UP law lecturer chosen as Africa Oxford Initiative Visiting Fellow at University of Oxford

Posted on May 13, 2019

The University of Pretoria’s Dr Joel Modiri is among 19 distinguished African researchers chosen to represent 12 African countries in the Africa Oxford Initiative Visiting Fellowship Programme at the University of Oxford in England. 

Dr Modiri is a senior lecturer in the Department of Jurisprudence in UP’s Faculty of Law. According to the AfOx website, the 20 research fellows chosen were selected from nearly 250 outstanding applications from 30 countries.

An excerpt from the website reads: “The Africa Oxford Initiative (AfOx) is a cross-university platform for academic and research collaborations between the University of Oxford and African researchers and institutions. The Initiative supports the work of universities and research institutions across Africa and facilitates the development of equitable and extensive collaborations between Oxford and African institutions.”

A very pleased Dr Modiri says, “I was invited to apply by colleagues based at Oxford University's Faculty of Law, as the fellowship will help to advance the global reach of my research and ideas and bring it into conversation with critical legal, jurisprudential and public law research in the UK. The Oxford Faculty of Law has a strong cohort of human rights-centred faculty and students, and I look forward to working with them.” Dr Modiri plans to take up the fellowship during Oxford University's 'Michaelmas term' in October and November 2019.

While at Oxford, Dr Modiri will continue his broad research focus on developing a critical race theory grounded in the post-1994 South African context. His project draws on the works of anti-colonial activist-intellectual and leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, Steve Biko, to critically examine the progress of South Africa's constitutional democracy and legal order in redressing the effects of colonial and racial injustice. The notion of a "jurisprudence of liberation" stands central to this project. 

“My interest is to illustrate the value of drawing on the writings of non-academic political activists as a source of critical jurisprudence, as part of widening and ultimately, decolonising the archive of legal theory,” Dr Modiri says. “I will be closely reading a series of Constitutional Court of South Africa judgments from the period 2016 to 2018 that foreground the struggle of post-1994 constitutionalism to reckon with the history of colonialism and apartheid, racism and historical injustice. I explore three possible theoretical/political orientations to the problems posed in these judgments, namely, constitutional optimism, critical scepticism, and constitutional abolitionism. I will use the legal problems present in those cases as a starting point for theorising the relationship between law, memory, race and decolonisation.”

Dr Modiri’s immediate goal is to complete work on a monograph on Biko and the critique of post-1994 law, society and politics and to build materials and content for an MPhil programme on Race, Law and Transformation.

Recently Dr Modiri has been voted one of the top 50 most influential young South Africans in the country and ranked sixth in the category Personal Development and Academia.

Formal announcement from the Africa Oxford Initiative

- Author Elzet Hurter

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