55. COMEBACKS

THE ACADEMIC CITIZEN RELAUNCHES

You cannot come back to the same thing. You can’t step into the same river twice.”

Dr. Carla Tsampiras

This 6th season is being curated into inter-disciplinary themed conversations in each episode. We begin the season by honoring the memory of our previous producer Simbarashe Honde who departed this earthly realm in 2021. We dedicate the programme to him and his warm memory.

After a 4 year break, the Academic Citizen podcast, has staged a comeback. In doing so, the team as led by Professors Mehita Iqani and Nosipho Mngomezulu are reanimating the commitment to growing space for the higher education community in South Africa and beyond to explore what we do and why it matters.

We then ‘dig into the crates’ of the 54 previous episodes and polish off memorable sharing’s from previous guests namely Professor Brenda Mhlambi, Oscar Masinyana, Dr. Moshibude Motimele and Professor Natalie Fenton. Scratching in our archive (which remains available on our website) illuminates the cyclically nature of the human experience. As we listen to the lucidity of the 2016 Fees Must Fall position as articulated by Dr. Motimele, at the time of recording this podcast, UCT students staged a successful protest to allow students with fees debts to register. Professor Natalie Fenton from Goldsmith University, in 2016 explains the origin of industrial action taken by UK academic staff as follows “Applying market principles to something that doesn’t fit that rubric at all has lead us into this really difficult position”. The salience of this is amplified by the resurgence of strike action among these same actors this year.

In some ways, the episode seeks to serve as roadmap out of these socio-political cul-de-sacs. Dr. Cerene Rathilal, a Maths lecturer at the University of Johannesburg offers actionable guidance. “A comeback”, she motivates, “is literally an opportunity for us do a little bit better than what we did  before”. In conversation with her colleague Dr. Andrew Craig, they share the unexpected learning that effective maths teaching relies of an affective and intuitive connection to your students which is almost entirely compromised in the online environment.

Professor Tanja Bosch of UCT Media Studies Department has a similar emotional echo to her reflection. Triggered by an expired box of good quality biscuits, she reflects on how, for her, an important part of being an Academic Citizen, is creating a nurturing, cozy environment in which learning can unfurl.

Dr. Carla Tsampiras, a health historian based in Medical Anthropology at UCT utilises the scalpel to sharpen our discursive view of how we have in fact gotten to this place of loss and return. She dissects, “The real health crisis has, was and always will be social inequality and a system that radically perpetuates that disparity between the most wealthy and the poorest”.

The episode closes, as always with the Read the Room segment, a brief book review for guests and listeners to share what they are reading. Prof. Mehita Iqani suggests “Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine” by Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley as apposite reading of our time. Dr. Carla Tsampiras suggests we immerse ourselves in the oral history accounts of South African survivors of the Spanish Flu epidemic by reading Howard Phillips’: “In a Time of Plague: Memories of the Spanich Flu Epidemic of 1918 In South Africa.” In these stories, she explains, lies the secret to transformative comebacks: cooperation, grit and the indomitable fire of the human spirit.

The Academic Citizen envisions itself as an accessible and interactive platform. We invite you send us your Read the Room book reviews as 2-3 minute voice notes. We welcome guest and theme suggestions.

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