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Staff Profile

Professor Isabel Hofmeyr

QualificationsBJourn, BAHons, MA, MA, PhD
Phone 0117174142
Organisational Unit African Literature

B rief Professional History

Isabel Hofmeyr is Professor of African Literature. Her research interests include postcolonialism; African literature; Southern African literary studies; oral history and literature; John Bunyan; seventeenth century studies; textual transnationalism; Africa-India interactions; Indian Ocean studies; histories of the book and print culture; and histories of reading and writing. Her current work focuses on Africa and its intellectual trajectories in the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Her earlier scholarship examined ways of historicising oral literature and its interactions with literacy. As South Africa’s transition opened the country up to democracy and globalisation, Hofmeyr turned her attention to themes of transnationalism and textual circulation. More recently she has explored textual circulation in the Global South with a focus on the Indian Ocean. Her work addresses questions of Africa’s intellectual place in the world and the material and aesthetic history of texts and their transnational circulation. Hofmeyr has served as Acting Director of the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa ( which she helped to establish. She has raised several large research grants; has won prizes for her articles and books; has held fellowships in various parts of the world; and sits on numerous editorial boards.

Teaching and Supervision

At the undergraduate level, Isabel Hofmeyr has taught modules in African literature, oral literature, orality and literacy, literatures of the African diaspora, media studies, and postcolonial studies. At the postgraduate level she has taught in these areas as well as modules on print culture and the history of the book, Indian Ocean studies, popular culture in Africa, South African cultural history. She has successfully supervised 21 PhD students, 24 MA students in addition to overseeing 2 to 3 Honours research projects each year. These students have worked in the areas of African literature, studies in orality and literacy, postcolonial studies, media studies, cultural studies, print culture and the history of the book, publishing studies.

Selected Publications

Hofmeyr, I. (2004) The Portable Bunyan: A Transnational History of The Pilgrim's Progress. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Hofmeyr, I. (1994) We Spend our Years as a Tale that is Told: Oral Historical Narrative in a South African Chiefdom. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

Hofmeyr, I., Gupta, P, and Pearson, M. (2010) Eyes Across the Water: Navigating the Indian Ocean, Pretoria: UNISA Press, 2010.

Hofmeyr, I. & Williams, M. (2011) South Africa and India: Shaping the Global South. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.

Hofmeyr, I. & Kaarsholm, P. (Eds) (2011) Special edition of Africa (81 1 2011) entitled ‘Print Culture, Nationalisms and Public Spheres in the Indian Ocean’.

Hofmeyr, I. (2011) "Violent Texts, Vulnerable Readers: Hind Swaraj and its South African Audiences". Public Culture, 23 (2): 285-97.

Hofmeyr, I. (2010) "Universalising the Indian Ocean". PMLA, 125 (3): 721-29.

Hofmeyr, I., Kaarsholm, P and Frederiksen, F.B. (2011) "Print Cultures, Nationalisms and Public Spheres in the Indian Ocean" Africa 81 (1): 1-22.

Hofmeyr, I. (2006) "Participant" American Historical Review Conversation: On Transnational History. Participants: CA Bayly, Sven Beckert, Matthew Connelly, Isabel Hofmeyr, Wendy Kozol and Patricia Seed, American Historical Review, 111 (5): 1044-64.