Herman Wasserman, Kharnita Mohamed honoured with book awards

05 February 2021 | Story Carla Bernardo. Photos Lerato Maduna. Voice Neliswa Sosibo. Read time 4 min.
Prof Herman Wasserman is the recipient of the prestigious 2020 UCT Book Award.
Prof Herman Wasserman is the recipient of the prestigious 2020 UCT Book Award.

Professor Herman Wasserman, from the Centre for Film and Media Studies, has been named as the recipient of the 2020 University of Cape Town (UCT) Book Award for his second monograph: Media, Geopolitics and Power: A view from the Global South. His third monograph, The Ethics of Engagement: Media, conflict and democracy in Africa, was recently published.

The purpose of the UCT Book Award is to recognise outstanding and/or influential books written by UCT staff members. It can be awarded to single- or multiple-author books, academic books or fiction, and in electronic or printed format. There are no restrictions on language or codes, and while an award is usually bestowed annually, no award is made if the nominations are not of sufficient merit.


“The book is an attempt to contribute to the field of global media studies.”

The book is an overview of Wasserman’s research spanning more than a decade, until 2017. His work during this time focused largely on the globalisation of media and the impact of changing geopolitical relations from the vantage point of Africa and, more broadly, the Global South.

It examines questions around issues such as the global phenomenon of tabloidisation of the news and how this manifests in the South African context; the influence of China on African media; the impact of South Africa’s BRICS membership on our media; the dominance of the Global North in academic research and how this has shaped the field of media studies; and how voices from the Global South should be better heard in international scholarship.

“The book is [not only] an attempt to contribute to the field of global media studies by … providing examples and case studies from Africa, but also to interrogate the very assumptions upon which global media studies are based, and the power relations that shape our discipline,” said Wasserman.

Wasserman is grateful for the recognition from his peers at UCT, which he appreciates “very much”.

“I realise how many outstanding colleagues at UCT do important work, and it’s an honour to be counted among the previous recipients of this award,” he said.

Meritorious Book Prize

The UCT Book Award, which carries a purse of R30 000, is usually awarded alongside Meritorious Book Prizes of up to R15 000 in value. These are awarded for books in specialised fields that merit recognition for their contribution and/or are awarded to celebrate promising first-time books by authors who deserve special recognition and support. Like the UCT Book Award, the prizes are awarded to UCT staff members; books written in the past five years are eligible.

This year, a Meritorious Book Prize was awarded to Kharnita Mohamed, a lecturer in UCT’s Department of Anthropology, for her book, Called to Song. It is Mohamed’s debut novel and follows Qabila – a black, Muslim, middle-class academic in post-apartheid South Africa – as she struggles her way towards a flourishing life.

In addition to lecturing at UCT, Mohamed is doing her PhD in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of the Western Cape.

The book is written from a black feminist perspective and grapples with how our violent histories of racism, sexism and heterosexism influence intimacy, gender relations and racist dis/continuities.

Mohamed said that writing the book was an attempt to make sense of how people animate the politics they have inherited in the most private domains of their lives and how they are attempting to find new ways to live and love.

“Many of us have inherited histories of dispossession and violence, and I wanted to ask what we do in the aftermath and presence of violence, in its multiple dimensions such as patriarchal violences, racialised violences, class violences, and/or heteronormative violences. 

“I have always been fascinated by how oppression is entangled with love, [for example] love for family, lovers, community [and] religion. Very frequently we tend to think of oppression as something that occurs primarily through hate, but most people live oppressive politics through who is deemed acceptable to love and how we should love,” she said.

Called to Song was longlisted for the 2019 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize and has been shortlisted for the 2020 National Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences Awards in the fiction category.

Read more about the UCT Book Award and Meritorious Book Prizes.

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