Homi K. Bhabha honoured by Stellenbosch University

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Stellenbosch University in South Africa bestowed an honorary doctorate upon Homi K. Bhabha, the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities in the Department of English and Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center (Harvard University), last night (13 December 2018).

The degree Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil), honoris causa, was bestowed upon Bhabha for “his exceptional ability as the world’s premier postcolonial literary theorist to push the humanities in new directions, for being influential in international organisations by advancing the role of the humanities in peace, economic activity and culture, and for making the study of the humanities relevant in current times”.

Bhabha was honoured during the graduation ceremony of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences – forming part of 8 ceremonies in which more than 5700 students were rewarded for their hard work.

In his acceptance speech, Bhabha said that Stellenbosch University has a unique opportunity to reflect on its centenary and work towards true transformation. “If the task of transformation is undertaken with institutional and governmental integrity and intellectual rigorous enquiry, then the perils of the past do not drag the present back into the past. Memories of the past serves as measures of what has been achieved, what has been abused and what still needs to be done. The past then does not come to haunt us, it keeps us honest and allows us to heal in hope.”

He also congratulated graduates and said that this achievement is not just about them but an achievement that belongs to their family, friends and communities, who have supported and nurtured them.

“You have not only survived you have triumphed. Now you will step out into a world that is as brave technologically as it is beautiful in its cultural achievements, minds and spirit. But it is also brave new world afflicted with the revival of barbaric nationalisms, the brazen blindness of environmental agony and the daily humiliation and dehumanisation of those who are in dire need – migrants, refugees and peoples displaced by war or communities made destitute by want. As national citizens, and you are shining examples of that, we are also close neighbours to over 65 million displaced people who constitutes the 21st largest country in the world. Each citizen today I believe, who lives in peace and security is neighbour to another who has neither. Each world citizen today is in part a refugee, something of a migrant, living side-by-side with a family without home, a child without an education or a society without the basic right of consent. And this other country, my friends, lives in their midst of our own settlement and sovereign lives and this other country is our ethical duty and our shared political fate.”

Stellenbosch University awards honorary doctorates to outstanding individuals from South Africa and internationally. The honorary degrees recognise and reward excellence in a variety of fields and identifies these individuals as role models for the university community.

Honorary degrees were also bestowed upon Prof Dame Glynis Breakwell, the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath whose contribution to social psychology is globally significant; Mr Lesetja Kganyogo, the President of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) and Chair of the International Monetary and Financial Committee; and, Justice Zak Yacoob, an outstanding South African jurist in the field of human rights and constitutional law.

In the past, honorary degree were bestowed upon Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Bill Gates, Helen Suzman, Athol Fugard, Thuli Madonsela, Edwin Cameron and Mervyn King, amongst others.

Watch a 10 min video of the event