Jean Comaroff: Identity, Law, and the Paradoxes on Personhood in Contemporary Africa: The Return of Khulekani Khumalo
Welcome to a lecture by Jean Comaroff, professor at Harvard University.
After the seminar, coffee and snacks are served in our lunch room. The event is open to all, no registration required.
What might imposture tell us about personhood in ‘postcolonial’ times? About the means of producing selfhood, identity, social viability? While the figure of the false double has long haunted Western ideas of personhood, imposture of various kinds has become ever more striking in late modern times. It is especially common in post-apartheid South Africa, for instance, where identity theft, plagiarism, fakery, even counterfeit crime are everyday occurrences. Taking a celebrated national case – the alleged ‘return’ of a famous Zulu musician who died a few years ago – this lecture explores what such acts of imposture might tell us about postcolonial self-fashioning, about personhood under contemporary social conditions, and about the difficulties posed by all this for law, evidence, and the meaning of recognition.
About Jean Comaroff
Jean Comaroff was educated at the University of Cape Town and the London School of Economics. After a spell as research fellow in medical Anthropology at the University of Manchester, she moved to the University of Chicago, where she was remained until 2012 as the Bernard E. and Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, and Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory. She is also Honorary Professor at the University of Cape Town.
Her research, primarily conducted in southern Africa, has centered on processes of social and cultural transformation – the making and unmaking of colonial society, the nature of the postcolony, the late modern world viewed from the Global South. Her writing has covered a range of topics, from religion, medicine and body politics to state formation, crime, democracy and difference.
Her publications include Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: the Culture and History of a South African People (1985), “Beyond the Politics of Bare Life: AIDS and the Global Order” (2007); and, with John L. Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution (vols. l  and ll ); Ethnography and the Historical Imagination (1992); Millennial Capitalism and the Culture of Neoliberalism (2000), Law and Disorder in the Postcolony (2006), Ethnicity, Inc. (2009), and Theory from the South, or How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa (2011).
A committed pedagogue, she has won awards for teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and has championed programs that enable college students to study abroad, especially in Africa.
Seminar contact: Keir James Cecil Martin