UFH Scholar joins prestigious Harvard Fellowship programme

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Siseko Kumalo, one of our youngest academics is currently in Cambridge, Massachusettes where he has earned his space as a Harvard South Africa Fellow.

The fellowship programme was established in 1979 by Harvard University President Derek Bok with the objective of addressing the needs of South Africans denied access to advanced education by the apartheid system.

Today, the programme continues to serve as an intellectual resource for South African scholars, with the goal of providing a transformational experience at Harvard University during the fellowship year.

The 27-year-old says his selection for this programme was an incredibly affirming moment for him.

“Being selected as a Fellow demonstrated that the work I have been developing for the past couple of years is worthy of recognition, at an international level.”

Siseko joined UFH in October last year as Philosophy Lecturer. He recently submitted his PhD thesis which interrogates belonging and national identity in South Africa.

In 2020, at age 25, he was listed among the Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans in the category of Education.

He holds a Master of Arts (Cum Laude) in Political Philosophy from the University of Pretoria’s Department of Political Sciences. He received his formative training from Rhodes University where he read in Political and International Studies, Anthropology, and Philosophy.

His research and teaching interests centre around themes of education decolonisation in the South African academy.

Siseko served as the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Decolonising Disciplines and has presented his research at world-leading institutions. He has spoken at Duke University’s (USA) Centre for International and Global Studies and further lectured at Karolinska Institutët (Sweden), under their masters in Global Health, teaching on the subject of decolonising Global Health.

He has edited Decolonisation as Democratisation: Global Insights into the South African Experience (HSRC Press), co-edited Decolonising Curricula and Pedagogy in Higher Education (Routledge, UK), along with University on the Border: Crisis of Authority and Precarity (SUN Media Press).

He serves on the Editorial Collective of Stilet, the Tydskrif vir Letterkunde Association as well as the Literary Association of South Africa’s Executive Committee. He is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar (2017).

At Harvard, Siseko says he will be pursuing research on the Black Archive wherein he locates the thinking of William Wellington Gqoba (a local intellectual who was writing in the late 19th century in the Eastern Cape) with the thinking of Ali Mazrui (the Kenyan-born scholar/political theorist).

“As Gqoba gave us the epic poem Ingxoxo Enkulu Ngemfundo in 1888, which I also used in my PhD, Mazrui wrote Political Values and the Educated Class in Africa in 1978 (which was published 90 years later). The two scholars consider similar themes and topics in their considerations/writings, even as they were writing in two different languages, nearly a century apart, on different parts on the continent.”

“My interest in locating them in conversation seeks to inquire into the critique of the social institution that is education. This is a pursuit of challenging the nonsensical claim that suggests that we do not know what is intended by the demand of decolonisation. In simple terms, my work at Harvard seeks to challenge the constant dismissal of Indigenous ways of thinking/writing and being. This work forms the basis of the developments I am developing in the Black Archive,” he explained.

Siseko says to have this honour of being selected while at Fort Hare has also been incredibly affirming, for the purposes of demonstrating how UFH is still the home to globally relevant scholars and scholarship.

“Thinking about our history and the kinds of intellectuals who have taught at Fort Hare, it affirms me to know that I join this history of intellectuals - the likes of ZK Matthews as one of the prominent figures. I also think it important for the students to see scholars who are occupying space in the world's leading institutions.”