JM Coetzee: Universities head for extinction

In the view of Mr Coetzee there is a special disaster available for the West as it heads unerringly along the way of Romans  et al …Mail & Gaurdian this comentary on the loss of the University of Cape Towns’s academic freedom should be read with this post by  :How To Fake Your Way Through Life: Non-Academic Job on what to do once you realize your PhD is worthless and will not allow you to obtain a tenured position in the beloved field you have toiled at. These  points of view have a strange synchronicity to me that makes me think that the dream of a humanist education and the failure of the Enlightenment project is now  in the throes of the death it deserves, as I sit here in Rwanda reading a critique of the colonial project by Mahmood Mamdani  “When Victims become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism and the Genocide in Rwanda” whle daily engaged in designing and  building new suburbs for an elite to return to while the poor are in a dreadful position and eking out a subsistence from patches of remnant agricultural land in the midst of the city.

Novelist and academic JM Coetzee’s foreword to University of Cape Town fellow Professor John Higgins’s new book.

The response of the political class to the university's claim to a special status in relation to the polity has been crude but effectua. (David Harrison, MG)

Dear John,

Thank you for letting me see your essays on academic freedom in South Africa. The general question you address – “Is a university still a university when it loses its academic autonomy?” – seems to me of the utmost importance to the future of higher education in South Africa.

Hardly less important is the junior cousin of that question, namely: “Is a university without a proper faculty of humanities (or faculty of humanities and social sciences) still a university?”

As you point out, the policy on academic autonomy followed by the ANC government is troublingly close to the policy followed by the old National Party government: universities may retain their autonomy as long as the terms of their autonomy can be defined by the state.

The National Party had a conception of the state, and the role played by education within the state, to which such tenets of British liberal faith as academic freedom were simply alien. The indifference of the ANC to academic freedom has less of a philosophical basis, and may simply come out of a defensive reluctance to sanction sites of power over which it has no control.

But South African universities are by no means in a unique position. All over the world, as governments retreat from their traditional duty to foster the common good and reconceive of themselves as mere managers of national economies, universities have been coming under pressure to turn themselves into training schools equipping young people with the skills required by a modern economy.

You argue – cogently – that allowing the transient needs of the economy to define the goals of higher education is a misguided and short­sighted policy: indispensable to a democratic society – indeed, to a vigorous national economy – is a critically literate citizenry competent to explore and interrogate the assumptions behind the paradigms of national and economic life reigning at any given moment. Without the ability to reflect on ourselves, you argue, we run a perennial risk of relaxing into complacent stasis. And only the neglected humanities can provide a training in such critical literacy.

I hope that your book will be high on the reading list of those politicians busy reshaping higher ­education in the light of national priorities, as well as of those university administrators to whom the traditional humanities have become alien ground. I hope that, having read and digested what you have to say, those politicians and administrators will undergo a change of heart. But alas, I do not believe that your hopes and mine have much chance of being realised.

Read More


A Dynamic New Magazine on African Urbanism

I had to read about this in [polis]register on the link and get your free copy it looks interesting and its by the African Centre for Cities – Tau is a very innovative and creative designer – well done!

It has been nearly four months since we breathed a huge sigh of relief. After more than a year of meetings, informal conversations, exorbitant coffee bills and more meetings, we finally launched CityScapes at the Open Book literary festival in Cape Town. A brief introduction: CityScapes is a biannual print magazine focusing on cities in the Global South, an initiative of the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town. Don’t judge us by our geographical location: The cover of the launch issue features a photograph taken on the opposite end of Africa — a portrait by Moroccan artist Yto Barrada.

CityScapes has a core team of four diverse individuals: urban theorist Edgar Pieterse, who is also director of the Centre for African Cities; Camaren Peter, a sustainability researcher and scientist; journalist and arts writer Sean O’Toole; and myself, Tau Tavengwa, a bookmaker, designer and accidental researcher. The four of us spent a lot of time grappling with the various dialogues about cities in Africa. At the same time, we tried to figure out how they connected to larger conversations about urbanization and development in the Global South. One of our main conclusions was that there was need for a publication — something disciplined and thoughtful but also rambunctious — that would adequately serve a range of practitioners (scholars, architects, urbanists, journalists, artists, photographers, essayists and all other sorts of cultural factotums) saying interesting things about the “the city.”

The second issue of CityScapes is due out on April 30, 2012. It will be as eccentric and enquiring as the first.

Tau Tavengwa is co-editor, creative director and co-publisher of CityScapes.

Read the full article

UCT Landscape Architecture students win 3 out of 4 prizes in international design competition

Congratulations to University of Cape Town Landscape Architecture students


Five Master of Landscape Architecture students entered an international student competition for the redesign of a portion of the Nairobi River running through the centre of Nairobi.

The students proposed creative solutions to the challenges facing cities and the design and planning of rivers that run through them.

Three of the students were placed in the top four, including wining first prize of $1000.

The competition was judged by five international landscape architects with the award ceremony being held at the International Federation of Landscape Architects Africa Symposium held in the first week of October in Nairobi.

The student’s projects were praised for the high quality of the landscape architectural concepts, the level of innovation, the depth of ecological aspects and the feasibility of the overall projects.

Prize winners:

Winning entry: Ke Lu – University of Cape Town ($1000)

Project title: Reincarnation Landscape

Click thumbnails to view large..

Runner up: Ancunel Steyn – University of Cape Town ($600)

Project title: Metamorphosis: Transforming river, transforming lives

Special Prize (Most environmentally responsive design):
Julia McLachlan – University of Cape Town ($500)

Project title: Flowing waters: Cultural and knowledge streams