The 2019 TB Davie Memorial Lecture

22 July 2019 | From Kgethi

Dear colleagues and students

In line with its ideals of championing the principles of academic freedom, the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) 2019 TB Davie Memorial Lecture will be presented by Dr Steven Salaita – a Palestinian-American scholar, author and public speaker. He is a former holder of the Edward W Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut.

The TB Davie Memorial Lecture, now in its 53rd year of existence, was established by students at UCT to honour the work of Professor Thomas Benjamin Davie. A former vice-chancellor of the university from 1948 to 1955, TB Davie was a defender of the principles of academic freedom.

The lecture is organised by the Academic Freedom Committee (AFC), which invites distinguished speakers to address a theme related to academic and human freedom. Universities are intellectual spaces for nurturing the expression of competing viewpoints. As an academic institution, UCT has an obligation to ensure that there is a climate in which ideas can be exchanged and challenged. The TB Davie Memorial Lecture honours dissent and robust debate, and the AFC is to be commended for organising this annual event.

This year’s lecture, titled “The inhumanity of academic freedom”, will explore academic freedom in relation to the conditions of humanity in the midst of brutal inequality and on the eve of ecological catastrophe. The presenter will argue that academic freedom is often a myth that is prioritised over the political movements it is meant to protect.

Dr Salaita holds a BA degree in political science from Radford University in the United States, obtained in 1997, and has an MA in English, also from Radford. He completed his PhD in Native American studies, with a literature emphasis, at the University of Oklahoma. He then became an assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater, where he taught American and ethnic American literature until 2006, before moving to Virginia Tech, also as an associate professor of English.

In addition to teaching English courses, he wrote about themes of immigration, indigenous peoples, dislocation, race, ethnicity and multiculturalism. Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times refers to him as a “respected scholar in American Indian studies and Israeli–Arab relations”.

In 2014 he became a tenured English professor at Virginia Tech. His scholarship focused on colonialism, militarism and occupation. It was on the basis of his excellent scholarly record and stellar teaching credentials that the University of Illinois offered Dr Salaita a tenured position in the university’s American Indian Studies Programme.

Dr Salaita is author of several books, including Israel’s Dead Soul, Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom and Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine.

Please join the AFC for the 53rd TB Davie Memorial Lecture with Dr Salaita.

When: Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Where: New Lecture Theatre, Upper Campus, UCT

Time: 18:00 (guests to be seated by 17:45)

Please RSVP by Sunday, 4 August 2019.

For enquiries, please email or phone 021 650 4847/3730.

Please note: Due to limited space, seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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