Academic Agnosticism: Unknowing and UNKnowledge Systems.
Agnosticism is a philosophical term characterized by uncertainty. Perhaps it is rather peculiar and seemingly counter-intuitive to append ‘agnosticism’ to academia. The former is all about the unknown and the probably unknowable, while the latter is (meant to) be about the knowing, coming to know, knowledge and to be known as the Knower (sic).
In this lecture I invite us to embrace the applicability and imbricated possibilities of ‘uncertainty’ and ‘unknowing’ to anthropology’s distinctive ethnographic and idiosyncratic cross-cultural materials, and within the broader landscape of Humanities. As you sit through yet (!) another inaugural lecture, I invite you to reflect on what the shape and texture of both learning and the learner (we) could be if we drop the pretence and illusion (delusion?) that there is not a fundamental limit to what we can know.
Can adopting an acceptance of epistemological agnosticism allow us to be academic ‘creatives’ and challenge the truth value of (constructed) claims and grand narratives? And what could be the possibilities for humanistic unknowledge if we distort the perspective, and force the eye to be open to an entirely unpredictable vision? And how could we reconcile this position of ‘unknowing’ while ostensibly teaching to know?
Professor Maheshvari Naidu
BA UDW, BA Hons (cum laude), MA (cum laude), PhD UKZN
Professor Naidu is Full Professor and an NRF Rated Scientist who has received both institutional and national recognition for her research. In 2013 she won a National Award from the Department of Science and Technology for Women in Science. She was the first person in the College of Humanities and the first woman at UKZN to obtain the PhD by Publication. She is widely published with work that cuts across multiples disciplines and is on the editorial Boards of the prestigious journal, Anthropology Southern Africa (Taylor and Francis) and Oriental Anthropologist (Sage). As a feminist anthropologist she teaches from a critical feminist perspective and is currently supervising a large cohort of Post-Doctoral Fellows, Doctoral and Masters Students. She has graduated 10 Masters and 11 Doctorates. She has been invited to offer teaching and research Seminars in many international institutions. She is currently Principle Investigator (PI) of a large five year Andrew Mellon funded Project on Spatial Humanities that will look at GIS and spatial mapping, as well as collaborating on an inter-institutional Gender Project funded by Ford Foundation with seven other SADC universities (University of Cape Town, University of Witwatersrand, University of Zimbabwe, University of Namibia, University of Johannesburg, Eduardo Mondle Mozambique and University of Botswana). She is committed to enhancing and nurturing strong academic scholarship among the pool of young Black African female scholars in the social sciences.
Position: Full Professor and Academic Leader Research
Current Full Professor in Anthropology
2016-Current Academic Leader Researcher-School of Social Sciences
2015 Associate Professor in Anthropology
2012 Senior Lecturer in Anthropology
2011 Acting Department Head Anthropology
2000 Lecturer in Anthropology
1999 Lecturer in Indian Philosophy/School of Religion and Culture
Anthropology Association of Southern Africa
Pan African Anthropology Association
International European Union of Ethnologists
Association for Study of Religion in Southern Africa
2018- Grant award of $ 599, 000 (Approximately R 8.7 million)
PI of Project on Spatial Humanities- Andrew Mellon Foundation Institutional Grant
2018- African Gender Institute Grant- Ford Foundation
2017- College of Humanities Excellence/Researcher Award
2016- College of Humanities Excellence/Researcher Award
2016- University Top 30 Researcher
2015- NRF Rated C3
2015- College of Humanities Excellence/Researcher Award
2015- NRF Knowledge Interchange Grant Award
2014-17 African Gender Institute Grant
2014- Top Published Woman Researcher in UKZN
2014- UKZN Top 30 Researcher
2013- National Winner in Department of Science and Technology ‘Women in Science Award’
2012- College Excellence Award for Top Emerging Researcher in Humanities at UKZN
2012- Awarded Strategic Research Grant
2012- Awarded Teaching and Learning Grant
2011- First Academic in Humanities & First Female in UKZN to obtain ‘PhD by Publications’
2011- UKZN Top 30 Researcher
2010- UKZN Top 10 Researcher
2008- UKZN Top 30 Researcher
2012- KIC (Knowledge Interchange Grant) Recipient
2010- NRF (National Research Foundation) Women in Research Grant
2009- NRF (National Research Foundation) Thuthuka Scholarship
2008- Won Doctoral Scholarship from Bayreuth University Institute of African Studies, Germany
2007- Won African Origins Grant for project on Palaeo-anthropology and Heritage
2007 – KIC (Knowledge Interchange Grant) for Tourism Directions Conference, Egypt
2002- Scholarship to do Transformative Thinking & Training, Amsterdam, Holland.
