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Wits scholars and publisher win humanities and social sciences awards

- Wits University

Wits Professor Isabel Hofmeyr wins best non-fiction: monograph and her publisher, Wits Press, specially awarded.

The National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) hosted the 8th Annual Humanities and Social Sciences Awards ceremony last month. 

Wits University Press (Wits Press) received a special award recognising its contribution to Humanities and Social Sciences scholarship in South Africa.

The special award, the first of its kind to be awarded by the NIHSS, recognises Wits Press’s excellent record for publishing outstanding, innovative, and socially responsible scholarship through the years.

Wits University Press won a special award at the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences Awards, for its record of publishing outstanding scholarship, while two of the Press's publications were individually awarded

At 100 years old, Wits Press is the oldest University press in the country and has published some 1575 titles over a century.

Wits Press was one of three publishers to be acknowledged with this special award, along with Jacana Media and Pan Macmillan.

The publishing firms receive R100 000 each to support young and dynamic South African authors in the humanities and social sciences.

Wits Press publisher, Veronica Klipp, says: “We value the support provided by the NIHSS at so many levels – to writers, researchers, artists, as well as publisher. The gift of R100 000 towards the publication of new work by dynamic, young writers will help our efforts to identify and nurture new talent.”

Since the inception of the HSS Awards in 2016, Wits Press has had the highest number of submissions in the non-fiction categories - and this year added to its tally.

Exploration of land, sea, empire, environment acknowledged

In 2023, Isabel Hofmeyr’s Dockside Reading: Hydrocolonialism and the Custom House, published by Wits Press, won Best Non-Fiction Monograph.

Wits Prof Isabel Hofmeyr's Dockside Reading: Hydrocolonialism and the Custom House, published by Wits Press, won Best Non-Fiction Monograph at the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences Awards

Hofmeyr is Professor Emeritus at Wits in the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) and Global Distinguished Professor at New York University.

In Dockside Reading, she traces the relationships among print culture, colonialism, and the ocean through the institution of the British colonial Custom House.

By tracking printed matter from ship to shore, Hofmeyr shows how literary institutions like copyright and censorship were shaped by colonial control of coastal waters.

Set in the environmental context of the colonial port city, Dockside Reading explores how imperialism colonizes water. Hofmeyr examines this theme through the concept of hydrocolonialism, which puts together land and sea, empire and environment.

Hofmeyr will deliver an online talk at WiSER’s online seminar series, Heated Conversations, on 10 May 2023.

Award for Archives of times past

Another HSS award-winner was Archives of Times Past: Conversations about South Africa’s Deep History, edited by Cynthia Kros of the Wits History Workshop, John Wright, Mbongiseni Buthelezi and Helen Ludlow. Wits Press published this work, which won in the Best Non-fiction Edited Volume category.

Wits Press published the volume Archives of Times Past: Conversations about South Africa’s Deep History, which won the Best Non-fiction Edited Volume at the the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences Awards.

This volume is an exploration of the archive on southern Africa’s past in the pre-colonial era, bringing new ideas about source material and archiving from scholars in southern Africa and elsewhere. It focusses on the question: ‘How do we know, or think we know, what happened in the times before European colonialism?’

The essays by well-known historians, archaeologists and researchers engage these questions from a range of perspectives and in illuminating ways. Written from personal experience, they capture how these experts encountered their archives of knowledge beyond the textbook.

Outgoing CEO of the NIHSS, and now CEO of the HSRC, Prof. Sarah Mosoetsa, said "Archives of Times Past reminds us that much of our country’s history is still hidden. This book of essays by historians, archaeologists and researchers is a worthy winner of the 2023 Award. The editors have struck gold in their quest for pre-colonial truth.”

These prize-winning books are available for ordering from bookshops and online retailers.