AMHERST, Mass. – Stephen Clingman, director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will discuss “Looking from South Africa to the World: A Story of Identity for Our Times” in the second of the campus’s 2012-13 Distinguished Faculty Lectures on Monday, Dec. 3.
All lectures in the series are free and open to the public and begin at 4 p.m. in the Massachusetts Room at the Mullins Center. A reception immediately follows each lecture.
Clingman, who is a professor of English and a former chair of the department, will examine how South African activists and writers have approached the question of identity as an unfolding story in a country whose ethnic and racial history has been defined by division and, paradoxically, promise – a journey across the boundaries of a fragmented yet connected world.
The issues examined by writers at the moment of their country’s transition to democracy are a microcosm, says Clingman, of how identity is being created all over the globe. “Identity,” Clingman remarks, “is discovered not in retreat to the center, but by heading out towards the boundary. If we want to find out who we are at the core, let us see how we treat people on, or at, the edge of our view.”
Clingman completed his undergraduate studies in English and history at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He went on to earn his doctoral degree at Oxford University before joining the UMass Amherst faculty in 1989. He is the author of several dozen articles on South African literature, and is the author or editor of six books, including several on South African novelist Nadine Gordimer. His biography of Bram Fischer, the lawyer and political figure who led Nelson Mandela’s defense at the Rivonia Trial, won the Alan Paton Award, South Africa’s highest award for non-fiction.
The Interdisciplinary Studies Institute is a forum for faculty at UMass Amherst to engage with one another in a spirit of intellectual and creative adventure in a range of settings and environments. At the core of ISI activities is the faculty seminar, organized around a specific theme for each year. ISI residencies have featured the eminent writer, Caryl Phillips, as well as Harvard anthropologists Jean and John Comaroff.
For more than 35 years, UMass Amherst has recognized distinguished faculty achievements by sponsoring the Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series. The series honors individual faculty members and their achievements and celebrates the value of academic excellence. Lecturers are presented with a Chancellor’s Medal at the conclusion of each talk.
Other speakers in this year’s series are:
· Thomas Zoeller, department of biology, discussing “The Brain on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals” on Monday, Feb. 25.
· Laurie Brown, department of geosciences, discussing “Magnetic Field Reversals: The Ups and Downs of Earth’s Dipole, as Seen from South America” on Monday, March 11.