Faculty of Law staff member among the Top 100 most influential South Africans

Posted on April 10, 2019

Senior Lecturer, Dr Joel Malesela Modiri, of the Faculty of Law’s Department of Jurisprudence has been featured on the Top 100 “Most Influential Young South Africans”  list.

PR company Avance Media have compiled their list for the top 100 Most Influential Young South Africans of the past year and  Dr Modiri is ranked sixth in the category Personal Development and Academia. 
According to Avance Media, this year’s list features a record 50 females and 50 males who have made remarkable contributions towards their respective fields and who have extended their influence to other young people across South Africa and beyond. 

Dr Modiri said,  “the recognition and accolades such as the ‘influential young South Africans’ list that I have received in the past few years are at once humbling and heart-warming. I am proud to be counted among so many industrious and pioneering young professionals, athletes, entrepreneurs, artists, and scholars.”
He said it was important for him to remember that “what brought me and keeps me in the academy is the struggle for intellectual liberation.  My work takes up the task of drawing on the Azanian political tradition (Black Consciousness-Pan Africanism) to open up different ways of critically reading the present.”

He said the aim is to decenter dominant perspectives in his discipline by taking seriously the history and experience of African and African-diasporic communities. “This project entails risk and disruption not only at the level of critical academic research but also in terms of transforming the teaching of law and challenging conservative institutional cultures.”   Dr Joel Modiri was also recognised by the 2018 Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans in the category Justice and Law.

In 2018, as winner of the JUTA legal education paper, he was invited to present aspects of his award-winning research paper at Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies in New York in 2018 and spoke of his research again at the UCLA Law School during February 2019.  The paper deals with the intersection of a sociology of legal knowledge and Black radical political thought and critical race theory. His talk at Columbia University was titled ‘Race, Conquest and the Whiteness of the South African Academy: Experiments in "Azanian" Critique”’.

Dr Modiri holds the degrees LLB cum laude (Pret) and PhD (Pret). His PhD thesis, completed at age 26, is titled “The Jurisprudence of Steve Biko: A Study in Race, Law and Power in the ‘Afterlife’ of Colonial-apartheid”.  He has published almost 20 articles to date and mainly teaches in the field of Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy. He has convened and taught a number of law subjects such as Social Justice and Human Rights, African Human Rights, Research Methodology, Legal Problems of HIV & AIDS, and Law and Transformation. He has also taught portions of courses in Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology and Public Policy presented by the Faculty of Humanities.

Dr Modiri’s main research focus areas are Critical Race Theory, African Jurisprudence, Law and Identity, Feminist Political Philosophy, Black Political Thought, Legal Education and Critical Pedagogy as well as Critical Theories of Human Rights and Constitutionalism.  The central concern of his teaching and research relates to the development of a critical anti-racist post-conquest jurisprudence through which to contemplate possibilities for liberation, decolonisation and historical justice in South Africa and beyond.

He is an editor for the South African Journal on Human Rights and has been a Faculty member of Harvard Law School’s Institute for Global Law and Policy Africa Regional Workshop held in Cape Town.  He has also held a Visiting Fellowship at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), University of the Witwatersrand and was recently selected as an Inaugural Fellow in the Atlantic Fellowship for Racial Equity Programme (2018 to 2019) hosted by Columbia University and the Nelson Mandela foundation. He is also a member of the Section 11 Committee on Equality at the South African Human Rights Commission.

He said “my short-term future plans at this stage are to begin with post-doctoral studies to complete research towards a book on Steve Biko and the critique of post-1994 South African law and society.” 


- Author Primarashni Gower

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