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About History Access

Rethinking Historical Knowledge Production in terms of Social Transformation

Funded by: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The HISTORY ACCESS programme is an attempt to operationalise a set of concrete, sustainable and institutionally implementable transformative practices which can creatively respond to the perceived disconnect between the academic discipline and the public lives of the pasts in the fraught context of South Africa. We identify (a) Anglonormativity of postgraduate research and training and (b) obsolescence of the conventional forms of articulating academic research as two major sites of redress.

In prioritising African language sources, designing and teaching an annual intensive six-week course in relevant African vernaculars for facilitating original historical research, and collectively producing through innovative pedagogical practices a critical multilingual conceptual lexicon that will be made available to the general public free of cost, the ‘Vernacular Universals’ cluster of HISTORY ACCESS will be focused on the questions of multilinguality. The ‘Everyday Archives’ cluster will encourage and actively facilitate the options of articulating original research in technologically contemporary and innovative forms.

The HISTORY ACCESS programme aims at attracting an equitable demographic in all postgraduate levels of the Department of Historical Studies and training a new generation of South African historians who are conceptually multilingual, technically competent, and academically rigorous. The critical core of this generation will be directly supported in the programme through a total of 4 two-year postdoctoral fellowships, 6 three-year doctoral fellowships, 12 two-year master’s fellowships and 20 one-year honours fellowships. Over the five years, 25 small three-month writing support stipends, along with appropriate intellectual and logistical assistance, will also be provided to develop high-quality postgraduate dissertations into publishable journal articles and book chapters.

In every year of the requested grant period, an annual six-week vernacular course, two ‘Vernacular Universals’ workshops, two ‘Everyday Archives’ production sprints, one writing retreat, and various off-campus events of sharing research with the larger community will be organised. The projected key outcomes include the production of a critical multilingual conceptual lexicon, journal articles/ book chapters and innovative (new media) articulations of original research. These in turn will be integrated into the curricula within the university and beyond. The collaborative, conversational and workshop-centred process of producing the outcomes will also deeply transform the postgraduate pedagogic practice.

The programme’s emphasis on the conceptual, translational and multimodal aspects of knowledge makes it a prospective hub of massive cross-disciplinary energy that can not only make various intra- and inter-institutional synergies possible, but also provide core support to the Faculty of Humanities, which has exceptional intellectual responsibilities in driving processes of change at an institution like UCT. The questions of equity, redress, diversity and inclusion are absolutely central to both the intellectual and the operational aspects of the HISTORY ACCESS programme, as reflected in its equity target (80% black South African students and 50% women).