Cape Town Participants and Bios

Politics of Religious Freedom in Southern Africa
Academic Workshop
University of Cape Town
February 5-6, 2014

Participant Biographies

Dr. Waheeda Amien
Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Cape Town

Waheeda Amien holds a Ph.D. in Law from the University of Ghent. Her doctoral thesis includes a comparative study of Muslim Personal Law and Human Rights. She teaches in the Departments of Commercial Law, Public Law and Private Law and has also presented guest lectures on Muslim Personal Law and Human Rights at among others, the University of the Western Cape, Ghent University, University of Lucerne, Daroel Ilm and the Religious Studies Department at UCT. Her area of specialization includes Legal Pluralism and Human Rights in Personal and Family laws. Some of her most recent publications include ‘The Gendered Benefits and Costs of Legal Pluralism for Muslim Family Law in South Africa’ (2013) and “Politics of religious freedom in South Africa” The Immanent Frame. Secularism, religion, and the public sphere (2012).

T.W. Bennet
Professor of Law, Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town

Tom Bennett BA LLB (Rhodes), PhD (UCT), is a Professor in the Department of Public Law, a Fellow of the University of Cape Town and the recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship. As a member of the special project Committee on Customary Law of the South African Law Reform Commission, he was actively engaged in the Report on Customary Marriages (1997), Report on Application of Customary Law (1997), Discussion Paper on Reform of the Customary Law of Succession (2000) Project 90 as well as other notable publications for the South African Law Reform Commission and the Namibian Law and Development Commission. His current research interests, however, centre on traditional African religions (in view of the freedom of religion and religious equality, the implications of legal pluralism in a constitutional democracy, socio-linguistic analysis of key constitutional terms (such as ownership, property and culture) and the crimes and delicts of customary law. 

Dr. Louis Blond
Senior Lecturer, Jewish Thought and European Philosophy, University of Cape Town

Louis Blond is a Senior Lecturer in Jewish Religion and Jewish Thought at the University of Cape Town. He received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh on The Relationship between Nihilism and Metaphysics in the Work of Martin Heidegger. His research focuses on European philosophy and philosophy’s relationship with religious, particularly Jewish, discourse. He recently published a monograph for Continuum Studies in Continental Philosophy, Heidegger and Nietzsche: Overcoming Metaphysics, which examines Heidegger’s confrontation with Nietzsche and traces Heidegger’s attempt to find a pathway out of nihilism. He has also published on Franz Rosenzweig and Emmanuel Levinas exploring homelessness and the difficulties of translating across philosophical and geographical borders.

Dr. Laurence Bloom
Visiting Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Cape Town

Laurence Bloom received his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Georgia in 2010.  Since then, he has been a visiting lecturer at UCT and at Rhodes University and is currently researching at UCT on a postdoctoral fellowship.  His primary research is in Ancient Philosophy, especially Plato, but he is interested in all areas of philosophy.

David Chidester
Professor of Comparative Religion and Chair of Religious Studies, University of Cape Town

Prof. David Chidester is a prolific writer and an internationally acclaimed scholar in the field of comparative religion, Prof Chidester’s interests lie in the relationships between religion and globalization, religion and popular culture, religion in society and the problems of social cohesion. He has written extensively on religion in South Africa, North America, as well as religion and education. His most recent works include Wild Religion: Tracking the Sacred in South Africa (2012).

Danwood Chirwa
Professor of Law and Head of the Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town

Danwood Mzikenge Chirwa holds a PhD from the University of the Western Cape, an LLM from the University of Pretoria, and an LLB from the University of Malawi. Currently, he is Head of the Department of Public Law, Professor and junior fellow at the University of Cape Town. Currently, he serves on the Advisory Boards of the Constitutional Court Review, the City of Hon Kong University Law Review, and the University of Ilorin Law Journal. He is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Malawi Law Journal. Danwood Chirwa has published on various human rights issues – such as privatization and human rights, non-state actors and human rights, children’s rights, women’s rights, economic, social and cultural rights, domestic protection of human rights, and international protection of human rights. His most recent publications include Human Rights under the Malawian Constitution (2011) and Accountable Government in Africa: Perspectives from Public Law and Political Studies (2012).

