Entanglements and Aftermaths: Reflections on Memory and Political Time

February 22-24, 2018
Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER)
University of the Witwatersrand

Johannesburg, South Africa





Meltem Ahiska, Boğaziçi University, Turkey
Victoria Collis-Buthelezi, WiSER, South Africa
Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley, USA
María José Contreras Lorenzini, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Vilashini Cooppan, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
Hoda Elsadda, Cairo University; The Women and Memory Forum, Egypt
Paul Gilroy, King’s College London, UK
Pumla Gobodo- Madikizela, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
David Theo Goldberg, University of California, Irvine, USA
Patricia Hayes, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Marianne Hirsch, Columbia University, USA
Achille Mbembe, WiSER, South Africa
Sarah Nuttall, WiSER, South Africa
Debarati Sanyal, University of California, Berkeley, USA
Penny Siopis, Visual Artist, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Jane Taylor, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
Vron Ware, Kingston University, UK


Sarah Nuttall, WiSER, South Africa
Debarati Sanyal, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Reading Materials 

Al-Qattan, Omar.  “The Secret Visitations of Memory.” In Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory, edited by Ahmad H.Sa’di and Lila Abu-Lughod, 191-206. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.
Azoulay, Ariella. “Potential History: Thinking through Violence.” Critical Inquiry 39, no. 3 (spring 2013): 548–74. 
Connerton, Paul. The Spirit of Mourning: History, Memory and the Body. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Du Bois, W.E.B. Dusk of Dawn: The Autobiography of a Race Concept. Edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Feldman, Allen.  Archives of the Insensible: Of War, Photopolitics, and Dead Memory. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2015.
———. “Political Terror and the Technologies of Memory: Excuse, Sacrifice, Commodification, and Actuarial Moralities.” Radical History Review, no. 85 (winter 2003): 58-73. 
Glissant, Édouard. “Open Boat.” In Poetics of Relation, translated by Betsy Wing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997.
Grosz, Elizabeth. The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution and the Untimely. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2004.
Malabou, Catherine. The Ontology of the Accident: An Essay on Destructive Plasticity. Translated by Carolyn Shread. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012.
McKittrick, Katherine. “Plantation Futures.”  Small Axe 17, no. 3 (nov. 2013): 1-15. 
Rangan, Pooja. Immediations: The Humanitarian Impulse in Documentary. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017.
Thompson, Krista. Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.
Weizman, Eyal. Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability. London: Verso, 2017.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. On Certainty. Edited by G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright, translated by Denis Paul and G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1969.
 Zerubavel, Eviatar. Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Participant Biographies 

Meltem Ahiska is Professor of Sociology at Boğaziçi University. She has written and edited a number of books, among which Occidentalism in Turkey: Questions of Modernity and National Identity in Turkish Radio Broadcasting (2010) is the most recent. Her articles and essays on Occidentalism, social memory, national identity, and gender have appeared in various journals and edited volumes. She has been in the editorial collectives of Akıntıya Karşı, Zemin, Defter, Pazartesi journals. She is a member of the editorial board of the e-journal Red Thread.
Victoria Collis-Buthelezi holds a joint appointment at PARI (Public Affairs Research Institute) and WiSER, dividing her time between both Institutes, as part of a new collaboration. She will also lead the South African program of the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s recently launched Atlantic Fellowship for Racial Equity, a partnership that includes Columbia University and Atlantic Philanthropies. The Fellowship will bring together scholars, activists and artists whose work shares a commitment to disrupting and dismantling anti-black racism, with fellows coming from the US and South Africa. Victoria co-convenes the National Institute of the Humanities (NIHSS) Catalytic Project (2016-2018) entitled “Other Universals,” which focuses on intellectual connections across India, the Caribbean and Africa. Her current book project, To Empire Bound: Black Solidarity Before the Rise of Anti-Colonial Nationalism, excavates black globalism in Cape Town at the dawn of the twentieth century and its investments in empire thinking. She holds a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
Judith Butler is Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Program in Critical Theory at the University of California, Berkeley. She served as Founding Director of the Program in Critical Theory. She is the author of: Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth- Century France (1987); Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990); Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993); The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (1997); Excitable Speech (1997); Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death (2000); Precarious Life: Powers of Violence and Mourning (2004); Undoing Gender (2004); Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging (with Gayatri Spivak, 2008); Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009); Is Critique Secular? (with Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, and Saba Mahmood, 2009); and Sois Mon Corps (with Catherine Malabou, 2011). Her most recent books include: Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism (2012); Dispossessions: The Performative in the Political (with Athena Athanasiou, 2013); Senses of the Subject (2015); and Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (2015). Butler is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Andrew W. Mellon Award for Distinguished Academic Achievement in the Humanities (2009-2013). With Penelope Deutscher, she co-directs the International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs.
