Inaugural Lecture: Professor Marie Jennifer Rosabelle (Rose) Boswell

24 July 2013

Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Deans, Heads of Department, colleagues, students, family and friends of Prof Boswell, ladies and gentlemen – molweni, good evening, welcome.

The University Calendar lists all the current full professors of Rhodes University. Professor Rose Boswell, who is also the Head of the Anthropology Department, is one of the more recent entries on this list.

This evening, as is our tradition, we have the presentation of the Inaugural Lecture that follows the University conferring the status of full professor on an academic.

It is an evening on which as academic peers, colleagues, students, family and friends we celebrate the intellectual and scholarly achievements of one of our professors.

Rosabelle Boswell (nee Laville) was born in Mauritius, the last born to a family of eight children, and grew up in Malawi. She attended a multinational school, St Andrews International School in Blantyre, completing A Levels in French, English Literature and Biology.

On a scholarship from the Sugar Corporation of Malawi, she migrated to South Africa in 1990 and commenced a Bachelor of Social Science at UCT. There, she completed courses in economic history, archaeology and political studies, obtaining her first degree in Anthropology in 1992. 

After obtaining her Honours degree in 1993 she went to work as an Information Officer for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Lilongwe. She returned to UCT in 1995 and completed her Masters in 1996.

Rose joined Rhodes University in 1997 and commenced a PhD researching poverty and marginalisation in Mauritius in 1998. She completed and defended her thesis at the Free University of Amsterdam in 2002.

Since 1997 she has taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and has supervised 10 Honours, four Masters and four PhD theses. Her teaching methods have been rated in assessment as outstanding and in 2009 she was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

During her time at Rhodes she has also completed certificates in Monitoring and Evaluation for Programme Managers and in Strategic Management with distinction.

Rose is fascinated by cultural diversity and has done field research in Mauritius, Zanzibar, Seychelles, Madagascar and South Africa. The topics of her research include tourism, heritage, gender, race and social justice. She is also interested in more ‘esoteric’ topics such as dress, perfumes and sexuality.

Her research, conducted over the past 15 years, has resulted in the three books on the islands of the southwest Indian Ocean, one training manual, 12 peer-reviews articles and seven other articles, and four book chapters. She has presented papers at several international and national conferences.

In 2011 Rose obtained a of C2 NRF rating.

In 2012 she was invited by the Commonwealth Foundation in the UK to speak about diversity management in education. The Creolization and Diaspora Centre at Oxford invited her to present a paper on creolization in the southwest Indian Ocean in the same year.

She has led a major research team sponsored by the Mauritius government to investigate the legacies of slavery in Mauritius. Prior to that she was selected to participate in the SA HERs Leadership Academy and also became a resident at the Rockefeller Foundation Centre in Bellagio, Italy for her work on Mauritius.

Her recent research projects include a National Research Foundation project that seeks to understand Experiences of Aversive Racism in Post-apartheid South Africa; a manual on Heritage Policy and Legislation in South Africa, commission by the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA); and the development and coordination of an Anthropology Honours degree specialising in heritage resources management funded by the National Lottery Board.

Rose is also currently serving a term as deputy chair of the Association for Anthropology in Southern Africa (ASNA) and she has been a member of the Ministerial Reference Group, Charter for the Humanities and Social Sciences in South Africa, and a Member of the European Association of Social Anthropology.

She has been an external examiner at Walter Sisulu University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal and was co-editor of the Journal of Contemporary African Studies.

She served as Deputy Dean of the Humanities Faculty and is deeply committed to university life, having served on several forums and committees during her time at Rhodes, including the Humanities Faculty and Standing Committee, The Institutional Forum, the Dean’s Forum, Academic Leadership Forum, Equity and Institutional Culture Committee, the Research Committee, the Staffing Committee, the board of the International Library of African Music and finally as Chair of the board of the Institute for the Study of English in Africa.

Rose has also served as a member of the GADRA Education board for six years and her community engagement activities have thus far been linked to motivational speaking to school children and women in Grahamstown.

Her lecture this evening explores how identity is reconstructed in places where oppression still lingers. This question has intrigued her for the past 15 years and she has sought to answer it by undertaking a voyage back to the Southwest Indian Ocean region, the place of her birth and a space of incredible diversity and early globalisations.

She explores the politics of identity, as well as the influence of contemporary social phenomena on the islands, specifically international tourism and heritage management.

Being in the Indian Ocean region positively changed the way she perceives and experiences fieldwork, and her findings thus far underscore the relevance of anthropology to contemporary Africans and their ‘cousins’ in the African Diaspora.

It is my great pleasure to invite Professor Rose Boswell to address us this evening. Her lecture is titled Re-imagining Ourselves: Odyssey and Anthropology in the Southwest Indian Ocean Islands.


Last Modified: Mon, 17 Nov 2014 11:07:55 SAST