Past Event

Isabel Hofmeyr: Custom House, Copyright, Censorship: Hydrocolonial Formations

November 12, 2019
4:10 PM
Hamilton Hall, 1130 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027 303
A lecture on hydrocolonialism with Isabel Hofmeyr, Professor of African literature at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). This paper explores two functions of the Custom House: copyright and censorship. Drawing on southern African material, the paper explores the role of Customs on the colonial maritime boundary. The paper places the Custom House in the context of the ecology of the littoral and the port city, showing how these helped shaped the protocols and procedures of Customs officials and hence the way in which they formulated their hermeneutic strategies. The work is framed within a larger theoretical rubric, hydrocolonialism. For the purposes of this seminar series, the paper will highlight the ways in which the colonial maritime boundary offers an unusual and suggestive node for thinking about public religion. _______________ This event is part of IRCPL’s "Rethinking Public Religion in Africa and South Asia" project, funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. This event is cosponsored by the Institute for African Studies, the South Asia Institute, and the Department of History. _______________ Isabel Hofmeyr is Professor of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and Global Distinguished Professor at NYU. 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. 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. See more upcoming events on the IRCPL website:

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Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life