CfP: Writing South Africa Now: a Colloquium, 16th-17th June, 2016

    Writing South Africa Now: a Colloquium, 16th-17th June, 2016

Call for Papers: Writing the South African City

EXTENDED DEADLINE: 19th March, 2016

Hosted by LSE Cities, London School of Economics, in collaboration with the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge

In 2013, it was reported that more than two-thirds of South Africa’s citizens now live in the country’s sprawling urban areas. The Gauteng region alone saw its population swell to some 12 million, an increase of more than 30% in 10 years and more than double the national average. Such statistics, while significant, are not in themselves very instructive. The everyday impact of South Africa’s urbanisation in the years since apartheid, the daily struggles that the poor urban infrastructure imposes, the expanding social and spatial inequalities that fragment the city, and the architecture of anxiety that determines so many ordinary urban habits, are better understood through the narratives crafted by the city’s writers, filmmakers, performers, and visual artists. In the imaginative writing of the city, established authors and artists such as Ivan Vladislavić, William Kentridge, and Willie Bester contribute as much to our understanding of the South African city as the emerging voices of photographers and filmmakers such as Mikhael Subotzky, Ramadan Suleman, and Oliver Hermanus. Moreover, like the graffiti commonly daubed on the M1 underpass in Newtown, Johannesburg and the fiction titles that line the shelves of Cape Town’s Book Lounge, the form these stories adopt and the networks through which they find expression are as diverse and uneven as the cityscapes themselves.

Writing South Africa Now (WSAN) was established in 2013, and has since held annual colloquia at the Universities of Cambridge and York. Now in its fourth year, it calls for academic papers that contribute to the ongoing writing of the South African city. WSAN encourages reflections that engage the “now” of the city but which do not neglect the “then” of these spaces. It also hopes to stimulate innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to the question of the city and its writing. Run by, and for, postgraduate and early-career researchers, we are interested in helping to establish new voices in the field and in further consolidating the strong network of scholars who have already contributed to the project. Following the success of its previous collaboration with the South African Poetry Project, we are also interested in hearing from artists, literary as well as visual, whose work responds to the South African city. The event is split over two days to allow for a productive balance of academic and artistic contributions.

For academic papers, please send an abstract of no more than 300 words, along with a brief biography, to the organisers by 19th March. We aim to notify all accepted contributors within two weeks.

For artistic contributions, please send either an outline of your proposed contribution or examples of your work, along with a brief biography, to organisers by 19th March.


Thanks to generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, LSE Cities, and the Faculty of English at Cambridge, Writing South Africa Now is free to attend and we strongly encourage those unable to present a paper to join us for the colloquium and to take part in discussion.


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