By Enoch Sithole

The SACOMM 2024 conference will have a specific focuson the politics of the present, and practices of being present,” said the Local Organising Committee (LOC) at Stellenbosch University.

                                                                                                                                             Stellenbosch University via Facebook.

Announcing the conference to be held on 10-12 September, the LOC noted that “2024 is the 30th year of South Africa’s democracy, and it is notable that SACOMM will gather in Stellenbosch, a town that was at the heart of the invention of apartheid and remains a troubling beacon of extreme inequality and segregation in the South African landscape”.

The LOC has chosen the theme: The Politics of the Present: Critical Communications Research Here and Now, and said they acknowledged “the specific location in space and time that we inhabit”. 

They said they were employees of Stellenbosch University, an institution that has been the site of major, headline-dominating reports of racism in university residences in recent years, and which has responded through commissioning the Khampepe Report and establishing a task team to implement its recommendations. 

“These are arguably just the tip of the iceberg of the challenge of transformation at SU. Although other universities in the country have their own versions of this challenge, the transformational politics at SU have a specific character.”

The LOC added that it would arrange a plenary session to directly engage with the politics of the present in relation to transformation at SU “and the urgency of decolonisation of higher education in South Africa, more broadly”. They welcomed input from SACOMM delegates “about how to make the conference as welcoming as possible for all”.

For the theme, the LOC has invited papers, preceded by abstracts to “critically consider the current positionality and politics of the media texts, institutions, practices, and technologies that provoke and shape our intellectual work”.

The research should be on any topic in the broad field of media, journalism, and communications, including cultural studies, film and television studies and digital technologies. Short films of less than 15 minutes would also be welcome.

The LOC added: “Through a focus on the ‘here’, we invite reflections on the role of place, positionality and the local in communications research in South Africa, and beyond. 

“We are looking for research that explores the multitude of connections between localities across geographical differences. Rather than glib celebrations of (neoliberal) globalisation, we are especially interested in work that explores critically how the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ are interconnected in webs of political and economic power and resistance.” 

“Here,” they said, “gestures towards the importance of roots, routes, space, and place and specific localities from which perspectives of the world and theories about it are framed. It also gestures to a politics of presence, of showing up, being in the room, and engaging face-to-face, through human and personal modes of exchange”.

They offer the following broad questions and themes that could guide submissions:

  • How might research in the sphere of media and communications be brought more mindfully to the precise locations in space and time of the worlds that we inhabit, for better or worse, and to which our research is intended to contribute positively?
  • How might we explore the politics of presence in, and the complex links and relations between, a variety of locations and places?
  • What forms of solidarity are manifesting across time and space, seeking empathy and connection with a wide variety of human experiences?
  • Which theoretical frameworks, research questions and empirical objects have persisted in our field despite the passage of time? Which have not? What new questions might we ask about the status quo?
  • What forms of radical presence in our research epistemologies might open new perspectives on our field and its empirical objects?

Submissions should include a title, a 250-word abstract and a 50-word author biography. Panel submissions (of four or five papers per panel) should include a 250-word summary of the panel’s theme and focus, as well as abstracts of 150 words for each of the presenters). 

Submissions are due by 15 April 2024. Abstracts should be uploaded here

A PDF version of the conference call can be accessed here.