Location: The University of the Free State
Since its inception just over a century ago, the University of the Free State has witnessed an extraordinary growth in capacity and expertise. Originally the Grey University College, with 29 students and ten educators, the UFS now directs activities across three campuses and fifty satellite institutions, boasting well over 30 000 students – served by over 4000 dedicated support staff and faculty. Students and faculty engage in intellectual pursuits across seven faculties that comprise: the Humanities, Education, Law, Theology, Health Sciences, Economic and Management Sciences, as well as Natural and Agricultural Sciences. The constellation of departments and units under this direction offers a wide array of undergraduate courses, in addition to innovative postgraduate programmes steeped in rigorous research. The university’s teaching and research activities attract students from across the country, the Southern African region, as well as over fifty nations around the world, fostering intellectual exchange through well-established international relations (http://www.ufs.ac.za/; https://www.facebook.com/UFSUV).
As the only residential university in central South Africa, the UFS has undertaken the task of facilitating the acquisition, exchange and production of new knowledge, geared towards serious engagement with the needs of a diverse and democratic community, including the urgent pursuits of equity, social justice, and reconciliation. One exemplary instance of this direction is the New Frontiers in Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development programme (http://research.ufs.ac.za/default.aspx?DCode=Z10). To advance its vision, the UFS stimulates high-quality research, maintaining a position among the top South African universities, and founding close ties with several universities in Europe and Africa.
The Faculty of the Humanities reflects a sustained commitment to plotting the contours and implications of evolving relations between language, culture, power and social transformation through cross-disciplinary research among the various departments it hosts. One of its primary research strands probes into the challenges involved in the transition to tertiary education, focusing on the psychological, sociological and structural factors that impact this dramatic shift in students’ lives. Included within this enterprise, are various projects aimed at inculcating critical thinking and participation in the promotion of active citizenship and productive intellectual cultures.
The event is hosted by the Department of English at the UFS, in collaboration with colleagues from the Departments of Sociology; Fine Arts and Visual Culture Studies; Anthropology; and the Institute for Social Justice and Reconciliation.
The Department of English
Since 2012, the Department of English has been engaged in an extensive process of curricular review aimed at better facilitating student and faculty research in cultural studies. The department’s research and teaching activities reflect a range of concerns aimed at fostering forms of critical social engagement and exploring linkages between culture, power and everyday life. Our revised curriculum places special emphasis on developing the critical, visual, cross-cultural, transnational and digital literacies of our students. Research and teaching projects currently undertaken by staff and students include studies of the processes and cultural practices involved in the formation of group identities; computer mediated communication; political emotion, protest cultures and the management of public feeling; cross-cultural adoption; consumer cultures; the relationship between critical animal studies and African Cultural Studies; trans-hemispheric literacies; contemporary modes of citizenship education for global youth; the cultural organisation of (South) African urban space; African science fiction and Afro-futurisms; the postcolonial trafficking in images of children; as well as the intersections of race, gender, sexuality and class, as reflected in various texts including film, literature and mass media, to name just a few (http://humanities.ufs.ac.za/content.aspx?DCode=144).
We have, in recent years, been hosting a lively speaker speakers series that includes cultural theorists from across the globe (http://humanities.ufs.ac.za/content.aspx?id=545). In collaboration with the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, the Department of English also co-organised the 2014 John Douglas Taylor Conference on Contemporary Orientations in African Cultural Studies at McMaster University (https://africanculturalstudies.wordpress.com/).