María José Contreras Lorenzini is a performance artist with a PhD in Semiotics. She is currently the Chair of the doctoral program in the arts at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Contreras studies and creatively explores the relation between the body, memory and performance. Her performance work has been shown in Chile, Italy, Brasil, Argentina, Turkey, Canada and the United States. In 2013, in the context of the commemoration of the state coup in Chile, she performed #quererNOver, an urban intervention that involved 1,200 people lying in the streets of Santiago to commemorate the more than 1,200 detenidos desaparecidos. Some of her recent performances include “Suelo,” which took place in Plaza Italia in Santiago and addressed the relation between surveillance and human rights, and “Aquí,” which consisted of embodied marking of places where women were assassinated in the first months of the dictatorship. She has published several articles and book chapters on the complex relation between memory and the body.
Vilashini Cooppan taught comparative literature at Yale University before moving to the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she is now Professor of Literature, with affiliated appointments in the History of Consciousness program and the program in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies.  Her essays on postcolonial and world literatures, globalization theory, psychoanalysis, nationalism, memory studies and affect theory have appeared in SymplokeComparative Literature StudiesGrammaConcentric,PMLA, and several published edited volumes, including Trauma and Memory in the Contemporary South African Novel.   Her book, Worlds Within: National Narratives and Global Connections in Postcolonial Writing, appeared in 2009 from Stanford University Press in the series Cultural Memory in the Present.  She is completing a book titled “The World at Large: Memoryscapes in World Literature.”
Hoda Elsadda is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cairo University and an activist for women’s rights.  She previously held a Chair in the Study of the Contemporary Arab World at Manchester University, and was Co-Director of the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World in the UK. She was Carnegie Visiting Scholar at Georgetown University in 2014-2015. In 1992, she co-founded and co-edited Hagar, an interdisciplinary journal in women’s studies published in Arabic. She was member of the 50-committee that drafted the Egyptian constitution endorsed in a referendum in 2014 and was coordinator of the Freedoms and Rights Committee in the constitutional assembly. In 1995, she co-founded and is currently Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Women and Memory Forum. She has served on numerous boards, including as President of the Association of Middle East Women’s Studies (AMEWS) (2012); Associate editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies JMEWS (2012-2014); member of the Advisory committee of the Human Rights Council in Geneva (2014-2016); member of the Board of Advisors of International IDEA (2014-2017); and member of the Board of Directors of The Global Fund for Women (2009-2015). Her research interests are in the areas of gender studies, comparative literature, and women’s oral narratives. Her most recent book published in English is:  Gender, Nation and the Arabic Novel: Egypt: 1892-2008 (2012).
Paul Gilroy teaches American and English Literature at King’s College London. His scholarly interests encompass postcolonial studies–particularly with regard to London–post-imperial melancholia and the emplotment of English victimage; the literature and cultural politics of European decolonisation; African American intellectual and cultural history, literature and philosophy; the formation and reproduction of national identity especially with regard to racialised identification; and the literary and theoretical significance of port cities and pelagic cultures. He has also published on art, music and social theory. He is a fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Literature.
