Salazar added to UCT's A-rated fold

10 March 2003
New scholar on the A-team: Dist Prof Philippe-Joseph Salazar is UCT's latest A-rated humanities researcher.

DISTINGUISHED Professor Philippe-Joseph Salazar of the Centre for Rhetoric Studies is the latest UCT scholar to receive an A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) in its first ever peer-evaluation of researchers in the humanities.

Salazar joins two other UCT scholars as recipients of this prestigious accolade, Professors John de Gruchy, Director of the Graduate School in Humanities, and John Higgins of the Department of English Language and Literature Studies.

Salazar joined the University in 1986 as Professor of French, was elected a Life Fellow in 1995 and offered a Distinguished Chair in Humane Letters in 1999. He is one of three distinguished professors (alongside scientists Brian Warner and George Ellis) at UCT and the only one in the humanities.

He holds a directorship in Rhetoric and Democracy at Collège International de Philosophie in Paris, Jacques Derrida's foundation. A sought-after guest lecturer and keynote speaker, Salazar has held many prestigious appointments, such as the Chair at the Centre for Renaissance Studies at the University of Tours (France) and the UNESCO Chair of Philosophy of Peace (Moscow).

He has just returned from a visit to Marrakech in Morocco at the invitation of the King Abdul Aziz El Saoud Foundation.

A graduate in philosophy, political science and humanities from Ecole normale supérieure and the Sorbonne (Paris), Salazar is still deeply influenced by Roland Barthes, Emmanuel Levinas and Louis Althusser, under whom he studied. The wide and innovative range of his scholarly investigations (his bibliography lists some 150 titles) bears witness to “the strength,” he says, “of French traditional schooling in the humanities, an unrivalled mix of rigorous erudition, detersive criticism and calculated disdain for authorities”.

He is currently working on two books that mirror his international standing in rhetoric studies. In Rhetorical Papacy, being developed from a series of papers, he studies the papacy as global persuasion, while in Divided Republics he will offer a comparative, rhetorical history of the two foundational republics, the French and the American.

Salazar has recently celebrated the release of his latest book, An African Athens: Rhetoric and the Shaping of Democracy in South Africa (Erlbaum, 2002), hailed as “groundbreaking” by one reviewer.

At the Centre for Rhetoric Studies, which he established with Professor Yehoshua Gitay in 1995, when he was Dean of Arts, as a research facility for the study of the interaction between rhetoric and democracy, he leads a joint French-South African project whose first symposium will see Jacques Derrida, Paul Ricoeur and Marc Fumaroli as key speakers (Paris, June 2003).

While the sheer scope and cogent inter-disciplinarity of his work (religious oratory, gay and gender rhetoric, 17th century studies, social anthropology, music and fine art, translations from Latin, to name just a few) must have caused the NRF some reviewing headaches, the award comes with a rhetorical question mark, as he puts it.

“I question the view that research in the humanities is similar in method, in purpose, in significance, to that in the sciences. Ours is a solitary, subjective, subversive exercise.

“But,” he is quick to add, “ I find the idea of a national peer-review in the humanities interesting and challenging. Because if we, in the humane letters, as I call them, have to accept a model of rating, an argument really about quantifying excellence that is directly borrowed from the sciences, then we are entitled to expect, in return, the same level of support in terms of bursaries and funding as A-rated scientists receive.

“I am a keen observer of institutional rhetoric, after all.”

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Volume 22 Edition 04

27 Mar 2003

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