20 February 2018


Opportunity Description



As a (former) settler-colonial state, South Africa grapples with painful and problematic legacies. Much of this heritage is still exalted by the visual archives that surround us, such as public monuments, but more insidiously, is perpetuated by seemingly innocuous visual motifs that are circulated as commodities. In this conference, we ask for papers that critically address the question of heritage and legacy in the visual domain, and/or propose ways of dealing with problematic extant cultural objects and images.

Rights to cultural heritage generate fervent debates across the globe, but in particular in the (former) settler colonies, where activists resist the liberal appropriation of indigenous cultural motifs and practices for symbolic, political and economic gain. Inter alia, questions arise about the possession of colonial- and apartheid-era images of indigenous and exogenous others, such as: who can claim affiliative ownership to colonial images or histories? What are the ethics around the continued use of these images/objects in (for instance) interior design?

For some visual art historians, a troubling legacy of whiteness also raises concerns about the issue of representation and voice. In consideration of the continued dominance of white scholars and practitioners in the field of the visual, we also encourage papers that engage strategy and ethics around race and representation.

We invite papers on the following issues:

  • Art and/as archive: what to do with extant monuments and visual texts that exalt colonial and apartheid legacies?
  • Cultural appropriation and the rights to ownership: who owns troubling colonial and apartheid era images? What constitutes ethical and responsible use of these images?
  • The legacy of structural inequality in the field of visual art history: how do we address it as white or black scholars? Which other positions or modalities, such as Queer, can be adopted to unsettle or question problematic legacies?
  • It can be argued that our history generated identity-formations that are constantly reiterated through visual tropes. How can artists and activists develop a fresh syntax to question this enduring legacy of stale identity tropes?

In addition, any papers that adopt a revisionist approach to historical visual materials in African or other countries are welcomed.

Papers are also invited on ongoing research that does not necessarily fall under any of the above-mentioned topics.

We invite paper presentations of 20 minutes related to the conference theme and/or subthemes or indeed any other discourse(s) that deal with [South] African visual culture.

The conference will take place from 4 – 6 July 2018 at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study.

How to Apply

Please send a title of your proposed paper, an abstract of between 300 and 400 words as well as your affiliation. Please write the word “Abstract” in the subject line of your e-mail. Submissions must be sent to Theo Sonnekus at savah2018@gmail.com