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela is Professor and Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University. Her work focuses mainly on two strands of research. The first is exploring ways in which the impact of the dehumanising experiences of oppression and violent abuse continues to play out in the next generation in the aftermath of historical trauma. For her second research area, she expands her earlier work on the relationship between remorse and forgiveness after historical trauma, and examines what she terms “reparative humanism” as an alternative to the notions of “healing” and “closure.” Her critically acclaimed book, A Human Being Died that Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness (2003/2004) explores the interweaving of guilt, shame and remorse on the one hand, and trauma and forgiveness on the other. The book won the Christopher Award in the United States and the Alan Paton Prize in South Africa. It has been published seven times, including translations in Dutch, German, Italian and Korean. Her other books include Narrating our Healing: Perspectives on Healing Trauma (2007), as co-author, Memory, Narrative and Forgiveness: Perspectives on the Unfinished Journeys of the Past (2009), as co-editor, Breaking Intergenerational Cycles of Repetition: A Global Dialogue on Historical Trauma and Memory (2016), as editor. Gobodo-Madikizela’s past research fellowships include: at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at the Kennedy School, Harvard University, the Claude Ake Visiting Chair in the Peace and Conflict Research Department, Uppsala University, and Distinguished African Scholar at Cornell University’s Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies.
David Theo Goldberg directs the University of California Humanities Research Institute, and holds faculty appointments in Comparative Literature and Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. Of the twenty books he has authored/co-authored and edited/co-edited, the latest are Are We All Postracial Yet (Polity 2015) and Between Humanities and the Digital (MIT Press 2015).
Patricia Hayes is National Research Foundation SARChI (South African Research Chair Initiative) Chair in Visual History and Theory, seconded from the History Department to the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape. She has published on gender and visuality, African history, and photography in the continent. She has edited several journal special issues on visuality and gender including Gender & History (2006) and Kronos (2000).  She co-authored Bush of Ghosts: Life & War in Namibia (Umuzi 2010) with photographer John Liebenberg, and has published articles on South African photographers Santu Mofokeng, David Goldblatt, Jo Ractliffe, Omar Badsha, Chris Ledochowski and others, as well as Ricardo Rangel and Kok Nam of Mozambique. Her work appears in Okwui Enwezor’s The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (International Centre for Photography 2012), Crais and McLendon’s The South African Reader (Duke 2014), Mofokeng’s Chasing Shadows (Prestel 2011), and Ribeiro’s Proximo Futuro on African photography (Gulbenkian Foundation 2013). Recent critical historical articles on photography and the making of publics have appeared in Cultural Critique (Issue 89, 2015) and Sanil V & Divya Dwivedi’s The Public Sphere from Outside the West (Bloomsbury 2015). Hayes is also series co-editor of the new Photography, History: History, Photography series at Bloomsbury Academic publishers.
Marianne Hirsch is William Peterfield Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and Professor in the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a former President of the Modern Language Association of America. Hirsch’s work combines feminist theory with memory studies, particularly the transmission of memories of violence across generations.  Her recent books include The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust (Columbia University Press, 2012), Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory, co-authored with Leo Spitzer (University of California Press, 2010), Rites of Return: Diaspora, Poetics and the Politics of Memory, co-edited with Nancy K. Miller (Columbia University Press, 2011). With Diana Taylor she co-edited the Summer 2012 issue of é-misferica on “The Subject of Archives.” Other publications include Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory (1997), The Familial Gaze (ed.1999), Time and the Literary (co-ed.2002), a special issue of Signs on “Gender and Cultural Memory” (co-ed. 2002), Teaching the Representation of the Holocaust (co-ed. 2004), and Grace Paley Writing the World (co-ed. 2009).  She is currently at work on a co-authored book with Leo Spitzer, School Photos in Liquid Time: Archives of Possibility and on a series of essays on the future of memory.  Hirsch is the former editor of PMLA and the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the ACLS, the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute, the National Humanities Center, and the Bellagio and Bogliasco Foundations.  She is one of the founders and the current director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference.
