History of the Centre


History of the Centre: Education Philosophy11e98842-9317-4971-b0cf-55ee827e5ef5

Cultural and media
studies, an interdisciplinary field, which examines texts and sub-texts
and their relationships to power relationship within contexts,
flourished at British universities and polytechnics in the early 1980s.
From there and then on the field significantly influenced social science
and humanities disciplines in Australian, New Zealand, Canadian,
Scandinavian, Zimbabwean and South African universities. The success of
cultural and media studies at NU was facilitated between 1985 and 1990
in the first instance by:

a) an ability to reproduce cultural studies as collective work;

b) being able to work within a graduate research institute;

c) being able to put
theory into practice through production (of books, articles, videos,
performance, workshops, teaching situations, consultancy research, and
so on)

d) being able to reconstitute itself in terms of useful knowledge both during and after Cold War/apartheid era.

The KwaZulu-Natal
University (UKZN) Contemporary Cultural Studies Unit (CCSU), as it was
then called, was modelled on the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary
Cultural Studies, which had established cultural studies as an
international field.

The section New Needs, New
approaches provides some background into how CCSU set about developing
the field at NU with regard to student profiles and teaching methods.
While I helped to shape these approaches, it must be acknowledged that
the cooperation of my colleagues and many of my students was just as
important in helping me achieve these goals. In the later section
Teaching Philosophy I deal with how CCSU successively restructured
itself into the Centre for Cultural and Media Studies (CCMS) to address
the very different needs of the post-1990 period. For a summary of the
apartheid period and an analysis of developments beyond 1990 see
Shepperson and Tomaselli (1998/9).

History of the Centre: Development Phase

1.  Background History 

CCMS was established in
January 1985 as the Contemporary Cultural Studies Unit (CCSU), modeled
on the seminal Birmingham Centre. The Unit’s mandate was to develop
sites of graduate teaching and research which would:  i)  theorize the
mobilization of `culture’ and `media’ in the anti-apartheid struggle; 
ii)  offer a site for the development of graduate research;  iii) offer a
hub for  transdisiplinary graduate teaching,    

Phase 1 (1985-1990)

1985 was devoted to
developing a core theoretical approach linked to: i) curriculum design;
ii) a international publication strategy; iii)  identification and
enculteration of contributing academics; and iv) recruitment of the
first batch of students to start in 1986. The curriculum was debated and
published in a CCSU Seminar Paper Series of which 10 000 individual
copies were sold across the country and internationally.  The Series was
funded by grants of R100 volunteered by departments across the
University.  About 23 seminars were presented and/or published between
1985 and 1987.   The seven most relevant papers were compiled
into Rethinking Culture (Anthropos, 1988, 1989), which sold a further
4000 copies.  The bi-annual Critical Arts supplemented this Series,
which grounded the ongoing intellectual base of the Unit.  A book series
(James Currey/Anthropos/Lake View Press/IAP) edited by KG Tomaselli
between 1986 and 2002 published six original titles on media research
undertaken within CCMS and its external collaborators, with reprints of
three titles up to 2005.  

The initial batch of
modules included:  i)  Science as a Cultural Expression (taught by two
Physics lecturers [one of whom was employed in Architecture], and later
one from Biology);  ii) Culture and Literature and iii) Walter Benjamin
and the Idea of Historical Projection were taught by lecturers from
English;  iv)  Film, Video and Cultural Production (CCSU);  v) 
Thanatology:  Death and Ideology; and vi) a module on Culture and
Community Health, were taught by lecturers from the Medical School, and
the Faculty of Social Science. 

Students worked in
research teams under staff supervision. Publications over and above
those already mentioned laid the groundwork for the CCMS research and
publication ethos to come. From the start, CCMS has attracted mature-age
students from across the world who bring a wealth of both academic and
professional expertise to bear on its activities. 

Phase 2 (1990-2002) 

Following a Faculty review
in 1989, the Unit was renamed as the Centre for Cultural and Media
Studies (CCMS). The Centre consolidated a more directly cultural and
media studies approach as lecturers from the first Phase refocused their
activities back into their own departments. The Centre had secured
extra academic posts and viable MA and PhD cohorts, which added
necessary capacity.  Modules introduced during this phase included: i)
Cultural Studies, Visual Anthropology / Documentary Film, ii) Narrative
Cinema, iii) Development Communication, iv) Political Economy of the
Media, etc.  The publication strategy continued with Critical Arts and
the book series.   The MA in Media Studies was introduced in 1994 which
attracted top students from Africa and globally. CCMS pioneered this
degree format nationally and it continues to underpin programme
viability.  The transdisciplinary nature of  CCMS narrowed somewhat
during this second phase as contributing lecturers found that their home
department workloads had increased. The funding formula also required
that they reduce their inter-departmental commitments. 

Phase 3 (2003 – 2009) 

CCMS’s new research and
coursework sites were consolidated into four theoretically integrated
research-based themes:  i)  Media in the Global World;  ii)   Media,
Culture and Development;  iii)  Communication for Social Change (CFSC,
incorporating public health communication, now titled Communication for
Participatory Development );  and iv) Visual Anthropology / Documentary
Film.  Each module is more or less connected to global strategic
research partners, research funding and scholarships.  Students are
taught by CCMS lecturers, and are advised by international cohorts of
cooperating professors who contribute to three of the modules in one way
or another.    

