March 17, 2003

CSPS forms bond between Emory, South Africa

By Eric Rangus

Throughout Emory, there is a focus on blending the academy with the surrounding community, whether it is the Druid Hills neighborhood, the Atlanta metro area or the state of Georgia.

Sometimes those efforts stretch beyond the immediate area. They can cross oceans—even hemispheres. A prime example is the Center for the Study of Public Scholarship’s (CSPS) Institutions of Public Culture (IPC) Program, which through fellowship, professional conversation and exchange has forged strong ties with a variety of cultural institutions in Cape Town, South Africa.

Universities, museums, non-governmental organizations and political and arts organizations both in the United States and South Africa are represented through the work of a pair of congruent committees charged with leading the efforts in the two countries.

The Atlanta committee has representatives from the Carlos Museum, Atlanta History Center, Emory’s Institute for African Studies, Georgia State’s heritage preservation program and the Smithsonian Institution, to name a few.

Cape Town committee members come from a variety of educational and cultural institutions including the University of Cape Town, University of the Western Cape and the Iziko Museums of Cape Town, which encompass 15 museums of South African art, natural history and social history.

Each year a member of the Cape Town committee travels to Atlanta to touch base and participate in programming with the stateside counterparts. In reciprocation, CSPS Co-Directors Ivan Karp and Cory Kratz participate in annual workshops in Cape Town.

“In each place there’s programming; decisions are shared about fellowships,” Kratz said.

“The goal of the CSPS is to be a place where people can learn how to do scholarship that crosses the boundary between the academy and communities,” Karp said. One of CSPS’s prime tools in meeting that goal is its 3-year-old IPC Program.

Each year, the program offers four semester-long research fellowships and three yearlong student fellowships. Research fellows work on pro-jects dealing with the IPC theme, and student fellows take a year of Emory courses and participate in summer internships at public U.S. institutions. Both research and student fellows have a hand in planning, organizing and participating in CSPS programs. Most fellows are South African, but one research fellow this semester is from Namibia and a previous fellow was from Zimbabwe.

CSPS, an independent entity of Emory College, was created in the mid-1990s as part of the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts. In early 1999, the center was nearing the conclusion of its grant from the Rockefeller Foundation (its prime outside funding source) when Karp journeyed to Cape Town to deliver the keynote speech at the South African Museums Association conference. Kratz was scheduled to give some lectures (the two are married) and took part in the trip as well.

“We were really impressed with the kind of innovative work that people in South African museums and other cultural organizations were doing,” Karp said. “It was striking—the ways in which they invoked memory, and how people were involved in documenting whole aspects of their cultural and political lives that had been suppressed.”

Upon returning home, Karp contacted the Rockefeller Foundation and suggested it get involved in arts programming in South Africa. Karp and Kratz wrote a proposal, turned it in that fall, and the IPC was born. The program is finishing the third year of its four-year grant and Karp and Kratz will reapply for funding once this term is over.

Museums have a high profile on both committees. Karp, National Endowment of the Humanities professor in the ILA, after all, was a Smithsonian curator for 10 years. CSPS has a particularly interesting tie to Cape Town’s District Six Museum; the museum chronicles the history of that city’s vibrant, multicultural arts district, which was destroyed and its inhabitants forcibly removed by the government during apartheid in an attempt to erase its racially mixed history. The museum’s newly appointed director is a former research fellow, and its new associate director was a student fellow. Current student fellow Qanita Lilla, who is working on a master’s degree in art history at the University of Cape Town, is an employee.

In addition to Lilla, on campus this semester are student fellows Thanduxolo Lungile (South African Heritage Resources Agency, Grahamstown) and Inez Stephney (Robbin Island Museum) and research fellows Anne Mager (Department of Historical Studies, University of Cape Town) and Jeremy Silvester (History Department, University of Namibia).

“Having a program like this is fantastic,” said Lilla, who praised Emory’s libraries and helpful faculty. “It’s focused; [research and classwork] is all that we do. There aren’t any distractions or demands on our time.”

Both Lilla and Stephney have jobs and are full-time students. Stephney is doing preliminary doctoral work concerning memories of inmates and warders from Cape Town’s Robbin Island Prison. Her uncle was a political prisoner there (as was Nelson Mandela), and the former prison is now South Africa’s largest museum—as well as her employer.

As part of their semester on campus, research fellows deliver a center-sponsored lecture. On March 20 at 4 p.m. in S423 Callaway, Mager will speak on “‘One Beer, One Goal, One Nation, One Soul’: Nationalism, Heritage and the South African Breweries.”

Part of Mager’s talk will touch on beer advertising in her home country. It’s a form of marketing that has its own distinct identity and tone in this county, she noticed.

“There is much less focus on multiculturalism here than in South Africa,” Mager said about beer advertising in the United States. Since she doesn’t much television and therefore hasn’t seen a lot of stateside beer commercials, Mager is familiar only with American breweries’ print and billboard advertising. “There is also more advertising aimed at women here,” she said.

By bringing to campus a fresh perspective on a familiar theme, Mager’s lecture fulfills a chief aim of the Institutions of Public Culture program, Karp said. “We want to stitch the various programs at Emory more closely with South African scholarship and public scholarship as well,” he said.