1. Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
  2. Events
  3. Arts, Humanities, and Social Science Knowledge Making: Thoughts on Research on, for, with, in, and of Africa
Lecture, Lecture series

Arts, Humanities, and Social Science Knowledge Making: Thoughts on Research on, for, with, in, and of Africa

Lecture by Saleem Badat, Mellon Research Fellow, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal

Unequal social relations powerfully affect who produces knowledge, whose and what knowledges are valued, privileged, and subordinated, in what languages knowledge is produced, who has voice, who publishes and what is published. They shape the knowledge orientations and agendas of universities in the north and the global south, impinge on notions of quality and standards, and on a host of other matters related to knowledge making, sharing, and dissemination.

Interest on the part of universities in other parts of the world in undertaking arts, humanities, and social science research on Africa is to be welcomed. The critical question is: What is the purpose for undertaking research on Africa? Badat approaches this issue of purpose as an institutional question, rather than one to do with the preferences of individual faculty, though institutional positions are, of course, shaped by the interests, concerns, and proclivities of individual faculty.

Beyond the question of the purpose for undertaking research on Africa, there are questions of the goals of such research, its specific objectives, the strategies that are to be deployed, the time horizons, resourcing, and so forth. As with the question of purpose, critical issues arise when the questions of goals, strategies, and so forth are not treated as self-evident, but confronted with appropriate critical reflexivity.

Saleem Badat holds qualifications from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Boston University, and a PhD in Sociology from the University of York.Currently a Mellon Research Fellow, between 2014 and 2018 he served as the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s first Program Director of International Higher Education & Strategic Projects. His portfolio encompassed grantmaking in the arts and humanities to research universities in South Africa, Uganda, Ghana, Egypt, and Lebanon and to pan-African and pan-Arab institutions working in higher education. Badat began his academic career at the University of Western Cape and became the Director of its Education Policy Unit. In 2006, he became vice-chancellor of Rhodes University, the first black South African to hold this post in 102 years, with a commitment to institutional transformation and modernisation and academic excellence. Badat has been awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Free State for ‘outstanding achievements in the shaping of policies and practices of the higher education environment,’ the University of York and Rhodes University. In 2008, he received the Inyathelo Exceptional Philanthropy Award in recognition of excellence and leadership in Personal South African Philanthropy.

Badat's current research and writing encompass a history of universities in South Africa that seeks to clarify contemporary challenges, a memoir on his time as the vice-chancellor of Rhodes University, and an edited monograph on difference, equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher education. He aspires to also produce a series of children’s books that raise social justice issues. He serves on the boards of the Centre for Higher Education Trust and of Our Compelling Interest, based at the University of Michigan, and was a trustee of the Mandela Initiative Think Tank on Strategies to Overcome Poverty and Inequality. He is a former chairperson of Higher Education South Africa and of the Association of African Universities Scientific Committee on Higher Education.

This event is part of the lecture series:
ZMO Colloquium winter semester 2019/2020
Thinking and Re-Thinking the World in the Decolonial Era: Thinkers and Theorizing from the Global South