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Professor Gordon to take up the Nelson Mandela Visiting Professorship

Date Released: Thu, 22 August 2013 09:59 +0200

Rhodes University is thrilled and honoured to announce that Professor Lewis Gordon, a leading figure in philosophy, will take up the prestigious Nelson Mandela Visiting Professorship in the Department of Politics & International for 2014 and 2015.

The Nelson Mandela Visiting Professorship was set up in 2012 with a view to bringing world renowned scholars to Rhodes University. It will alternate between people working in International Relations and Political Theory.

The Nelson Mandela Visiting Professors teach a post-graduate course in each year of their appointment and also give seminars and public lectures.

The first Nelson Mandela visiting Professor was Amitav Acharya.

“The impact on the department, the faculty and in some cases the university as a whole has been phenomenal. It has really been very good to have that kind of exposure to international scholars coming here talking about their research,” says Dean of Humanities, Prof Fred Hendricks. 

He says so far it has worked well and it’s been mutually beneficial. “It worked well for us for getting international scholars and it has worked well for them in getting the accolade of having been the Nelson Mandela Chair,” he added.

About Prof Gordon, Prof Hendricks says “Lewis is a distinguished leftist scholar and very well known for his work on Frantz Fanon and more generally on his work on Universities, race and all the issues that are confronting us.”

According to Prof Hendricks, Prof Gordon has made a major contribution to these issues globally and he is an internationally recognised scholar.

 “To have someone of that calibre within our midst raises the bar within the faculty. You got the prospects of postgraduate and undergraduate students being exposed to somebody of that calibre and testing their own ideas against somebody like that who can then guide them,” says Prof Hendricks.

Prof Gordon is honoured by this appointment “while humbled by the task of bringing justice to its namesake, especially during such a crossroads in his life, and the country we both love.”

“The Nelson Mandela Visiting Professorship, as I see it, is a national professorship since its namesake embodies the spirit of the nation, its aspirations and its sense of character. That Mandela cannot—indeed, could not—be everything for the nation is a reminder of there being much to do, much to learn, much to figure out,” says Prof Gordon.  

“That is one of the principles of research and scholarship, and with the name of such an historic public figure behind it.  It is also a reminder of the value of knowledge for the public good. These include inquiries into questions of justice and the struggles emerging where justice is simply not enough in the Global arena.  It is thus also a world professorship since everyone understands the significance of Nelson Mandela.” 

“The namesake of this appointment exemplifies the important meeting of knowledge and courage in the form of action.  It reminds us of the importance of public commitment and what it means to attempt to make human institutions humane,” added Prof Gordon.

The benefits for Rhodes University with an association with a world renowned scholar and exceptionally gifted teacher are obvious. Prof Gordon brings particular value to the university in that he has been at the forefront of serious thinking and institution building aimed at, in the slogan of the Caribbean Philosophy Association, “shifting the geography of reason”.

Given the aspirations of this University to think about transformation in terms of research and curriculum, there are tremendous benefits in having an ongoing association with a world leader in de-colonial thought with impressive expertise on contemporary thought in Latin American, the Caribbean, the US and Europe as well as Africa.

Prof Gordon visited Rhodes in 2011 and 2012, and, on both occasions, graciously agreed to stay on after the main events for which he had been invited to run week long workshops with graduate students in the Department of Politics and International Relations. He is a remarkable teacher and our students were left hugely excited and motivated by the experience of working closely with Prof Gordon over a week.

Prof Gordon teaches in the Department of Philosophy and the Institute for African American Studies, with affiliations Latino/a, Caribbean, and Latin American studies and Judaic Studies, at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. He previously taught at Temple University, where he was a Laura H. Carnell Professor of Philosophy and founder and director of the Center for Afro-Jewish Studies and the Institute for the Study of Race and Social Thought; Brown University, where he was the founding chairperson of the Department of Africana Studies; and Purdue University, where he commenced his career in 1993 in the Department of Philosophy and the Program in African American Studies.

Prof Gordon has held several distinguished visiting appointments and is currently Visiting Professor in the French-German Summer School at the University of Toulouse, France. He received his B.A. in philosophy and political science through the Lehman Scholars Program at Lehman College of the City University of New York in 1984, an M.A. and M. Phil., in philosophy at Yale University in 1991, and his PhD in philosophy, with distinction, from Yale in 1993.

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