Isandla Workshop and Africa Human Genome Workshop

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The Sustainability Institute co-hosted two workshops during the course of this last week that will have a major impact on the future work of the Institute.

On Monday and Tuesday, a group of people invited by the Isandla Institute met at the Sustainability Institute to discuss the writing and preparation of a book that will be published in 2004 to commemorate and reflect on the first decade of South African democracy. The meeting included about forty people from a range of different sectors, including government departments, Universities, NGOs, cultural organisations, consultancies, development institutions. The meeting was co-chaired by Edgar Pieterse and Frank Meintjies, the co-founders of the Isandla Institute. Although most shared a history in anti-apartheid struggle organisations, they are now all in diverse places connected by a past and a shared experience of the victories and failures of democracy. After two days of sharing personal and work-related experiences, the group agreed to meet again and to develop contributions for publication in the book. These contributions will range from poetry and short stories, through to the more traditional academic set pieces. The aim is to find a way of reflecting both the personal experiential and conceptual perspectives on the last decade that reveal the complexities, dynamics and contradictions of transformation.

The second workshop was a much larger event of about 140 people which included leading mainly University-based academics from a diverse range of fields, including archeology, history, biology, genetics, sociology, medical ethics, linguistics, and cultural studies. Entitled Origins of the Human Species, the aim of the workshop was to trigger an inter-disciplinary discussion about this important field. In particular, the major advances made in genomic sciences in recent years make possible the rewriting of African history based on the evidence generated by DNA testing. This workship was convened by the Africa Human Genome Initiative which is a joint project between the Sustainability Institute, Human Sciences Research Council and the Academy of Sciences of South Africa. The opening address was delivered by Prof Mark Swilling and it was entitled Two Cultures: the intellectual basis for cooperation between the humanities and the sciences in the 21st century. You can obtain a copy from him directly by emailing him on