Indexing Transformation

Indexing Transformation: Interventions in Critical Knowledge Production in South Africa

A Mellon Foundation fund project, 2017-2021

PI: Steven Robins
Co-Pi: Bernard Dubbeld

Indexing Transformation is an interdisciplinary research programme of the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology. It builds upon the context of institutional transformation and student protest in South Africa over the few years, longer processes of political change in country, and a department project “Indexing the Human” that considered the troubled history of Anthropology in Stellenbosch and elsewhere. Indexing Transformation directly aims to address, in a long-term and sustainable way, the urgent imperatives of curriculum reform, critical pedagogy and institutional transformation in our Department. Offering a seminar series, and fellowships for honours and masters students that involve internships, we hope to foster the development of an intellectual space for scholars and graduate students to interrogate the diverse dimensions of transformation. Our focus is especially on: 1) more robust theoretical approaches appropriate to Africa and the global South, 2) critical citizenship and the “technologies” of transformation, 3) the intersectionalities of transformation, where race, gender, sexuality and class configures knowledge in particular ways, and 4) students and institutions themselves, and especially on the agencies of multiple institutional actors to affect transformation.

Our inquiry is rooted within an intellectual history that begins with “critical theory” and situates itself in relation to a genealogy of discourses on transformation in South Africa. We approach our object of investigation through the lens of the index, which for us has become an indispensable analytic through which to recognize voices and silences in the intellectual formations of dominant and subaltern discourses in South Africa today. We hope, through the project, that our department will become an intellectual space in which transformation is interrogated, global intellectual exchange encouraged, where students are able to fashion conceptual tools capable of grasping the complexities of the present moment, and in which humanistic inquiry into this present is cultivated and developed. The aim is to develop an intervention in knowledge production in South Africa at the level of what and how transformation is constituted, and as well as who become its authors.