Professor Charles Ngwena, Professor of Law in the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, has been awarded the annual Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Scholarly Books for his monograph What is Africanness? Contesting nativism in culture, race and sexualities.

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Professor Ngwena is one of the foremost scholars writing in South Africa on topics related to the law, rights and identity in so far as they relate to vulnerability, in particular, persons with disabilities, and sexual and gender minorities. Professor Ngwena has published in various internationally recognised journals, notably the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics and the Journal of African Law.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Scholarly Books is awarded by the University of Pretoria (UP) to celebrate the outstanding performance of academic staff and pay tribute to their commitment and hard work. UP introduced the Vice-Chancellor’s Book Awards to recognise and reward authors of scholarly books, monographs and collections. The prizes are awarded once a year in two categories, namely humanities and social sciences (broadly defined) or natural and applied sciences.  This year’s awards were announced at UP’s Academic Achievers’ Awards, on 25 November 2020.

This peer-reviewed monograph aims to contribute to the ongoing scholarly conversation and critical exploration of the making of African identity. By focusing on race, culture and sexuality What is Africanness seeks to problematise African identity in addition to addressing an existential gap in theory for explicating African social identity.

The main question of this monograph is: Who/what is African? What is Africanness does not answer this question in dogmatic terms but rather reveals its complexities and treats it as a discourse question. Ultimately, What is Africanness develops a roadmap for the recognition of multiple African identities in a diverse world.

What is Africanness aims to implicate a reductive sameness in the naming of Africans (‘nativism’) by showing its teleology and effects; and offers an alternative understanding of how Africans can be named or can name themselves. What is Africanness argues that nativism has dominated the imagination of African identity not just during the eras of slavery, colonialism and apartheid but also in contemporary times.

This monograph interrogates the making of Africa in colonial discourses and the making of an African race and African culture(s) and sexuality(ies) in ways that are not just historically conscious but also have a heuristic capacity to contest nativism from the outside as well as from within. In essence, What is Africanness is a rethinking of African identity.

What is Africanness is an open access publication of the unique printing press at the University of Pretoria, the Pretoria University Law Press (PULP), and is available in electronic format on the PULP website, free of charge.

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PULP on 11 September 2018 marked its 200th publication with the launch of What is Africanness. PULP is located in and managed by the Centre for Human Rights.

For more information, please contact:

Liesl Hager
Research, Marketing and Publishing Assistant
Pretoria University Law Press (PULP)