Prof Joel Modiri appointed as Head of UP Law’s Department of Jurisprudence

Posted on May 19, 2021

Professor Joel Modiri, who is the youngest current professor in the Faculty of Law and the University of Pretoria at large, has been appointed as the Head of the Department of Jurisprudence from 1 June 2021 for a four-year term.

Prof Modiri, who has been the acting Head of Jurisprudence since October 2020, was promoted from senior lecturer to associate professor on 1 January 2021.

He holds the degrees LLB cum laude (Pret) and PhD (Pret). His PhD thesis is titled ‘Jurisprudence of Steve Biko: A Study in Race, Law and Power in the “Afterlife” of Colonial-apartheid’.

On receiving the news of his appointment, Prof Modiri said he was “humbled by the opportunity to act as HOD since October 2020 and to now take up the position permanently from 1 June 2021”.

“My relationship with the Department began a decade ago when I was employed as a tutor and then moved up the ranks to now reach the level of associate professor. It has been central to my academic, professional and intellectual formation as a scholar and teacher,” he said. 

Prof Modiri’s broad vision for the Department of Jurisprudence is to:

  • pursue the central intellectual mission of an academic department in a research-intensive university engaged in hybrid learning and curriculum transformation;
  • advance, in teaching and research, a critical, transformative and contextual approach to and understanding of law; and
  • situate the Department as a leading department of jurisprudence focused on foundational legal education and critical and socio-legal scholarship.

The Department of Jurisprudence will also, in collaboration with the Office of the Dean, work towards formalising ties with the upper echelons of the South African judiciary. Further, the Department is establishing a ‘Pretoria Legal Theory Lab’, which will be the flagship research and fundraising platform of the Department, combined with a focus on niche areas of critical enquiry in legal theory, such as political economy; critical constitutionalism; culture, sexualities and knowledges.

Reflecting on this vision for the Department, Prof Modiri adds: “I conceive of jurisprudence as more than simply an academic unit, but rather as a discipline focused principally on the idea of law at a conceptual level. The UP Department of Jurisprudence has made important strides in shifting the discourse of law, legal theory and jurisprudence away from an abstract study of law to one firmly grounded in the socio-economic realities and historical complexities of our society and world.  Attentiveness to the question of historical justice is central to how I understand the discipline of jurisprudence and its place in the legal academy and LLB curriculum.”

Prof Modiri envisages that the Department will continue to “create an enabling environment for critical intellectual inquiry and embed a morally, socially and politically-engaged approach to the law in its teaching and research endeavours at all levels”.

“The University of Pretoria and the Faculty of Law are on an upward trajectory of renewal, innovation, excellence and transformation, which makes this an even more exciting time to work here with colleagues and students,” he said.

In her congratulatory note, Dean of the Faculty of Law at UP Professor Elsabe Schoeman wished Prof Modiri all the best and added, “May this promotion and new career chapter inspire you to achieve even more!” 

- Author Elzet Hurter

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