1998- NRF Research Scholarship for obtaining Masters Cum Laude
1995- NRF Research Scholarship for obtaining Honours Cum Laude
1993- Scholarship for Cultural Visit to USA from the World Council of Religions
Publications (Abbrev titles) in Peer Reviewed Journals
- Naidu, M. The Butcher, the Baker, the Brewer …and Barber: Reflections on Migrant Micro- Entrepreneurship and Informal Economies, Journal of Soc Dev in Africa, 2018, forthcoming.
- Shoko E & Naidu, M. Peace-based Informal Practices around Shared Communal Water Resources in Tyrone Village, Zimbabwe, International Journal of African Renaissance Studies, 2018 forthcoming.
- Benhura, A & Naidu, M. Humanitarianism in Praxis? Probing Power Dynamics around Key Actors in Zimbabwe’s Forced Migration, Journal of International Migration and Integration, 2018 forthcoming.
- Naidu, M. The Feminine Divine … Leadership, Journal of Social Dev in Africa, 2017.
- Naidu, M & Mutambara, V. Questioning Heteronormative in Higher Education Spaces, South African Journal of Higher Education, 2017.
- Naidu, M. My Body is in the Way: Body Mapping & Positionality, Agenda, 2017.
- Naidu, M. Displaced Sense: Displacement & Sense-making, Journal for the Study of Religion, 2016, 29, 2.
- Naidu, M. Plastic Migrants : Resettlement & Forced Migration, Migracijske i etničke teme, 2016, 2.
- Naidu, M & Benhura, A. Gazing on Xenophobia … Non-belonging, Journal of Soc Dev in Africa, 2016, 1.
- Naidu, M. I want love too…What is so wrong with that? Agenda, 2015.
- Naidu, M & Darong. When Illness is more than a Sick Body, Anthropologist, 2015, 15, 1.
- Naidu, M & Benhura. Internally Displaced in Zimbabwe, Journal of Social Dev in Africa, 2015, 30, 1.
- Naidu, M & Mazibuko. Township Masculinities, Oriental Anthropologist, 2015, 15, 2.
- Naidu M & Makanda. Congolese Refugees: The Subaltern, JSS, 2015.
- Naidu M & Darong. Cultural Constructions of Illness, Anthropological Notebooks,
- Naidu M & Mazibuko. Township Sexualities, JSS, 2015.
- Naidu M & Khumalo. I’m Circumcised, AIDS Can’t Touch Me! Oriental Anthropologist,
- Naidu, M. Social Face of Networks: Features of Maintaining ‘Self’, Sociological Bulletin, 63, 1, 2014.
- Naidu, M & Nzuza N. Transnationalised Memories and Emotions, The Anthropologist, 2014.
- Naidu, M. Colouring Continuity: Coloured Community in Wentworth, Journal of Social Sciences, 38, 4, 2014.
- Naidu, M. Not ‘Bio-Prospecting’ But ‘Bio-Respecting’: Seeing Forests as Culturally Embedded Spaces, in Dharma Journal, 39, 3, 113-138, 2014.
- Naidu, M. Transnationalising the Sacred: Yagna as Spectacle? In South Asian Survey, 20, 1, 2013.
- Naidu, M. Pedagogies of Belief: Teaching and Learning in a Small Christian School, 20, 6, AlterNation,
- Naidu, M. African Religion and Ethics: Ethical Non dualism, Journal of Dharma 38, 4, 2013, 211-224.