Achille Mbembe is Research Professor in History and Politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He obtained his Ph.D. in History at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1989 and a D.E.A. in Political Science at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques. He was Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University, New York, from 1988-1991, Senior Research Fellow at The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., from 1991-1992, Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania from 1992-1996, and Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) in Dakar, Senegal, from 1996-2000. Mbembe was also Visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001, and Visiting Professor at Yale University in 2003. He has written extensively in African history and politics, including La naissance du maquis dans le Sud-Cameroun (Karthala 1996). His book, On the Postcolony, was published in Paris in 2000 in French and the English translation was published by the University of California Press in 2001. In 2015, Wits University Press published a new, African edition.
Sarah Nuttall has directed the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) since January 2013, where she served as Senior Researcher from 2000 until 2010. A literary scholar by training, her varied research interests and extensive publication record have established her as a cultural commentator and critic. She has lectured at the University of Stellenbosch and, for the past five years, has been a Visiting Professor at Yale University and Duke University. Sarah has edited several books. Her influential monograph, Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Post-Apartheid (Wits University Press 2009), explores mutuality, transgression, and embodiment in contemporary South Africa. Nuttall has published in various journals including Cultural StudiesInterventions: International Journal of Postcolonial StudiesJournal of South African StudiesPublic CultureThird Text, and Social Dynamics. She is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Southern African StudiesHumanityCultural StudiesSocial DynamicsEnglish Studies in Africa, and English Academy Review.
Debarati Sanyal is Professor of French at the University of California, Berkeley. The author of The Violence of Modernity: Baudelaire, Irony, and the Politics of Form (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006) and Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance (Fordham University Press, 2015), she is currently completing a project on  testimony, cultural form, and the refugee “crisis” tentatively titled The Poetics of Flight and Asylum: Refugees and Arts of Resistance.
Penny Siopis explores the intersection of personal and public histories in South Africa in her diverse artistic practice. In the 1980s, Siopis produced history paintings that addressed race and gender representation in public narratives. During the 1990s, she began making videos and monumental installations, using found material to engage memory work. In her video Obscure White Messenger (2010), Siopis presents the narrative of Demitrios Tsafendas, the man who assassinated South African Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd (“the architect of Apartheid”) in 1966. Siopis’s recent glue and ink works explore temporality in painting and the politics of materiality and process. Siopis is the recipient of many awards, including the Atelier Award for a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, the Alexander S. Onassis fellowship for research in Greece, and residencies at Delfina and Gasworks in London, Civitella Ranieri in Umbria, and the Tropen Museum in Amsterdam. A reprospective of Siopis’s work was held at the South African National Gallery and Wits Art Museum in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 she received a Life-Time Achievement Award from the Arts and Culture Trust of South Africa.
Jane Taylor is the Andrew W. Mellon Chair of Aesthetic Theory and Material Performance at the University of the Western Cape. She previously held the Wole Soyinka Chair of Theatre at the University of Leeds, the Chair of Dramatic Art at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Avenali Chair at the Townsend Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and fellowships at Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Stellenbosch. Both Taylor’s traditional scholarship and her creative work engage with modes and representations of the limits of the human. She has written plays with artist William Kentridge and Handspring Puppet Company. She was commissioned to write a play by Renaissance scholar Stephen Greenblatt, a work that has resulted in an ongoing research inquiry into the history of neurology. She has curated several exhibitions and published two novels. Taylor’s interests turn on a range of questions about the modes and limits of the human subject. Here her work has both bio-medical and metaphysical inquiries. In recent years she has been exploring “conversion” in relation to the Reformation in order to consider the theatricalities of rupture, raising trans-historical questions of relevance to contemporary South Africa. In 2017 she published William Kentridge: Being Led by the Nose  (University of Chicago Press), on the production of The Nose at the NY Met Opera, a work that explores the impact of Soviet arts on South African aesthetic practice.
Vron Ware is currently a professor of sociology and gender studies at Kingston University. Her book Beyond the Pale: white women, racism and history was first published in 1991 (reissued in 2015) and since then she has written widely on racism and feminism, the social construction of whiteness and the politics of anti-racism. More recently she has published books and articles about militarism, militarisation and the cultural heritage of war. Her study of Commonwealth migrants recruited to the contemporary British Army was published in 2012 (Military Migrants, Palgrave).