The humanities have long been vital to the creative and critical energies of societies in the throes of profound change. HUMA - the Institute for the Humanities in Africa - is a global initiative at UCT, with a Pan-African framework intended to create a space of dynamic interdisciplinary community for scholars and students in the humanities at large. Fostering top-end academic research, HUMA seeks also to draw on that work to nurture critical public debate, promoting UCT's vision of itself as a civic university contributing to the making of democratic citizenship.
Located in the Faculty of Humanities, HUMA takes a broad view of the humanities, encompassing other fields such as the social sciences, environmental sciences, health sciences, engineering, computer sciences and others.
HUMA's intellectual agenda is driven by one overarching but inclusive research theme, which informs and structures three primary objectives:
This mission is embedded in a particular understanding of our location in Africa. Africa is a landmass with a deep and complex history of connection and disconnection amongst its many inhabitants; being African means being party to formative relationships of connection and disconnection that shape the ways we think and act. Our scholarship and debate, then, is positioned in Africa, even if the focus of our deliberations is global.
HUMA has been funded by grants from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation and Anglo-Gold Ashanti.
HUMA's research themes are deliberately broad and expansive. They are intended to function in two ways simultaneously: on one hand, to constitute a collective intellectual project, which gives coherence and cohesion to the intellectual life of the Institute, and on the other, to create space therein for individual researchers to make their own way into the issues. An architectural metaphor perhaps captures this best: if the Institute is imagined as a building, the research themes give it size and shape, at the same time as creating many rooms which individual researchers can inhabit in their own way.
Each theme encompasses three modes of analysis: theoretical and conceptual; empirical; and ethical. While separable in some respects, these are also closely interconnected, and the research themes create opportunities to explore these linkages too.
The research themes are envisaged as vehicles of interdisciplinary research and engagement - with the intention of discussing and debating what interdisciplinarity might entail.
On being human
If modern histories of racism and colonialism exposed the contradictions at the core of Enlightenment affirmations of a shared human nature, late modern identity politics - associated with violent, sometimes genocidal, assertions of irreducible difference - have also blighted efforts to establish peaceful and mutually respectful modes of living.
This theme aims to contribute to resurgent scholarly interest in questions of what we humans share, even if in recognition of profound differences - as the basis for grappling with the contours of 'a good life'.
To this end, the theme is structured around three key concepts and their obverses: 'human', 'humane' and 'humanist; and obversely 'non-human', 'inhumane' and 'anti-humanist'.
Divine Fuh is Director of the Institute for Humanities Africa (HUMA) at the University of Cape Town, where he is also a lecturer in social anthropology. Before that, he was Head of the Publications and Dissemination Programme at the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa CODESRIA from 2017-2019. He joined UCT in 2012, from the University of Basel where he was a Researcher in the Chair for Research and Methodology at the Institute for Sociology. He taught briefly at the universities of Basel, Cape Town, Western Cape and Stellenbosch, and has been visiting lecturer at the Universities of Brasilia, Tokyo, and Gaston Berger. His research focuses on the politics of suffering and smiling, particularly on how urban youth seek ways of smiling in the midst of their suffering. He has researched Botswana, Cameroon, South Africa and Senegal, and his current work focuses on the political economy of Pan-African knowledge production. He was educated at the universities of Buea, Botswana and Basel. He has been a visiting fellow at the Centre for Modern Oriental Studies in Berlin (ZMO), and guest at the African Studies Centre Leiden. Divine is Founding Managing Editor of Langaa Research and Publishing, and has been Chair of the Council of Management of the Africa Book Collective. He is also current Co-Chair of the Global Africa Group (GAG) of the World Universities Council (WUN)