Peter G. Danchin
Professor of Law, University of Maryland; A. W. Mellon Visiting Professor, University of Cape Town

Peter Danchin is Professor of Law and Director of the International and Comparative Law Program at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. He holds a B.A. and LL.B. with first class honors from the University of Melbourne where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Melbourne University Law Review and President of the Law Students’ Society, and a LL.M. and J.S.D. from Columbia Law School where he was a Bretzfelder International Law Fellow. Danchin is currently engaged in a joint research project on the “Politics of Religious Freedom: Contested Norms and Local Practices” funded by the Henry R. Luce Foundation of New York which examines the multiple histories and genealogies of religious freedom. His most recent publications include United Nations Reform and the New Collective Security (2010) and The Politics of Religious Establishment: Recognition of Muslim Marriages in South Africa, in Varieties of Religious Establishment (2013)

Nathasha Erlank
Professor and Head of Historical Studies, University of Johannesberg

Nathasha Erlank trained as an historian, doing her undergraduate, honours and master degrees at the University of Cape Town. Her doctorate was completed at Cambridge University.  Apart from brief teaching stints at UCT and Rhodes University, she has spent the last 12 years lecturing and researching at the University of Johannesburg. Her current research is focussed upon Christianity, Gender and Tradition in South Africa as well as Homosexuality in South African Muslim Communities, Gender Gains and Losses since 1994, Memory, Experience and Civic Engagement in Sophiatown and Social Capital and Citizenship in South Africa. Her most recent publications include ‘Competing Discourses: Christianity, ‘Rights’ and Citizenship in South Africa c.1910-1940’, (2012) and ‘Christianity and African Nationalism in South Africa in the First Half of the Twentieth Century’ (2012).

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks
Former Head of the Muslim Judicial Council’s Fatwa Committee; member, Stanlib Shariah Board; Resident Sheikh, Azzawia Institute, Cape Town

Shaykh Seraj Hendricks completed his BA (Hons) in Islamic Law at Umm al-Qura University in Makkah. He graduated MA (cum laude) in Arabic from UNISA and is reading towards a DLitt et Phil in Arabic. Hendricks headed the department of the Fatwa Committee of the Muslim Judicial Council, South African and is Hakim of the Crescent Observers’ Society. He is currently a Resident Sheikh at the Azzawia Institute in Cape Town. 

Dr. George Hull
Lecturer in Ethics and Philosophy, University of Cape Town

Dr. George Hull received his BA(Hons) in Cantab and his MPhil PhD in London.  He is currently a lecturer and convener of the postgraduate PPE Programme at the University of Cape Town. His areas of interest include Ethics, Action Theory, Political/Social Philosophy and German Philosophy. He is also a committee member of the universities Human Research Ethics Committee. His most recent publications include ‘Reification and Social Criticism’, in Philosophical Papers (2013).

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd
Associate Professor of Political Science, Nothwestern University

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, her M.A. in International Relations from Yale and her B.A. in Government from Wesleyan University.

She is now the Associate Professor of Political Science Director of Graduate Studies in Political Science at Northwestern and is the incoming Chair of the Religion and Politics Section of APSA. She teaches and writes on the politics of religious diversity, secularism and governance, the intersection of law and religion, the politics of human rights, the history and politics of US foreign relations and the international relations of the Middle East including Turkey and Iran. Her most recent publications include The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (2008), “International politics after secularism” in Review of International Studies (2012) and “Contested secularisms in Turkey and Iran” in Contesting Secularism: Comparative Perspectives (2013).

Paul C. Johnson
Professor, History and Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Paul C. Johnson received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. His interests include the history and ethnography of the religions of the African Diaspora in Brazil and the Caribbean; religion and race; religion and migration; modern history of Brazil; theories of religion, and history of the study of religion. He is currently examining philosophical, theoretical and discursive invocations of spirit possession. His most recent publications include Secrets, Gossip and God: The Transformation of Brazilian Candomblé (2005) and Diaspora conversions (2007).

Jonathan Klaaren
Professor of Law, University of Witwatersrand

Professor Jonathan Klaaren is the former Director of the Mandela Institute and the former co-Director of the School of Law’s Winter Law School conducted with the Seattle University School of Law. Klaaren has served on numerous university committees and currently serves on the Immigration Advisory Board of the Department of Home Affairs as well as on the editorial committee of the South African Journal on Human Rights and Law & Society Review and Law & Policy. His research interests are in four broad areas and include international and comparative public law and human rights, citizenship and migration law, transnational regulation and socio-legal studies. His most recent publications include Open Justice and Beyond: Independent Newspapers v Minister for Intelligence Service (2009) and “Constitutional Citizenship in South Africa.” in International Journal of Constitutional Law (2010)