- Naidu, M. Constructing Patient and Patient Healthcare: Indigenous Knowledge and the use of Isihlambezo, Indilinga, 12, 2, 2013, 252-262.
- Naidu, M & Ngqila KH. Enacting Masculinities: Pleasure to Men and Violence to Women, Agenda, 26, 1, 2013, 1-10.
- Naidu, M. Perceptions around Female Condoms: Reporting on Women’s Experiences, Anthropological Notebooks, 19, 1, 2013, 25-34.
- Naidu, M. Attending to the Patient: Bioethics and Medical Literature, Dharma, 38, 1, 2013, 7-26.
- Naidu, M. Sinful Liaisons (!)Lesbian and Religious, Journal of Gender and Religion in Africa, 19, 1, 2013, 1-18.
- Naidu, M. Migrant Mothers: Raising Children in Migrant Space, in Oriental Anthropologist, 13, 1, 2013, 35-53.
- Naidu, M. Female Power: Revisiting Notions of African Feminisms, in Alternation Special Issue on Gender and Feminisms, 2013, 20, 2.
- Naidu, M & Nzuza N. Stories of the ‘Call” in a Pentecostal Church, Journal of Social Sciences, 36, 2, 2013, 153-163.
- Naidu, M. (Editorial) Transnationalised Lives and Livelihoods in AlterNation, 2012, 1-6.
- Naidu, M. Belief and Bereavement: Attachment and the ‘Grief Work’ Hypothesis, Journal for Study of Religion, 25, 2, 2012, pp 71-87.
- Naidu, M. Performing Illness and Health: The Humanistic Value of Cancer Narratives, ASnA, Journal of Anthropology Association Southern Africa, 35, 3/ 4, 2012, 71-80.
- Naidu, M. Urban Encounters with God: When God Lends a Hand, Dharma, 37, 3,
- Naidu, M. Mind the Gap: The Structural Ecology of Small Networked Communities, AlterNation, 19, 1, 2012, 280-305.
- Naidu, M. Transcendent Genealogical & Kinship Relations: Afterlife in African Traditional Religions, Dharma, 37, 2, 2012, 411-426.
- Naidu, M. Constructing Desire: Gazing on Foreign Female Bodies Oriental Anthropologist,
- Naidu, M. Indian Women in Marriage: When Sacred Thread becomes a Noose Agenda, 25, 2011, 84-94.
- Naidu, M. Gendered Religion: Auto-ethnography as Methodological Tool in Religion Studies, Dharma, 36, 4, 2011, 257-273.
- Naidu, M. Queering Women: Disembedding the Maternal Script from Women and Earth, JSR, Journal for the Study of Religion, 2011
- Naidu, M. Animated Environment: “Animism” and Environment Revisited, Dharma, 36, 3, 2011, 257-273.
- Naidu, M. Wrestling with Standpoint Feminism, Agenda, 83, 2010, 25-34.
- Naidu, M & Ojong VB. (Re) Producing Motherhood: Comparative Study of Hindu and Christian Women in Religion, Nidan, 22, 1, 2010, 96-112.
- Naidu, M. “Tied to Each Other”: Religion and Networked Capital, The Anthropologist, Special Volume, 2010.
- Naidu, M. (Editorial) Hindu Studies: Studying the “Past-Present”, Nidan, 22, 2010, 1-8.
- Naidu, M. Seeing (through) the Gaze: Marking Religious and Cultural Differences on Muslim Female Bodies in Journal of Southern African Religion, Vol. 22. 2, 2009.
- Naidu, M. Belief across Borders: Religion as Networked Capital, Dharma, Vol. 34. 4, 2009, pp 380-395.
- Naidu, M. Top-less Tradition for Tourists: Young Zulu Girls in Tourism, Agenda, 2009.
- Naidu, M. Reconstructing Identity in Global Culture: Inscribing the Zulu Female Body in Tourism Consumption in Journal Oriental Anthropologist, Vol. 9, 2009.
- Naidu, M. Glaring Invisibility: Dressing the Body of the Female Cleaner in ASnA, Journal of Anthropology Association Southern Africa, 32, 3&4, 2009, 128-138.
