Terms of engaging and project-ing Africa (ns): an ethnographic encounter with African studies through Curate Africa

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

In May 2012 Curate Africa - an ongoing project centered on photography and curation in Africa - was pre-launched at the University of Cape Town (UCT) within the University's Africa Month Celebrations. The project aimed- conceptually and visually - to re-imagine, re-image and re-envision Africa from within Africa and through the lenses of Africans. While this research began as an examination of Curate Africa, the project became a heuristic device through which I began exploring how UCT, on a day-to-day basis, negotiated and continues to negotiate its African identity. In this respect, this dissertation illustrates how Curate Africa and its project leaders - who are also academics within the University - problematised the study and representation of Africa through the intentions of their project, through their individual scholarly pursuits - where they attempt to reimagine the study of Africa(ns) and through the tight scholarly networks that they formed through their scholarly inclinations. Furthermore, this dissertation offers an historical account of the African Studies at UCT as well as an ethnographic account of how the developments and debates around the formation of the "New School" (2012) and around UCT's Afropolitan ambition unfolded within the University and affected those operating in the departments concerned. The principle argument within this dissertation is that projects, however flexible and decolonial in intention, cannot escape being projections of the project leaders' imaginings. Furthermore, projections and ideas of Africa (Mudimbe, 1994) are shaped by perceiving Africa from particular vantage points and within particular contexts laden with histories and complex presents. Perceptions of what "Africa" means and in the case of this research what postcolonial African Studies means continue to be debated from different vantage points within UCT. By and large, this ethnography therefore articulates the scale and challenges of knowledge production centred on the continent in general but, more specifically, the complexities embedded in knowledge production that seeks to be decolonial in its very nature.