Dr. Annie Leatt
Lecturer in Buddhism and Critical Thought, Religious Studies, University of Cape Town

Annie Leatt is a lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Cape Town. She is responsible for teaching Asian religions at an undergraduate level and postgraduate courses in Buddhist history, doctrine and Buddhist modernism. She completed her PhD on the subject of secularism and the South African constitution through Wiser at the University of the Witwatersrand. Annie has worked widely in policy and social justice research and practice at the Children’s Institute, Law Race and Gender Research Unit and at Triangle Project. Her current research interests include the nature of South Africa’s political public and the role of religious leadership, as well as Buddhism and the social and political institutions of Buddhism in East and South East Asia. Her most recent publications include “Religion and Revival in Post-Apartheid South Africa.” In FOCUS (2011) and ‘Review Essay – Public Faith and the Politics of Faith’ in Journal for the Study of Religion (2010).

Thaddeus Metz
Professor and Head of Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Johannesberg

Prof. Thaddeus Metz received his PhD from Cornell University. He relocated to South Africa in 2004 when he joined the Philosophical Department at the University of the Witwatersrand. His research focus revolves around value theory in moral, political and legal philosophy and many of his publications address either the meaning of life, the African ethic of Ubuntu and Kantian approaches to justice. His most recent publications include Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study (2013) and “African Values, Human Rights and Group Rights: A Philosophical Foundation for the Banjul Charter,” in African Legal Theory and Contemporary Problems (2013).

Dr. Sibuso Masondo
Senior Lecturer, School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Dr. Masondo’s research and teaching is focused, broadly speaking, around African Religion, culture and philosophy. More specifically, Dr Masondo is concerned with African Traditional Religion, African Christianity and indigenous meaning systems, African Indigenous Churches, and comparative religion. His current research looks at worship practices at Nazareth Baptist Church, the ethics of “umuntu akalahlwa”, conversion from an African perspective, and African Pentecostalism. His most recent publications include “African Pentecostalism” Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion. (2006) and “The History of African Indigenous Churches in Scholarship” in Journal for the Study of Religion (2005). 

Francis B. Nyamnjoh
Professor of Social Anthropology and Head of Department, UCT

Francis B. Nyamnjoh holds a BA (1984) and an MA (1985) from the University of Yaounde, Cameroon, and a PhD (1990), from the University of Leicester, UK. He joined the University of Cape Town in August 2009 as Professor of Social Anthropology from the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA), where he served as Head of Publications from July 2003 to July 2009. He has taught sociology, anthropology and communication studies at universities in Cameroon and Botswana, and has researched and written extensively on Cameroon and Botswana, where he was awarded the “Senior Arts Researcher of the Year” prize for 2003. Nyamnjoh has published widely on globalisation, citizenship, media and the politics of identity in Africa.His most recent publications include Mobile Phones: The New Talking Drums of Everyday Africa (2009) and Insiders and Outsiders: Citizenship and Xenophobia in Contemporary Southern Africa (2006).

Dr. Ada Ordor
Director, Centre for Comparative Law in Africa, UCT    

Ada Ordor completed her LLB (Hons) at the University of Jos, Nigeria in 198 and gained admission to the Nigerian bar in 1990, and national youth service in 1991. In 2001, she was appointed to a teaching position at the Nigerian Law School, Enugu Campus, serving as Acting Head, Department of Legal Drafting and Conveyancing from 2001 to 2003. She was awarded a PhD at UCT in 2006 for a thesis titled The role of law in the development of the nonprofit sector in Nigeria and South Africa, and in 2007, took up a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Institute of Development and Labour Law, UCT. In 2011, she was appointed Director of the newly established Centre for Comparative Law in Africa. Ada has published on various aspects of law in development and is particularly interested in the development of the law to support supplemental, complementary and alternative development pathways in Africa. Her most recent publications include ‘Accessing Justice within Plural Normative Systems in Africa: Case Study of South Africa’ African Journal of Clinical Legal Education and Access to Justice (2012) and ‘The South African Nonprofit Sector: Legal and Policy Environment’ in Speculum Juris (2010).