- Naidu, M. Constructing the Religious ‘Other’ in Nidan: International Study of Hinduism, 21, 2009.
- Naidu, M. Anthropology of (Female) Body: Site of Hi-jacking in the HIV/AIDS Discourse in Agenda, 2008.
- Naidu, M. Inscribing the Female Body: Fuzzy Gender and Goddess in a South Indian Saiva Marriage Myth, Journal for the Study of Religion, Vol. 21, 1, 2008, 19-36.
- Naidu, M. The Mobile Global Subject: Mobility and Transnationalising Hinduism, Nidan, 20, 2008, 16-31.
- Naidu, M. Eco-femin(ism) and Hindu(ism) … Eco-Compassion, Dharma, Vol. 33, 2, 2008, 221-243.
- Naidu, M. Creating an African Tourist Experience at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, Historia, Journal of Historical Studies, 2008.
- Naidu, M. Religion Education or Religious Education, Nidan: Int Study of Hinduism, 2007.
- Naidu, M. The Hindu Women’s Religious Identity in South Africa, Dharma, 2005.
- Naidu, M. Business Suits Priests: Power and Priesthood, Nidan: Int Study of Hinduism
- Naidu, M. Marriage Reaffirming Sacred Space, Nidan: Int Study of Hinduism,
- Naidu, M. Critical Distance: Some Methodological Problems Encountered in the Field, Journal for the Study of Religion in Southern Africa, 1997.
Articles in Non Accredited Journals
- Naidu, M & Darong. Narratives of Sangoma Nurses, Studies in Ethno-Medicine, 2015.
- Naidu, M. Communicating Belonging: Language and Issues of Belonging, Journal of Communication, 2014.
- Naidu, M & Nzuza N. Food and Maintaining Identity: Sierra Leone Migrants in Durban, Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology, 2013.
- Naidu, M. Engaged Pedagogy and Performative Teaching: Examples from Teaching Practice, Journal of Educational Studies, 2014.
- Naidu, M. Seeing with the Blind: Teaching and Learning with Differently-Abled Students, Journal of Educational Studies, 2014.
- Naidu, M. Anthropology of Experience: Touring the Past at Robben Island, in Journal of Human Ecology, 2013.
- Naidu, M. Indigenous Mothers: An Ethnographic Study of Using the Environment during Pregnancy, Studies in Ethno-Medicine, 2013.
- Naidu, M. Indigenous Female Cultural Bodies in Tourism: An Analysis of Local ‘Audience’ Perception of Global Tourist Consumers, International Journal of Social Sciences, 2011.
- “Tied to Each Other”: Religion and Networked Capital in Anthropology Today: Contemporary Trends in Anthropology, (Ed) Shalina Mehta, India: Kre Publishers. 2010.
- Revisiting Standpoint through Ethnographic Vignettes in Introduction to Gender Studies in eastern and Southern Africa: A Reader. (Ed) James Etim. USA: Sentient Publishers, 2016.
- Teaching and Learning with Video and Video-Ethnography: Some Pedagogic Reflections from Classroom Practice. (Ed) James Etim. USA: Nova Science Publishers, 2018 forthcoming.
Invited National and International Presentations
2018- Invited to offer Masters Seminar at American University at Rome, Rome, Italy.
2017- Invited to offer Seminar (part of Masters Level Module) at Gender Unit at Graduate Institute of Development & International Relations in Geneva, Switzerland.
2017- Invited to offer Public Seminar as part of Seminar series- Gender Unit, Graduate Institute.
2016-Invited to Deliver Workshop as Part of Inaugural Social Work Conference, Seychelles.
2015- Invited to Deliver Workshop and Lecture to staff and students at University of Seychelles.
2015- Invited to Deliver Public Address to Faculty and students at University of Florence Gender Dept, ‘Queering or Querying: Theory and Activism around LBGTI Issues in South Africa’.
- Invited to Deliver a Plenary paper at Tamil Diaspora Conference at Mahatma Gandhi Institute, Mauritius,
2014-Invited to deliver Research Seminar to Faculty & Students at Mauritius Institute of Education.
