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In a rapidly shifting social context of a post-apartheid society, the reinvigorated study of the humanities offers creative possibilities for dealing with the challenges of globalisation, rapid technological change, and the legacies of colonialism and apartheid as these mark our modern world. 

To this end, the CHR, which was made a flagship project in the Humanities by the DSI-NRF in 2015, 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. 

Established in 2006 and informed by its institutional location and history, the CHR pursues questions from the south that have a significant impact for locating intellectual traditions in Africa in a global discourse on the contemporary human condition. The CHR builds a discourse on the humanities that is responsive to nurturing an engagement with the concept of the post-apartheid and explores the relationship between the human and technology in our contemporary world, especially as this relates to rapidly changing notions of society and politics. It also develops synergy between academic scholarship, postgraduate training and cultural production extending the reach of local and international humanities scholarship, as well as opportunities for arts education and cultural production into communities on the Cape Flats. 

Beyond public commitments, the CHR has championed Humanities’ questions at the institutional site of the university and in postgraduate education. The CHR’s postgraduate fellowship programme, broadly anchored in an annual Winter School programme with national and international partner institutions, a year-long reading programme, and the weekly South African Contemporary History and Humanities Seminar, has emerged as a leading critical space in South Africa for graduate education in the Humanities. The CHR’s postgraduate training pipeline has seen CHR fellows appointed across the South African Higher Education as well as public institutions, contributing greatly to the transformation of these sectors.

As part of UWC’s multi-sited campus plan, and as a research priority at UWC attentive to its commitments to bridge the divides between the institution and its publics, as well as the racial divides that mark the city of Cape Town and its relationship with its rural surrounds, the CHR has overseen the development of a major art and research facility on Greatmore Street, Woodstock. 

A commitment that formed part of the CHR’s initial flagship proposal to the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Greatmore initiative allows for increased mobility across the apartheid divides that structure the life of the city. To this end, the Greatmore initiative will accommodate several of the projects already inaugurated by the CHR namely a laboratory of kinetic objects, an artists in residence programme, inquiries into concepts and practices of sound, image and movement and an initiative on translations of the Humanities. 

The Greatmore building with its exhibition, film, laboratory, photographic, music, specialist lecture, study and visiting scholar spaces, enables the CHR’s vision to be further translated into public domains and along new lines of inquiry.

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