March 13, 2017
Gender Studies Program Hosts International Scholar
On Tuesday, March 14 at 7 p.m., in Loar Auditorium, Dr. Zethu Matebeni will deliver her talk, “Black women’s activism and the quest for a decolonized university.” Dr. Matebeni is a South African intellectual who has made enormous contributions to empirical and theoretical developments in Queer African Studies through her curation of public exhibits, her research linking different sites across the continent, and her continued involvement with activist work, especially in South Africa. Dr. Matebeni’s commitment to knowledge production by African scholars about the African continent is well-documented in the multiple volumes for which she has served as editor in addition to her establishment of the annual symposium at the Institute for Humanities in Africa, Queer in Africa, which connects human rights issues, social justice struggles, cultural studies, LGBTQ activism, and scholarship. Not satisfied with her contributions in print only, Dr. Matebeni is also director of the film Breaking Out of the Box: stories of black lesbians in South Africa (2011).
Dr. Matebeni has affiliations with the University of Cape Town, Yale University, in addition to fellowships she has held with institutions in Ghana, the US, Sweden, and the University of Amsterdam. Earning her Ph.D at WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) at the University of the Witwatersrand, she has been at HUMA (Institute for Humanities in Africa) at the University of Cape Town as a senior researcher since 2011. This semester, she comes to Wesleyan from Yale University. Her work appears in numerous journals, edited books, newspapers and magazines. Additionally, she has many current book projects.
Dr. Matebeni will speak to her involvement with the #RhodesMustFall Movement through her participation in the Black Academic Caucus in South Africa. “Since March 2015 black students across South African universities have captured the nation’s imagination with the urgent need to decolonize higher education,” said Dr. Matebeni. “The call to subvert systems of oppression that continue to make and mark knowledge production, as well as undermine the majority of the country’s population, have animated debates about who belongs at universities and on what terms. Black women have been the most visible in taking their positions on the front lines of protests and demands for decolonization. Yet, they remain invisibilized by patriarchal and racist systemic oppressions, which undermine the very notion of a decolonized university. This presentation argues that as Black women continue to be pushed out, decolonizing the university will remain a farce.”
Dr. Matebeni’s presence on campus is part of a series of speakers and events sponsored by the Gender Studies program each year that seek and serve to enrich the public intellectual life of our campus community by providing opportunities to engage with a range of diverse and critical issues. Such presentations provide increased awareness about the work being carried out in students’ own communities and in the larger world using the theoretical frameworks generated by Gender Studies as an academic discipline through presentations by experts in their respective areas of pedagogy, activism, and critical thought.
“We are honored to host Zethu Matebeni because she is a brilliant and dynamic speaker and thinker,” said Jessica Scott, coordinator of the gender studies program. “Our students will benefit so much from her presence, as she encourages them to make links between theory and practice, knowledge and activism. We have hosted a wide range of speakers from different areas of the world who also come from different areas of work. Every time we host a speaker, students learn some new way of thinking about the world, which is an invaluable part of the liberal arts experience. Dr. Matebeni’s commitment to a public practice of the humanities continues our tradition of providing these experiences for students on campus.”
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