2014-Invited to Deliver Keynote Address at 2nd International Conference in Education, Kuala Lumpur.
2014-Invited to Deliver Public Seminar at 3rd International Interdisciplinary Tourism Conference in Turkey, ‘Doing Ethnographic Work in Context of Tourism Studies’.
- Invited as Distinguished Researcher to participate in panel “Traversing research Paths’- Humanities Postgraduate Conference and Staff Colloquium at UKZN, South Africa.
- Invited to Deliver Keynote Address at ASRSA conference, Emerging Trends & Trajectories in Religion Studies, University of Free State, 2013. Keynote on ‘Exclusion and Inclusion in Text and Praxis’.
2012- Invited to Deliver Keynote Address to Faculty and students at University of Florence Gender Dept, November 2012, ‘Female Condoms and the Notion of Women’s Empowerment in the context of Masculine Traditional Sexual Practices’.
Leader/ Projects Headed
2018 – PI of Five year Andrew Mellon Funded Project on Spatial Humanities and creation of geo-maps/cultural atlases in context of spatial mapping and GIS technologies. Collaboration with other South Africa Institution.
2014- 2018 PI of ongoing project; Young University Women’s Leadership Project– funded by ‘African Gender Institute’, collaborates with colleagues from Universities of UCT, Wits, Zimbabwe & Namibia. Project include my postdoctoral student and doctoral students in a bid to build capacity and develop intellectual skills.
2012/2013- Headed large UKZN funded project in niche area on HIV/AIDS and Women’s Health. Project sampled approximately 1400 women and probed the use of Female Condoms and Empowerment in the context of female control over sexual behaviour and contraception. Project probed the viability of female condoms as a prophylactic device in the context of the AIDS pandemic and gendered nature of intervention programmes.
2012- Headed Project on Education, Language and Belonging, surveying students across Howard, Edgewood and Pietermaritzburg on attitudes towards bilingualism teaching.
2007- Project Leader in Palaeo-anthropology and African Identity Project. As part of project a documentary on African Identity and Palaeo-Heritage was produced- part of African Origins.
Current: Managing Committee of Inaugural Journal, Humanities in the Global South, UKZN.
2016- Co-Guest Edited Special Issue of ‘Women in Global South in Oriental Anthropologist. Collaborating editors Prof M Mduna (University of Witwatersrand & Prof S Manuel (Eduardo Mondle University Mozambique).
2015- Editorial Board Alternation
2014- Editorial Board- Journal- Anthropology Southern Africa
2014- Invited to Guest Edit Special Volume on Feminisms, International Oriental Anthropologist.
2013-Invited to Guest Edit Special Volume on Women in Spiritual Leadership, Journal of Religion in Southern Africa.
2012/2013-Guest Editor- Special Issue of Sapse accredited Journal of Human Ecology: Themed issue on Tourism: Special Volume: Southern Africa: Human Ecology and Tourism Interactions.
2011/2012- Guest Editor-Special Issue of Sapse accredited Alternations: Mobilities and Transnationalism.
2005-2008- On Editorial Board of Noumenon: Journal for Transformative Work
2007-2008-Managing Editor Sapse accredited Nidan: International Journal for Hinduism
2009- Editor of Sapse accredited Nidan: International Journal for Hinduism
Papers Presented at International Conferences
- Presented Paper at Inaugural Social Work Conference, Seychelles.
2016– Presented Poster at University of Michigan Education Conference, UAE.
- Presented paper at International Education Conference at University of Seychelles.
2015- Workshop Delivered at 3rd International Conference on Education: Balancing Rigour & Relevance in Education, at University of Michigan in Dubai, Dubai UAE.
2014– 2nd International Conference on Education, University of Michigan.
2015– Workshop at University of KwaZulu-Natal, Teaching & Learning Conference on Engaged Pedagogy and Performative Teaching, Sept, 2014.
2014– Paper on Pedagogy at 2nd Interdisciplinary Conference on Education, Univ of Malaya, Malaysia.
