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Wits African Literature lecturer and poet awarded fellowship to advance racial equity

- Wits University

Dr Danai Mupotsa is one of 20 leading change-makers selected by the Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity (AFRE).

The fellowship programme seeks to strengthen and accelerate social change in South Africa and the United States. Since 2017, AFRE has worked to capacitate the racial equity field through leadership development, network building, innovation, and narrative change. The fellowship is based at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg and at Columbia University in New York City.

Mupotsa is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of African Literature at Wits and a published poet. She is excited to be part of the fellowship as it will enable her to broaden her work and collaborate with other fellows from different sectors, which she believes is imperative in racial equality projects.

Dr Danai Mupotsa, Senior Lecturer in the Department of African Literature at Wits

“I think that cross-sectoral collaboration is absolutely necessary in tackling anti-Black racism. This is what appeals most to me about participating in this fellowship. The task ahead of us is large and it demands tenacity, endurance, humility – people have been doing this [racism] for hundreds of years. The events of our present are marked with those legacies and the ways that violent structures of power endure.”

Mupotsa’s research interests are race, sex, gender and intimacies. She says her research involves interrogating questions of justice and pedagogy. She recently published a co-edited volume of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies titled “Time Out of Joint: The Queer and the Customary” with Neville Hoad and Kirk Fiereck. The Portuguese translation of her debut collection of poetry, feeling and ugly, has just been published as well.

As a lecturer, Mupotsa always reflects on how she teaches and how justice is integrated into her work.

“Teaching for me means producing the conditions through which those participating in them can learn to feel a concrete sense of authority on what they feel and know, even while grasping an excitement about what they are learning. I want to participate in classrooms where love and freedom and justice are densely articulated as objectives, as much as the syllabus.”

Addressing the roots of racial inequality

The 2020 fellows are from a variety of fields and are agents of social change in their countries. Their work brings vital talent and vision to advance racial equity. They will receive up to $20 000 in resources from AFRE to support their projects, which address the root causes of racial inequality.

Executive Director of AFRE, said AFRE welcomes the new fellows at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has “laid bare the unconscionable injustices against Black people and other communities of colour.”

“At a time of such extraordinary challenge, these courageous leaders are showing us new possibilities for how to eliminate anti-Black racism in the service of equity and justice. We’re proud to support them to build the strategies and solutions our countries need.” 

Sello Hatang, CEO at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said the Foundation supports the new cohort of fellows who will be advocates for justice and racial equality.

“As we witness and fight against Covid-19’s devastating effects on South Africa’s people, land and economy, it’s clear that we need leaders who are able to conceptualise, build and advocate for solutions that address and uproot systemic anti-Black racism,” he said.