The University of Pretoria in a CHCI-Mellon Global Humanities Institute Grant

Posted on April 28, 2020

Pretoria, 22 April 2020 – The Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship at the University of Pretoria is collaborating with the University of Texas Humanities Institute in a grant awarded by the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), located at the University of Wisconsin System. The grant, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is for the purpose of conducting a Global Humanities Institute (GHI) in the Summer of 2021 on the theme of “Climate Justice and Problems of Scale.” This will be the fifth Global Humanities Institute funded through the CHCI-Mellon partnership.

The project is a collaboration between six CHCI member institutions, including the Humanities Institute (University of Texas at Austin), the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship (University of Pretoria), the Sydney Environmental Institute (University of Sydney), the Center for American Studies and Research (American University of Beirut), the Institute for Humanities Research (Arizona State University), and the Humanities Center (Carnegie Mellon). Three or four scholars from each participating university are collaborating in planning the GHI’s activities, including principal investigator Pauline Strong, professor of anthropology and director of the Humanities Institute (UT Austin); Joni Adamson, President’s Professor of Environmental Humanities and Director of the Environmental Humanities Initiative (ASU), and James Ogude, professor and Director at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship (University of Pretoria).

The Summer 2021 Global Humanities Institute is scheduled to be held at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and will convene 18 senior scholars along with 18 early-career scholars from around the world for a 10-day conference. It will also include keynote addresses from renowned scholars in the field. “The Centre for the Advancement at the University of Pretoria is honoured to be part of an international group of humanities scholars investigating how people are responding to the scale of climate change. Global collaborations on the impact of climate change and problems of scale are more important than ever at this unprecedented time, and as scholars located in a region that is most impacted by climate change, the continent of Africa, this initiative, which seeks to grapple with these vexed issues, is timely. We are excited at the prospect of hosting the Summer Institute on this important theme at our University next year,” said principal investigator James Ogude, professor of African Literature and cultures, and director of the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship.

The Global Humanities Institute will explore climate change as a social, historical, and cultural force that transforms all lives but does so in an uneven and often unequal fashion. Behind the Institute is the premise that problems of scale make it difficult to understand the differing ways in which climate change affects individual lives, specific communities, and the earth. Seeking to cultivate scale literacy, the Institute will generate more nuanced and holistic understanding of the relationship between the effects of climate change and the intensification of injustices in the social, political, and cultural spheres. These inquiries are grounded in the understanding that a diverse array of factors--including geography, race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, and economic position--influence the ways in which individuals and groups experience and react to the impacts of climate change.

The Institute will consider the following research questions, among others: (a) How do matters of scale fundamentally shape understandings of climate change and its effects at specific times and places? (b) How can we build “scale literacy” to identify the sources and attributes of climate injustice? (c) What new narratives, activist frameworks, and planning strategies might promote collective action to mitigate climate change, more evenly distribute the impacts of climate disruption, and work towards climate justice?

The Institute will also advance ongoing work of humanities faculty at UP and ASU who are researching ways to increase food sovereignty and ensure climate justice in two distinct regions in the global south and global north, respectively. In Arizona, their research focus includes cultivating “famine foods,” harvesting desert plants, and reintroducing regenerative farming practices known as “O’odham Himdag,” or the “Desert People’s Way.”

During the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years, the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship will recruit and host postdoctoral fellows, whose research focus will be on the Environmental Humanities, and the Centre’s signature project— “The Poetics and Politics of Extraction and the Environment”.  This research focus will be connected to the “Climate Justice and Problems of Scale” project through research themes that will include but not be limited to, colonial modernity, food systems and the environment; extractivism, disease ecologies and climate change, and climate justice and environmental movements. In addition, the Centre will host academic seminars and co-ordinate the development and authoring of publications as part of its broader aim to advance scholarship. In 2021, the Centre is planning to host the Global Humanities Institutes colloquium on “Climate Justice and the Problem of Scale”. Staff members involved in the project include Dr Rory Du Plessis (Senior Lecturer in the Department of Visual Arts) and Dr Tafadzwa Mushonga (postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship).

Preceding the Global Humanities Institute, representatives from the six partner institutions will hold a virtual global planning meeting to discuss the agenda for the Institute and collaborative activities that will be held on the partner institution’s campuses. In the months following the GHI, members of the planning group will reconvene at the University of Sydney to discuss outcomes and possible publications.



Professor James Ogude

Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship

University of Pretoria

[email protected]

(012) 420 4093

- Author Professor James Ogude, Dr Tafadzwa Mushonga and Kirsty Nepomuceno
Published by Kirsty Nepomuceno

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