Change the world


Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Alumnus and research associate of Nelson Mandela University’s Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation (CriSHET),Luan Staphorst, has been awarded the Kirk-Greene Prize for Best Overall Performance in the University of Oxford’s MSc in African Studies. 
Luan has been awarded three MSc degrees Cum Laude over the past two years, namely an MA in Linguistics from Mandela Uni earlier this year, an MA in Philosophy, from the University of the Western Cape and the recent MSc in African Studies from Oxford, supervised by Dr Peter Brooke. 
Research that has flowed from his pen has appeared in various Web of Science-indexed journals, including Critical Arts, Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, and Journal of Southern African Studies.
He has been affiliated with the Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation (CriSHET) since 2019, where he currently conducts research as part of Prof André Keet’s NRF-funded research project, Advancing Critical University Studies. 
Previously, Luan lectured in the Department of Language and Literature, Department of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, and in the Centre for Philosophy in Africa, and he was Executive Chairperson and Manager of the Nelson Mandela University Choir from 2016 to 2019. He was also a Mandela-Rhodes Scholar in 2020 and an Abe Bailey Fellow in 2019 at Mandela Uni. 
The title of his prize-winning MSc in African Studies was Decolonising the death of |xam: tracking the origins of the language of folklore in the Karoo. The dissertation critiques the dominant ideas of 'death' and 'extinction' in relation to the |xam (San people) through a comparativist study drawing on the history of ideas, the thematics of mythology, and the grammaticalisation of tense in language. 
The study points to the ways in which the |xam have been discursively 'killed' in Southern African Studies, and how Afrikaans has been framed as the 'murdering language'. Countering this view, the dissertation illustrates how Afrikaans - both the language and oral tradition - has been influenced and shaped by the |xam.
His MA in Philosophy was entitled The wound says it to me: the moral worldview of the |xam as eco-moral phenomenology with well-known author and poet Prof Antjie Krog, Prof Oritsegbubemi Oyowe and Prof William Ellis as supervisors. 
His MA Linguistics: Ongehoord: Voices Unaccented; Voices Unharmonized. Afrikaans and South Africa's First Peoples in Discourses of Higher Education Transformation was supervised by Mandela Uni’s Dr Mariana Kriel and Rhodes University’s Dr Marisa Botha. 
All three of the dissertations have the Bleek and Lloyd archive of |xam folklore, philosophy, and genealogy as focus point, albeit studied from different disciplinary vantage points. They all investigate the ways in which this 19th century collection of texts could offer fresh insights into southern African ethical systems, literary traditions, and linguistic communities.
Luan, 27, is currently in contact with a number of possible PhD supervisors - both in South Africa and abroad - and the focus will again be interdisciplinary; combining philosophy (specifically metaethics), linguistics (specifically historical linguistics), and literary studies (specifically comparative literature) in relation to the intersection of the 'animal speech' texts in the Bleek and Lloyd archive with questions of interspecies ethics. 
“I hope to continue working in academia, specifically in a research space such as CriSHET where intellectual rigour intersects with the social”, he says.  
Luan has also always been fascinated by Science, even if he did not pursue it as an object of study at university. He won the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists, a school science competition, when he was in matric and he has been involved as a mentor and organiser since leaving school. 
He has also served as a member of the English National Language Body (ENLB), which is an organ of the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), since 2020. He currently chairs the translation sub-committee, promoting translation between English and other South African national languages, addressing translation-related linguistic human rights issues, and serving as a critical interlocuter with other government bodies as they relate to translation. 
Luan enjoys travelling, (having travelled to 23 countries thus far), visits to art galleries and museums, and attending music concerts, specifically choral and chamber orchestral, and the theatre. 
“I read as widely as possible - from politics to cultural commentary, from developments in architecture to history, from music critique to book reviews”, he says. 
His dream job would be “Keeper of the keys at Hogwarts! But in all seriousness - my dream job would be a permanent post at a South African university. Given the level of job precarity in the gig economy, a permanent post is something that seems all the more like a dream!”

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