The humanities have long been vital to the creative and critical energies of societies in the throes of profound change. HUMA – the Institute for Humanities in Africa – is a new initiative at the University of Cape Town (UCT), intended to create a space of dynamic interdisciplinary community for scholars and students in the humanities at large. Fostering top-end academic research, HUMA seeks also to draw on that work to nurture critical public debate, promoting UCT’s vision of itself as a civic university contributing to the making of democratic citizenship. We celebrated the launch of the institute with a two-week programme of events from Monday, 11 October 2010 to Friday 22 October 2010. The full launch programme is available for download here.
Located in the Faculties of Humanities and Law, HUMA takes a broad view of the humanities, encompassing the social sciences and law.
HUMA’s intellectual agenda is driven by two inclusive research themes, which inform and structure three primary objectives:
- to conduct and promote research that is historically grounded and theoretically engaged, with an eye to the ‘big’ theoretical and ethical questions that anchor South African issues in wider fields of experience and analysis. The combination of intellectual focus and breadth provided by HUMA’s research themes is intended to open up spaces for dialogue, collaboration and argument across disparate theoretical, epistemological and methodological traditions, and in ways that help examine the project of interdisciplinary work.
- to nurture the expertise and enthusiasm of graduate students interested in an academic career, through a combination of intensive and supportive doctoral supervision, and a broader programme of seminars, symposia and workshops that help develop the intellectual versatility and confidence which an academic career requires.
- to bring scholars and graduate students into conversation with interested publics, around issues of shared and topical concern. HUMA hopes to promote what public intellectuals in the humanities do best, which is to de-‐ familiarise and unsettle established ways of seeing, think creatively about pressing social and political questions, and keep the imagination of alternative futures alive.
This mission is embedded in a particular understanding of our location in Africa. Africa is a landmass with a deep and complex history of connection and disconnection amongst its many inhabitants; being African means being party to formative relationships of connection and disconnection that shape the ways we think and act. Our scholarship and debate, then, will be positioned in Africa, even if the focus of our deliberations is not limited to the continent.