Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Professor Deborah Posel

Professor Deborah Posel is the Founding Director of the Institute for the Humanities in Africa (HUMA) at the University of Cape Town and is Leverhulme Visiting Professor for the academic year 2018-19 at the Institute of Advanced Studies.  Professor Posel is a leading scholar of modern South Africa and the culture/history of Apartheid. Her current research addresses the interconnection of consumerism and material history (the biographies of things, their use, agency and distribution) with race in the colonial and postcolonial setting as well as the anxieties and contradictions entailed in conceiving of consumerism in racialised terms. ‘Race’, in Posel’s scholarship, is not a purely theoretical proposition but is embodied through modes of address (advertising, branding, packaging) and the circulation/display of goods. This complicates conventional understanding of the effects of Apartheid’s legislative segregation to account for identities as constituted through everyday activities and a relationship to things.

Professor Posel’s presence will expose post-graduate students, researchers, tutors and the public to this approach, which has relevance beyond the specificity of South African history/politics and speaks both to the tenacity of race as a concept and its insidious reach/effects. She will deliver a series of public Leverhulme lectures entitled ‘Consumerism and the Making of Race in Modern South Africa’ that will deal with the politics of consumerism and its role in ‘race-making’ in the colonial and post-colonial setting. Her Visiting Professorship will also enhance current MA teaching in African Studies, History of Art, South African History and ‘race’ theory through existing courses.