Student and Professor Join World of Contradictions Programme in Germany
Social Sciences student Mr Lindoh Shabane has been awarded a doctoral scholarship from the University of Bremen, Germany in the Contradiction Studies programme. Contradiction Studies is a new interdisciplinary programme located in the broader School called “World of Contradictions”.
Professor Rozena Maart is an international Research Ambassador for the University of Bremen (a position she accepted in January 2020), and more recently, prior to Shabane’s application, was appointed one of three Mercator Fellows to the World of Contradictions programme.
She sent out a call for the scholarships across the country and met with students online to discuss the programme and offer insight into the many ways in which “contradictions” have been articulated by various scholars in the past decade. Maart has written on contradictions, especially with regard to philosophy and decoloniality, which along with critical race theory, has earned her national and international recognition.
The Contradictions Studies programme has 12 University of Bremen teaching staff and three internationally appointed Mercator Fellows. The Fellows travel to Bremen to participate in workshops, seminars and PhD training. The Bremen team received 5 million euros (R90 million) for the first four-year term of the programme from the German Research Foundation (DFG), which is renewable upon completion of the first cohort of PhD students.
Shabane first met Maart while he was a first-year student attending a colloquium she organised on the contribution of Steve Biko. ‘Professor Maart made such an impression on me that during my second-year I decided to take a course she was teaching in Gender Studies. After that, I regularly attended her Critical Race Roundtable sessions,’ he said.
‘Professor Maart’s course introduced me to Black existentialism and African phenomenology and broadened my perspective on ideas I was already familiar with such as Black Consciousness and decolonisation. Her novel and short story collection are the works I credit the most with my understanding of the complexities of intersectionality. Her literary take on the intersections of patriarchy, race and violence are the horizon from which most of my ideas emerge,’ he added.
Shabane completed his master’s degree summa cum laude. Maart describes him as ‘a disciplined and committed young man, who is mature beyond his 24 years.’
On the question of discipline and what he could share with students who come from humble homes like his, Shabane noted that it is not easy to sit in front of a computer for hours. ‘It can be tiring to read the same book over and over again, especially if you feel that you don’t understand it. Sometimes, it can feel like shouting in the void, as though you keep writing your dissertation and something keeps swallowing your words and you end up not seeing the progress you’re making.’
Shabane speaks like a true scholar of the process of writing and observes that ‘it is never pretty but, in the end, it is worth it. Hard work carries the potential for greatness. Discipline and consistency are a huge factor for success. Do not despise small beginnings.’
Asked how he learnt about the call for the PhD scholarship, he explained, ‘One afternoon I texted Professor Maart to congratulate her on her appointment as a Mercator Fellow in the Contradictions studies programme. She told me that the applications for doctoral positions were still open. I had little time to prepare. A few days later I participated in a Zoom meeting held by Professor Maart with several South African and one Namibian student. She walked us through the application, and interview process, if we were to be shortlisted.’
Maart was not permitted to write reference letters for any of the students. From nearly 200 applicants, 12 were shortlisted, including Shabane. He will receive a monthly grant of R30 000 and the programme assists international students with accommodation.
Shabane will join Maart and the other Contradiction Studies staff and Mercator Fellows for a retreat in the north of Germany as the programme starts in early June this year. Maart believes that he will continue to make UKZN and South Africa proud. ‘Lindoh’s work is on African phenomenology and I am looking forward to seeing him grow and prosper,’ she said. He will be joined by an international cohort of students undertaking a broad range of research in contradiction studies.
Shabane thanked Professor Goolam Vahed, his master’s supervisor and Dr Jonathan Chimakonam, for allowing him to lean on his ideas when formulating his concept note on African phenomenology. He also thanked his family, friends and Maart for their support over the years.
Maart is a recipient of the 2016 Philosophy Born of Struggle lifetime achievement award as well as the Nicolas Cristóbal Guillén Baptista lifetime award, named after the Cuban poet and political activist, for her work in literature and philosophy, which was bestowed upon her by the Caribbean Philosophical Association (CPA) in January 2021.