2.  Structure, Resource, Staffing  

CCMS attracts a global
graduate student cohort (including post-doctoral fellows) who are drawn
by its international reputation.  This complement includes many
lecturers on study leave from their home Universities, who have helped
to build this global profile and CCMS’s very extensive publication

3.  Teaching 

CCMS offers 

  • research-based conceptually integrated paradigm-specific graduate work;
  • international collaborations involving graduate students embedded in ongoing,  externally funded projects; 
  • Freirean-derived
    experientialist pedagogy where students take responsibility for
    developing their own research directions within specific research
  • sociological underpinning of textual approaches, that is the study of texts in relation to contexts;
  • senior staff hold
    PhDs and have extensive professional experience. They hold senior
    disciplinary Association office, thus providing further local and
    international links for students;
  • an exalting of
    globally competitive and significant graduate work and research, often
    resulting in peer-reviewed international publication; 
  • collaborative projects within the School and Faculty, especially involving social change communication (see below)..
  • Students are
    encouraged to participate in off-campus field research within 
    communities, thus gaining hands-on experience doing operation research
    with real people.

Quality assurance is
ensured by strong external examiner appointments, who are senior local
and international experts in their relative fields, and via: 

  • a sustained emphasis on publication in peer-reviewed journals and books, both local and international;
  • PhD students, who are
    lecturers in their home institutions, and/or NGO workers, act as tutors
    and mentors for MA and Honours students;
  • close interaction with post-doctoral fellows and visiting professors located in CCMS;
  • participation in local and international conferences, publication in proceedings, and publication on specialist web sites.


4.  Post-Graduate 

All students are invited
to join specific CCMS research and outreach activities. Students
undertake their research projects within these supporting
infrastructures.  Our community-oriented strategic partners, all based
at UKZN, provide students’ sites within which they are able to undertake
structured field research under both CCMS and partner-supervision.  Our
students at MA and PhD levels especially are experienced academics and
professionals who have chosen CCMS as the place to hone their expertise
within their observation that UKZN “offers a First World education in a
Third World environment”. This is key to their selection of CCMS as a
location at which to study. 

5.  Research 

CCMS’s academic staff and
students have achieved a uniquely high publication output within the
University as a whole.  In the past few years, e.g., students have
published chapters in books; one MA student published a whole book drawn
from her MA thesis, with another in press by a second student. Numerous
chapters are currently in press. Journals in which students have
published include international disciplinary flagships like Visual
Anthropology and Cultural Studies ß> Critical Methodologies,  and
local journals like Current Writing, Communicatio, Critical
Arts, Communitas, Ecquid Novi andCommunicare.  Moreover, the two
professors are also editors and board members of many of the high impact
journals and book series serving the field internationally. 

6.  Community Outreach

CCMS’s Freirean critical
pedagogy has always required praxis – where students apply theory to
practice in the field.  This was recognized by a number of CCMS’s early
funders linked to the Catholic Church, the HSRC and UNESCO between 1986
and 2000, and more recently, by organizations like Drama in AIDS
Education (DramAidE) and Johns Hopkins University (JHU).  In the field
of HIV/AIDS, e.g., CCMS works with JHU and UKZN initiatives as research
partners (see below). Since 1996 many CCMS staff and students have
focused on the region’s burgeoning HIV epidemic, providing unique
insight into factors that constrain effective response. Many graduates
have applied their theoretical frameworks and findings in subsequent
work in the field through working for health NGOs, the Department of
Health, UNAIDS, CADRE (Centre for AIDS, Development, Research and
Evaluation), DramAidE, JHU, HIVAN and the tertiary sector.

These joint ventures are
geared to developing the participatory action research capacity of our
partners staff both at an organisational level and by improving the
graduate qualifications of their employees. These organisations provide
research and internship sites for students to experience ongoing field
work and undertake research in established organizations with strong
research track records. CCMS provides mentorship, strategic planning and
programme development for DramAidE in particular. DramAidE, in turn,
assists with the teaching, learning and outreach work undertaken by CCMS
students at all graduate levels. Staff of The Culture and Arts
Programme (a division of HIVAN) undertake applied arts projects for
social change under the auspices of the Centre,  and register for higher
degrees. ARROW (Art: A Resource for Reconciliation over the
World), which works with secondary school children, is managed from the
University College Plymouth St Mark & St John  with partners in
Palestine, Kosovo, Durban, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone. ARROW was a
funded operation located in CCMS between 2004-6 

CCMS is interconnected
with the following networks of international researchers and projects,
many of which are externally funded:   

  • Johns Hopkins Health
    and Education in South Africa (JHHESA) via the JHU Bloomberg School of
    Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs, linked in South
    Africa through the Health Communication Partnership, with its funded 15
    affiliates (i.e. DramAidE, CADRE,  Dance 4 Life, The Valley Trust, and
    SABC Education etc.).  Both DramAidE and CAP are self-sustaining,
    obtaining their funds through JHHESA and the UKZN Foundation
    respectively, amongst other sources.
  • ARROW –  Art:  A Resource for Reconciliation Over the World
  • The African Media
    Programme, Michigan State University, working on a video digitization
    project in conjunction with Southern African Communications for
    Development (SACOD, a video production NGO), and its 54 members in the
    SADC region.  CCMS has a strategic partnership link with SACOD.


KG Tomaselli

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