Fatima Osman
Lecturer in the Department of Private Law, University of Cape Town

Fatima Osman is a lecturer in the Department of Private Law where she teaches African Customary Law and the Law of Succession. She holds BBusSc (1st class honours), LLB (cum laude) and LLM (with distinction) degrees from the University of Cape Town. Her masters thesis, entitled ‘Freedom of Religion and the Headscarf: A Perspective From International and Comparative Constitutional Law’, analyses whether legislative bans on the wearing of a headscarf breach the right to freedom of religion as that right is universally understood. Before joining UCT Fatima practised as an attorney specialising in corporate law. 

Dr. Fatima Seedat
Post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Religious Studies, University of Cape Town

Dr. Fatima Seedat is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Religious Studies, UCT. Her dissertation in Islamic law from McGill University focuses on sex difference and legal capacity (al-ahliyya) in classical and contemporary Ḥanafi legal theory, which finds resonance in South African debates on recognising Islamic marriage and divorce law. She has published on the intersections of Islam and feminism and is co-founder of Shura Yabafazi, a local NGO that advocates gender equality in Muslim family law. She has worked at the South African Commission on Gender Equality and at the Parliament of South Africa. Amongst her past projects are research and writing for ‘Knowing Our Rights’, a handbook on Muslim family law and practice produced by Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) and ‘Women’s Rights in Muslim Communities: A Resource Guide for Human Rights Educators’ produced for  Equitas International Centre for Human Rights. Fatima recently returned from Afghanistan where, through UNWomen, she has been asked contribute analysis to the Afghan Criminal Law Reform processes. 

Annette Seegers
Professor and Head of Faculty of Politics Studies, University of Cape Town

Annette Seegers was educated in South Africa but received her PhD, courtesy of a Fullbright Scholarship, from Loyola University of Chicago. She has been a member of the Political Studies Department of the University of Cape Town since 1986 and became a professor in 1998. She has also been a Visiting Professor Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs and Department of Politics, Princeton University, USA since 1999. She has released numerous publications but her best known publication is The Military and the Making of Modern South Africa (1996).

Sa’diyya Shaikh
Associate Professor of Islamic Studies and Feminist Theory, University of Cape Town 

Sa’diyya Shaikh works at the intersection of Islamic Studies and Gender Studies. She has an interest in Sufism and its implications for Islamic feminism and feminist theory. Her other areas of research cover issues of gender violence; feminist approaches to hadith and Quran; contraception and abortion; theoretical debates on Islam and feminism; Engaged Sufism and empirical research on South African Muslim women. Currently she is completing a manuscript on gender and sexuality in the works of a 13th century Andalusian Sufi thinker, Ibn Arabi. She has also initiated an empirical research project that focuses on sexuality, marriage, and reproductive choices amongst South African Muslim women. Her most recent publications include ‘Sufi narratives of intimacy: Ibn ʿArabi, Gender and Sexuality.’ (2012) and “Morality, Justice and Gender: Reading Muslim tradition on Reproductive Choices.” In African Sexualities: A Reader (2012).

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
Professor of Religious Studies and Law, Indiana University

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan received her B.A. from Cornell University and her J.D. and PhD from the University of Chicago. She is interested in religion as a broad an complex social and cultural phenomenon that both generates law and is regulated by law and has been trained in both law and in religious studies. Sullivan’s training in the academic study of religion is in two fields, American religious history and the comparative study of religion.

Her research interest lies primarily in understanding the intersection of religion and law in the U.S. within a broader comparative field, both theoretically and cross-culturally. Her most recent publications include Varieties of Religious Establishment (2013) and After Secular Law (2011).

Abdulkader Tayob
Professor and NRF Chair in Islam, African Publics and Religious Values, University of Cape Town

Abdulkader Tayob received his PhD from Temple University and is now an internationally recognized scholar in the study of modern Islam in general, and Islam in Africa in particular. He currently holds a research chair at UCT in Islam and African Publics and Religious values and is working on two inter-related areas of research. The first, contextual area, is the study of religious leaders in East Africa. This is a study of reformism among Muslim and Christian leaders, their impact on national and trans-national debates; and within religious publics. For the second project, Abdulkader returns to his earliest work on Islamists. This time, he is examining biographical self-reflections of Islamists who have been engaged in Islamic activism for over two decades. The study will examine such biographies in order to understanding Islamism from a psychology of religions perspective. His most recent publications include ‘Politics and Islamization in African Public Spheres’ (2012) and ‘’Islam and Democracy in South Africa.’ In Focus: the Journal of the Helen Suzman Foundation (2011)

Go To:
About the Cape Town Workshop
Cape Town Workshop Program
Cape Town Workshop Memos <password required>