Focus area breathes new life into Ancient Texts

Dumile Mlambo -- Tue, 03/15/2016 - 12:06

Focus area breathes new life into Ancient Texts

Professor Hans van Deventer has been appointed as the research director of the newly established Research Focus Area: Ancient texts – Text, Context and Reception at the North-West University (NWU). 

Van Deventer, who has taken up the position since the beginning of March, is currently a professor and subject head of the subject group: Theology and Philosophy within the Faculty of Humanities on the Vaal Triangle Campus.

He takes over the reins from the well-known Potchefstroom based researcher within the field of theology, Prof Harry van Rooy. Prof van Rooy - who retired from fulltime duties in 2014, served as acting research director in 2015 and spearheaded the initial process of establishing Ancient Texts: Text, Context and Reception, as a fully-fledged research focus area.

“When we started the application process to become a standalone entity, we realised that it was a difficult road that lay ahead. This process, which entailed evaluation by national and international peers in the field, lasted throughout 2014, but we are very proud to have succeeded and be counted among the formal research entities of the NWU," said Prof Van Deventer.

With a vision to “promote a clear, coherent and integrated academic focus for the development of researchers to fulfil the growing need for study of ancient texts and language education, the focus area wants to serve the long term development of the broader field of Ancient Languages, not only nationally where this field is currently under pressure due to downscaling at various institutions, but also to expand on the African continent and further abroad.

Professor Van Deventer describes the unit as the “first fruit of the new institutional strategy that is coming," saying that "we are excellently situated for the envisioned success model”.

“The fact that we have footprints on two campuses – Vaal Triangle and Potchefstroom, and our researchers teach in two faculties – Humanities and Theology, enhances the entity's plans to rally all relevant research skills and not to work in silos. I look forward to working with staff and students from both campuses in order to deliver on the next phase of our ambitious plans,” he said.

Prof Van Deventer added that the team are currently exploring ways to get colleagues from the Mafikeng Campus involved as well.

Sharing a glimpse of their future plans for the entity, Van Deventer, who has been with the Vaal Triangle Campus for a little over two decades, says their goals include the following:

}  Making Ancient Texts more visible throughout the institution

}  Clearing obstacles in the way of younger researchers to enable them to reach their full potential as academics

}  Secure good lines of communication among focus area members

}  Further enhancing the post-doctoral experience of Ancient Text research fellows at the NWU

}  Expanding the Ancient Text footprint through local, national and international involvement  

Described by those who work with him, Van Deventer is said to bring an abundance of energy and an outstanding research record on Ancient Text, Philosophy, as well as valuable leadership experience within academia – all of which will serve the focus area well in the next phase of its development, to the table.

Prof Christopher Rabali, the acting dean of the Faculty of Humanities said that Van Deventer will “bring a wealth of educational experience and expertise to the research focus area and his knowledge and leadership will be invaluable to staff and students at the unit and the broader university."

The focus area currently boasts five NRF rated researchers in their team.