Introducing Benda Hofmeyr

Benda Hofmeyr is a philosopher currently affiliated to the Department of Philosophy, University of Pretoria, South Africa. She lived and worked in the Netherlands while completing her doctoral studies and postdoctoral research. She still maintains strong collaborative ties with the Radboud University Nijmegen where she obtained her doctoral degree in Philosophy on the work of Foucault and Levinas. Her research interests fall within the broad ambit of contemorary Continental philosophy (especially thinkers following in the wake of Heidegger with emphasis  on post-structuralism and phenomenology) with an enduring facination for the inextricable entanglement of the ethical and the political.

In her present research, she is reflecting on the entanglement of European and non-Western, especially post-colonial African philosophy and the possibility of a dialogue across these divergent yet fundamentally intertwined traditions of thought.

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* Please Contact me via my website rather than through one of the above profiles, since I don't get around to visiting or updating them as often as I would like. With so many platforms out there, I hope that you have found your way here via one of them or via Google and everything that you were looking for. Please feel free to Contact me should you have any questions or are in need of any text not available under Publications or Download. The Search function at the top of the page might also help you to find what you are looking for. 

Monday
Aug142017

About Me

I am philosopher affiliated to the Department of Philosophy, University of Pretoria, South Africa. After the completion of my doctoral thesis in Philosophy at the Radboud University Nijmegen (NL), I conducted research at the Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht (NL) on the political dimension of art and cultural production. I still have strong and active collaborative ties with the Radboud University Nijmegen.

My research interests fall within the broad ambit of contemorary Continental philosophy (especially thinkers following in the wake of Heidegger with emphasis on post-structuralism and phenomenology) with an enduring facination for the inextricable entanglement of the ethical and the political.

In my present research, I am reflecting on the entanglement of European and non-Western, especially post-colonial African philosophy and the possibility of a dialogue across these divergent yet fundamentally intertwined traditions of thought.

The contested status of the Humanities, the ever increasing neoliberalization of our globalized life-world, the crisis of higher education, the increased democratization of university eduction and resultant massification, as well as the need for a critical reconceptualization of our curricula, have forced me to fundamentally rethink what sort of activity philosophy is and should be in the postcolonial context. The legacy of Western metaphysics have shaped my mind, but my body and heart belongs to the African continent. Thinking, as we know, is never merely rational and cannot be disconnected from its context. How then does a South African academic account for the schizophrenia of her European intellectual roots, on the one hand, and her postcolonial African situatedness, on the other?

From the very inception of my research career, my intellectual pursuits were animated by the need to understand the relationship between the Self and the Other. From the onset I was gravely aware that this is an inextricably ethico-political concern, that it lies at the very heart of human ethical quandaries, which cannot be extricated from its socio-political situatedness. It refuses reduction to a simplistic binary opposition, while at the same time often falls prey to what may be called ‘identitarian fundamentalism’ resulting in violent reductionism and a ‘closing of the mind’. Self and Other are inextricably tied in a double-bind that facilitates self-enrichment through the transgressive discovery of what is Other than itself. Yet the Self, by its egocentric nature operates by virtue of a reductive logic, reducing the Other to that which is merely provisionally separate from the Same, but ultimately reconcilable with it. This attraction-revulsion or love-hate binary, if you will, and a desire to make sense of the necessarily incommensurable entanglement is the golden thread that charts the course through my meandering research journey.

 

Monday
Aug142017

More About My Research

From the moment I discovered Philosophy I was struck by its critical emancipatory potential – its emancipatory potential following from its critical force. For all its biases, Western philosophy teaches a collection of answers to some pretty profound questions. The question in our present postcolonial context is whether the constituency of our intellectual endeavours – specifically also the students that we are teaching – are able to understand the questions, which we are addressing with our answers. Knowledge – and thereby I mean understanding – is a function of the sociology that necessitates it. As Van Binsbergen puts it: ‘it is pointless to study the contents of a philosophy in isolation – in vitro – without constant reference to the particular sociology of knowledge by which it came into being and by which it is perpetuated’. What is necessary for true understanding is being able to self-reflectively connect (1) knowledge of the sociological ground of knowledge production with (2) the modes of knowledge so produced and pursued. My research pilgrimage reflects a wrestling with ethical and political conceptual toolkits and an persistent need and repeated attemtps to put them to work within the context of our lived experience. The prevailing theme throughout is the relation between the Self and the Other and how their entanglement is complicated by the fact that they are always and necessarily bound to specific contextual forces and limitations.

 

Hence my GENERAL RESEARCH FOCUS falls within the field of practical philosophy, which should be understood in the two-pronged Aristotelian sense as referring to “Ethics” on the one hand, and “Politics” on the other.

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