Toward reducing infant mortality via smart and low-cost pulse oximetry

Sepsis kills over six million children in the developing world every year, many of those die at home and thus it is believed that a distributed, community‐based intervention would be most effective in reducing mortality. I am part of a multidisciplinary research group that wants to put an end to this carnage by developing an … [Read more]

Analysing sub-Saharan African states through a limited access lens

During the past decade, an extraordinary disconnect regarding the futures of states in sub-Saharan Africa has emerged: ‘Aspiring Africa, the world’s fastest growing continent’ (in the words of The Economist on its title page), on the one hand, and, in the words of an economist, ‘informalised and subsistence Africa, with swathes of survivalist pockets of … [Read more]

Sisters-in-law: Scotland, South Africa, and the Law of Property

Perched, inconveniently, at opposite ends of the globe, Scotland and South Africa are nonetheless ‘sisters-in-law’ in the sense that their systems of private law are uncannily close. For in both countries private law is founded on the Civil or Roman law – in South Africa on the Roman-Dutch law brought to the Cape by the … [Read more]

Global Citizenship and the Practice of Being Human. South African Visions and the Legacy of the Enlightenment.

My proposed project addresses the idea of global citizenship and common humanity in South Africa today. These ideas were powerful in Enlightenment Europe,where they promised a new regime of justice in opposition to despotism, exploitation, and slavery. But they were also highly problematic,  since they tended to obscure cultural difference and impose European values on … [Read more]

South African Literature after the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The role of literature is always to speak the truth to power (Nietzsche), and even if it cannot pretend to ameliorate material problems it appears to have impact on the way readers respond to reality and even perhaps behave in the real world. South African literature written during or after the TRC shows an increased … [Read more]

Battling homophobia in the bid to protect East Africa’s sexual minorities: A socio-legal analysis

Recent political and judicial battles over the rights of sexual minorities in East Africa have witnessed the introduction of new constricting legislation, judicial interventions and civil society action both in favour and against the expansion of the ‘right to love.’ In light of these developments, the proposed research takes only one of the sites of … [Read more]

51 Poets: an Anthology of World Poetry

For a Latin American publisher I have undertaken to compile an anthology of world poetry. Each poem will be presented in its original language and in Spanish translation, and will be prefaced with an introduction by myself setting the poem in its literary-historical context and elucidating details that the non-professional reader may find puzzling. The … [Read more]

The nature of randomness and fundamental physical limits of secrecy

People have always been fascinated by randomness and intrigued by the fundamental question – is any outcome that appears random to us only so by virtue of our ignorance, or do there exist experiments whose outcome is inherently unpredictable to any observers, no matter how powerful or omniscient they might be? Quantum theory, which rules … [Read more]

The Politics of the Human

To think of oneself primarily as a human being is to discount, in some way, the significance of the divisions we otherwise maintain between people. This is a powerful ethical ideal, and often deployed in challenging racism, xenophobia, misogyny, ultra- nationalism: the many hatreds of the ‘other’ that dwell obsessively on the differences between us, … [Read more]

Celebrating South African outsider artists: Helen Martins and Nukain Mabusa

In 1972, the British scholar Roger Cardinal coined the term “outsider art” as an English equivalent of “art brut”, French artist Jean Dubuffet’s term for artists creating extraordinary work outside the boundaries of mainstream western art. As early as the 1940s, Dubuffet recognized the work of these artists, individuals who often had little or no … [Read more]