2017 Annual Meeting

Registration is now open! Information about pricing, optional site visits, travel, and lodging can be found below.

The Humanities Improvised

Centre for Humanities Research
University of the Western Cape
Cape Town, South Africa
August 10–13, 2017

The 2017 annual meeting of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) will explore the multiple ways in which improvisation has enabled and facilitated the study of the humanities, not least in times of great social upheaval. Under the theme of "The Humanities Improvised," the annual meeting aims to gather together artists, art commentators, and humanists from member institutions to reconceptualize the relationship between art and the humanities against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world. The very concept of the public sphere is being recast in the twenty-first century as a consequence. The CHCI annual meeting will explore these shifts in an African and South African context where debates about nationalism, decolonization, neocolonialism, postcolonialism, globalization, and neoliberalism have found complex expression and contestation in burgeoning arts initiatives across the continent, producing possibilities for new models of aesthetic education and cultural critique.

The 2017 CHCI annual meeting revisits the work of improvisation in a context where changes in work, politics, and technology appear to have reorganized the repertoire of consciousness, memory, and desire that grounds the humanities. In the midst of the widening chasm between being and becoming, the humanities in its improvisational mode may reach beyond a process that only archives and preserves foundational narratives. The humanities, when placed in a longer duration of such artistic forms such as jazz, cinema, or the work of art, allows us to set forth in anticipation of the new. With the rise of third-generation technologies, the improvisational may precisely enable setting to work on reshaping the humanities in productive ways. At one level, improvisation may function as a “social instrumentality” under conditions where the relationship between the human and technology, the human and animal, attention and play, and bios and techne are being rearranged in the midst of uncertain futures. At another, improvisation functions as an opening, prompting reorientation, especially as thought and performance press up against the limits of what we conventionally understand as the humanities. Either way, improvisation may enable more questions for humanistic inquiry, and how the study of the humanities in turn might offer itself as a practice of thought adequate, appropriate, and necessary to the demands of a world in flux.


Meeting Venue and Program Schedule

The primary location for the meeting is The Castle of Good Hope, the oldest surviving building in South Africa. It has recently undergone a remarkable restoration and preservation effort. You can read more about the Castle here.

The meeting begins at 9am on Thursday, August 10, and concludes with a visit to the Handspring Puppet Company on the morning of Sunday, August 13. A full schedule will be posted as soon as it is available.


Schedule of Fees and Registration

Registration for the conference can be completed online at this link. The registration fee covers up to 5 delegates from your CHCI member institution to attend the meeting, but does not include the optional Friday conference dinner or Sunday site visits.

Please note: all delegates from an institution must be registered at the same time, including any individual choices for the Friday dinner and the Sunday site visits. Details for the site visits are provided below. All prices are in US dollars.

  • Registration: $120 per member institution
  • Late Registration (June 12 - August 1): $170 per member institution
  • Conference Dinner, optional (Fri August 11): $75 per person
  • Site Visits, optional (Sun August 13): $30 per person

Optional Site Visits

The following activities happen concurrently on the afternoon of Sunday, August 13. The fee is $30 per person and includes lunch and transportation. Registration for all events happens through the main conference registration form.

CHR Factory of the Arts

Lodged in the larger initiative of the Flagship on Critical Thought in African Humanities, and supported through the Centre for Humanities Research at University of the Western Cape, the Factory of the Arts is envisaged as both complementing a humanistic inquiry and stimulating cultural production in a variety of creative disciplines, among them photography, performance, painting, music, and film-making. This event will feature a discussion and performance with the Ukwanda Puppet and Design Company.

District Six Museum

Originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, laborers and immigrants, District Six was a vibrant center with close links to the city and the port. Over the course of the twentieth century, however, the district was reshaped due to marginalization of the residents and eventually their forced removal. The District Six Museum, established in December 1994, works with the memories of the District Six experience and with that of forced removals more generally.

Memorial Sites in Athlone

This trip will visit three memorials to the violent clashes in the Athlone region in the 1980s. The Trojan Horse Massacre Memorial is dedicated to the injuries and deaths suffered when a group of police hid in the back of a railways truck and ambushed the communities of Athlone and Crossroads. The memorial to the Gugulethu Seven commemorates the murders of seven young men killed by apartheid security forces in 1986. The Robert Waterwitch & Colleen Williams Memorial marks the location where two anti-apartheid activists died when a defective limpet mine they had planned to place at the Athlone Magistrate’s Court in the Western Cape exploded prematurely.


Travel and Lodging

There are various options available within a short taxi ride to The Castle of Good Hope. Click here for more information.


About the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape

In a rapidly shifting social context of a post-apartheid society, the study of the humanities offers creative possibilities for dealing with the challenges of globalisation, rapid technological change, and the legacies of colonialism and apartheid. To this end, the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) is unique in developing partnerships across and between institutions, particularly universities, schools, public arts projects, museums, archives and art galleries, and nurturing future generations of humanities graduates, educators and cultural practitioners. To facilitate inter-institutional collaboration and partnership and to foster public engagement in the interest of building critical citizenry, the CHR’s two satellite initiatives in Athlone and the former District Six were established to convene a public lecture series and an arts education programme respectively. The public lecture series takes place at the Dullah Omar Centre for Critical Thought in African Humanities (DOCCTAH) and the arts education programme at the Factory of the Arts.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The University of the Western Cape is a national university, alert to its African and international context as it strives to be a place of quality, a place to grow. It is committed to excellence in teaching, learning and research, to nurturing the cultural diversity of South Africa, and to responding in critical and creative ways to the needs of a society in transition. Drawing on its proud experience in the liberation struggle, the university is aware of a distinctive academic role in helping build an equitable and dynamic society.