College of Humanities Hosts Memory Studies Conference
The College of Humanities recently hosted the 2nd Annual Conference on Memory Studies on the Howard College campus under the theme, “Memory in Africa”.
Following on from the inaugural Memory Studies Symposium held at UKZN in September, 2013, the event was expanded and extended with more than 30 presentations by scholars from South Africa and all over the world.
According to one of the organisers, Professor Sabine Marschall, Memory Studies is a recent but strong, multidisciplinary field of academic research internationally, but still underdeveloped in South Africa and the continent.
‘This is despite the fact that memory has long played a pivotal role in some disciplines, notably history and political science, where it was often the foundation of alternative versions of the past, countering the official narratives promoted by the state.’
College Dean for Research, Professor Donal McCracken, said he was impressed by the Conference work and encouraged participants and organisers to continue with it next year.
The majority of contributors to Memory in Africa are from Humanities, Social Sciences and Education, notably the disciplines of history, heritage studies, religious studies, arts, literary studies and education with a focus on personal or autobiographical memory and collective forms of memory, including oral history, social memory, cultural memory, and political memory.
Conference Organiser Professor Philippe Denis said a few presenters were from neuroscience and cognitive psychology, illustrating the truly interdisciplinary nature of Memory Studies, which held much promise for mutual learning, innovative research and ground-breaking insights.
The aim of Memory in Africa is to provide a platform for information sharing, critical debate and showcasing current research among scholars whose work is substantially focused on memory or informed by theoretical frameworks from the field of Memory Studies.
‘It is most especially meant to provide inspiration to young, emerging academics and postgraduate students, whose participation is particularly welcome. For this reason, registration fees were kept to an absolute minimum,’ said Denis.
The Conference attracted participants from across South Africa as well as from the United Kingdom, the United States, Poland and Zimbabwe.
Dr Nadaraj Govender of UKZN’s School of Education presented his research on: “How Memories are Stored in Custodians of Zulu Culture via their Indigenous Knowledge System”.
Govender explored how the KwaZulu-Natal indigenous community of elders, chiefs, inyangas and sangomas preserve (memory and artefacts) and practise their knowledge. ‘My research involved field interviews and dialogues conducted with chiefs and indunas in northern and southern KwaZulu-Natal on their aspirations for inclusion of their knowledge into formal societal structures such as universities and schools.’
He said their knowledge needed to be recognised, preserved and interacted with in current knowledge systems and suggested education modules should incorporate their experiences.
Dr Lubna Nadvi of the School of Social Sciences presented a paper titled: “Sowing the Seeds of Democracy In South Africa: the Role Played by UDW in the Early Transition to a Post-Apartheid Society”.
‘The years between 1990 and 1994 were critical and foundational to the building of South Africa’s democratic dispensation and for crafting a vision for a post-apartheid society,’ said Nadvi. ‘The role played by the University of Durban-Westville (UDW) in contributing to this process was invaluable and in particular its hosting of the first ANC conference in 1991 after the party’s unbanning was a milestone in the broader political landscape.’
She examined the Conference and unpacked the institutional contributions made by the former ‘Black’ university to ‘sowing the seeds of democracy’. Nadvi also engaged in a critique of how the historical memories of these momentous occasions could be understood after more than two decades.
Other UKZN presenters at the Conference were:
Professor Michael Samuel, who spoke on: Remembering and Redirecting the Self: Journeys Towards a Philosophy of Education. Institutional Biographies: a Review of Examples.
Mr Karthigasen Gopalan - Memories of Forced Removals: Group Areas Act and Displacement of Residents from the Durban Municipal Magazine Barracks.
Dr Nokuthula Cele - Romance, Memory, Gender and Patriarchy: Analysing the Zwelibomvu Faction Fight of the 1980s.
Dr Vanessa Noble - Memory Struggles: Remembering Apartheid at the University of Natal’s Medical School, 1990s to the early 2000s.
Dr Joram Ndlovu - Solidarity or Ethnic Cleansing: the Presence of the Past in the ‘Gukurahundi’ Aftermath, Zimbabwe.
Professor Catherine Madgwick - Memories Take on a Rosy Hue in Old Age: Investigating the Positivity Effect on Memory in Older People.
Dr Gunasekharan Dharmajara - The Remnants and Reminiscences of Tamil Culture among the South African Tamils: a Cultural Anthropology Survey.
Professor Sabine Marschall: Tourism and Memories of Home: Roots Tourism, Homesick Tourism, Migrant Return Travel and Other Journeys Inspired by Memories of Home.