Conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Harold Wolpe, and of the establishment of the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust
Conferences themes include (but are not limited to):
THEME 1: The notion of intellectuals or the intelligentsia
Our concern here is not with moral questions, such as ‘talking truth to power’, but with the sociology of intellectuals or the intelligentsia. We invite papers that respond to the following kinds of questions:
• Who is an intellectual in South Africa and who constitutes the intelligentsia(s)? What role is the intellectual stratum or strata playing? What is their social base or bases?
• What is the knowledge with which such people are concerned? Is that body of knowledge all that ought to be considered, or are there other bodies of knowledge or belief systems that need more attention? This could include the notion of an ‘oral intellectual’ – one who communicates as an intellectual in a purely oral form – in South African and international history, as a phenomenon now and in the past; as well as the notion of unacknowledged knowledge or knowledges.
• Is there a gender element attached to the production and recognition of knowledge?
THEME 2: The adequacy of intellectual engagement in contemporary South Africa
In this regard we call for fresh appraisals of developments in the country in the last 10 to 15 years, issues from previous paradigms and ways of understanding that have not been addressed, and engagement with the ideas of the current President, Thabo Mbeki:
• Intellectual engagement with the transition, providing an adequate explanation of how it happened and what happened. How adequate are explanations of the process through which the transition ensued, and how should one characterise the meaning of that moment?
• Unfinished business. There are many issues that used to preoccupy the left in the 1980s that have been left unanswered, instead of asking how they should be addressed in the current context. In particular we call for papers that consider how the current ruling bloc (if that is an adequate term) is constituted. Who is this ruling bloc? Insofar as many intellectuals identified with the theory of colonialism of a special type (CST), to what extent has this been resolved? What in the current situation is the relationship between ruling politically and ruling economically?
• Unpacking the intellectual output of President Thabo Mbeki as manifested in speeches, columns and other works produced since 1994.
THEME 3: Trajectories of democracy in South Africa
A variety of terms are in use in assessing whether or not democracy has been instituted or consolidated in Africa and in South Africa. Many of these fall under the umbrella of ‘good governance’, a term much favoured by donors and also sometimes used by the South African government. When one returns to the pre-1990s literature, including the writings of Harold Wolpe, it is clear that the notions of democracy that many envisaged went beyond this concept of representative or liberal democracy with independently monitored elections. A transformatory programme and socialism was often part of that discourse. Under this theme we invite papers on the following topics:
• What is the character of South African democracy and what are its potential trajectories?
• To what extent is the trajectory of democracy impacted on by the civil service? Has the civil service developed a professional culture suited to a progressive trajectory?
• Is it a danger to democracy that the ANC enjoys overwhelming electoral dominance, with little likelihood of another party defeating it for the foreseeable future?
• Problematising ‘pluralism’ as a concept and practice in the unfolding of South African democracy.
• Is the fact that democracy in South Africa was inaugurated under the auspices of a national liberation movement that had practised armed struggle, inimical to consolidating and sustaining democracy? Is there a tension and is it irresoluble, or can it be remedied? What are the consequences of the liberation movement background for democratic development?
THEME 4: Building a nation in South Africa today
From the early development of the liberation movements and the Communist Party there has been a literature and much debate over what has been called the ‘national question’ or what constitutes a nation in South Africa. Sometimes treated synonymously is the question of nationalism, which refers to a movement of people who share a common sense of belonging, which might or might not aim at establishing a nation. Under this heading we call for papers which might address questions such as:
• What is entailed in building a nation in South Africa? This could involve a historical review of existing literature over the decades since Union. It could also address the gendered character of nation formation.
• How does nationalism differ from what we understand to be a nation? How has nationalism manifested itself in South Africa and how does it relate to non-racialism, gender equality and other pertinent issues?
THEME 5: Gender and South Africa
This theme addresses a tension that exists between categories of scholars over the way in which certain political experiences in South African history and political movements are characterised, in particular whether they qualify as ‘feminist’. In addition, we ask whether the notion of ‘national liberation’ inevitably conflicts with feminist demands. In this context we call for papers on topics such as:
• Feminism or feminisms in South Africa? How the predominance of ‘motherhood’ as an identity of African women, in entering the political terrain, impacts on whether such interventions are characterised as feminist. This could include a review of existing literature.
• Papers on masculinity or masculinities in South Africa within the broad theme of the conference.
• We also invite contributions to the other themes from a gender or feminist perspective.
THEME 6: Open category
We invite potential contributors to suggest additional political economy topics that fall within the broad theme of the conference.
This will be a residential conference covering two days and two nights, and will be held in September 2006. The venue is still to be decided. Our intention is to identify a venue that is outside of the main cities, congenial to intense discussion.
The conference fee will be R500, which will include accommodation, food and conference documentation. A 10% discount will be offered for early registration and requests for subsidisation will be considered. The Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust will also endorse letters to funders requesting that they meet the travel costs of those whose abstracts have been accepted.
Full details regarding the conference will be made available in early 2006.
Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust
Tel: +27 21 424 9602
Fax: +27 0866 706 772 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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