2014- Paper on Using Video Ethnography in Teaching, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Teaching & Learning Conference on Engaged Pedagogy and Performative Teaching, Sept, 2014
2013- Paper on Structural Violence of Patient Care Models, Nursing Conference, Amman, Jordon.
2012- Paper Presented at Social Sciences Conference in Rome, University of Rome, Italy.
2012- Paper Presented at Anthropology Conference in Cape Town, at University of Cape Town.
2012- Paper 2nd Int Interdisciplinary Conference Tourism, University of Onszek, Turkey.
2009- Paper at Anthropology Congress in Kunming China, University of Yunnan, China.
2008- Transmodernity, Managing Global Communication, University of Bacau, Romania.
2007- Tourism: Future Directions Conference, October 6th University, Cairo Egypt.
2007- International Council of Conservation and Museum/Cairo University, Egypt.
2006- Research Conference in Tourism at University of Onszek Mart, Turkey.
2003- Women’s History Conference at University of Aberdeen in Scotland.
2000- Anthropology Conference at University of Namibia.
2014/2015- Developed Curriculum for Module: Culture and Society in Africa.
2014/2015- Developed Curriculum for Honours Module: Southern African Anthropology.
2014/16/17/18- Developed Curriculum for Honours Module: Understanding Aids in Africa.
2011- Developed curriculum for Third year Anthropology Module/ANTH 301-Applied Anthropology
External Examiner Undergraduate
2012/2013- External Examiner-UCT and Univen 2016/2917
External Examiner Postgraduate
Examined Masters Dissertation for;
- University of Cape Town
- Walter Sisulu University
- University of Mafikeng
- University of Venda
Graduated Students in Anthropology/Social Sciences
Graduated 10 Masters and 11 Doctoral students.
- Otu MA- 2010- Gender and Transnationalism
- Mhkize MA- 2013- Female Condoms: From Practice to Policy
- Nzuza MA- 2013- Cum Laude- Identity and Migrant Sierra Leone Networks
- Mazibuko MA- 2015- Cum Laude-Township Masculinities
- Darong MA- 2015- Summa Cum laude-Constructions of Health and Illness
- Khumalo MA- 2016- Cum Laude– Medical Male Circumcision
- Mnguni– MA- 2016- Female Condom Use
- Mutambara– MA- 2016- Lesbian Students’ Experiences in Higher Education
- Mr Dlamini MA- 2017- Poverty and Masculinities
- Zulu MA- 2017- African Female Smokers
- Ngubane PhD- 2015- Politics of Chieftaincy
- YN Nzuza PhD- 2017-Masculinized Care-Patient Health Care Models for Breast Cancer
- J Makanda PHD- 2017- Conflict Transformation in Africa-The case of Lesotho and Congo
- E Shoko PhD-2017- Policies and Practices around Water Access in Rural Zimbabwe
- A Benhura PhD-2017- Internally Displaced People: Human Rights &Access to Education
- B Umubyeyi PhD- 2017- Indigenous Conflict Resolution Methods
- Y Scina PhD- 2017- Traditional Birth Attendants
- G Darong PhD- 2018- Medical Pluralism & Experiences of People Living with HIV/AIDS
- W Muchono PhD-2018- Gender and Social Construction of Womanhood among Shangaan
- P Awonyi PhD Degree Complete- November 2018
- R Jeawon PhD Degree Complete- November 2018
2017-Current- Dr. Abigail Benhura- Migration and Internal Displacements
2017-Current- Dr. Joseph Makanda- Congolese Refugees and Peace Studies
2018-Current- Dr. Evans Shoko- Water Resources and Positive Peace
2013-2014 Dr. Nina Hoel– Islamic Feminisms, Gender and Sexualities
2012-Current Humanities and Social Sciences Research and Ethics Committee
2016-Current Academic Leader Research
2015-Current On School of Social Science Executive/MANCO
2015-2016 Community Engagement Coordinator- School of Social Sciences
2012/2013- College Facilitator for Program on PHD Cohort Supervision
2012-Current School Research Ethics & Higher Degrees Committee
- School Teaching and Learning Committee
2011- Faculty Higher Degrees Committee
2010- School Higher Degrees/Ethics Committee