation of a genuinely new UCT approach to research and teaching to idealism about new epistemologies and new notions of scholarship and collegiality.

Letters to the newspapers flew back and forth, websites enjoined action, and the whole faculty engaged in dialogue about the way forward.

Thanks to the work of a number of people (especially Professor Lungisile Ntsebeza, the online group Concerned CAS Students, Professor Richard Mendelsohn, Associate Professor Viviene Taylor, and Dean Professor Paula Ensor), it was possible to imagine a new school in the Faculty of Humanities, one charged with taking debates on African studies into the heart of what the faculty offers. Alongside this idea came a commitment to a new community, established through a partnership between the African Gender Institute, the Department of Social Anthropology, its Linguistics section and the CAS. Hence: the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics, launched in 2012.

If you say AGSAL fast, in South Africanese, it'll sound like AXL (axle; axis; access; axes to grind–). AXL is thus the code for the new School, which is currently headed by Asocciate Professor Bennett. The School will be formally launched, with Professor Njabulo Ndebele as guest speaker, on Monday, 21 May, at 17h00 in the Centre for African Studies Gallery. A broad invitation has gone out to the whole university. – Professor Jane Bennett

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