Sunday, April 29, 2007

Quote of the day

"We are ugly but we have the music."
Canadian singer Leonard Cohen in 'Chelsea Hotel No.2'

Friday, April 27, 2007

A great day!

I heard back from the organisation with which I applied for a research position. They congratulated me and now I have to write a 1500 word essay and still go to, or rather I hope to be called in for an interview. Indeed, the competition is tough. Anyway, I like the topic and I will write a concise, analytical and critical essay. If all goes well, my conclusion will enthrall the readers. But the day was also great for another reason. I went on a short hike on the Klipriver Nature Reserve, to the South of Jozi, close to Southgate and Mondeor. The place makes you forget that you are close to Africa's metropolis. I walked through high grass, splendid in its shades of gold, brown and green. There was a wind, and a gentle automn sun was shining on my path. As a came down a ridge, the smell of wild herbs enchanted me and a little later, as I sat down on a warm stone, two Steenbocks suddenly appeared on the other side of the valley. They sensed my presence and stood in silence. After a while, they strode up the hill side. I could hear their movements, carried by the wind and the silence of the valley, as they cut their way through the grass. Magical moments. After a busy week, there is nothing better than connecting with the inner self in the solitude of the outdoors. And all this a fifteen minute car ride away from Wits. How can you not love a city that offers such a thing?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Quizz of the Day

What is transformation?

a) replace all white people with black people

b) create a more just South Africa

c) become more efficient and improve business and governance structure

Send your answer to

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Online CV Thomas Blaser

Thomas Michael Blaser
Graduate Centre Humanities
University of the Witwatersrand
Republic of South Africa


Place of Birth: Berne, Switzerland
Marital status: Single


1982 – 1989 Gymnasium Baumlihof, Basel
1990 – 1992 Institut Minerva, Basel
Eidgenossische Matura


1994 Capilano College, West Vancouver, Canada

1994-1999 Political Science (Comparative Politics, Political Philosophy)
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada
Bachelor of Arts

1999-2001 Political Science (Comparative Politics)
Thesis: Official Language Policy in Canada
and Switzerland: Language Survival and Political Stability
McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Master of Arts

2002 - 2008 Political Studies
Thesis: Afrikaner Identity after Nationalism
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

1997-1998 Immigration Canada, Vancouver, internship and employee
Researched and wrote reports in preparation for legal proceedings

2002 -2005 Tutor: Department of Sociology, Wits University, Johannesburg SOCL 320, States, Market and Economic Policy
SOCL 211, Sociological Theories
SOCL 109, Poverty and Society

2004 Course Lecturer (Evening class):
SOCL 320, Culture, Power & Identity

2005 Tutor, School of Accountancy,
Business Communication, course: ACN 226

2006-07 Ford Foundation research project into races, colours, ethnicities,
gender, class, and sexualities in Johannesburg

2007 – 08 South African Institute of Race Relations, Johannesburg, Researcher (Politics, race, and education)

2008 - 2010 African Futures Institute, Tshwane, Researcher (Futures Studies,
scenario building, and African development)

2010 - Post-doctorate Fellow, Graduate Centre Humanities, University of
the Witwatersrand

Other Activities and Skills

1990-1994 Member of the Othella Dallas Jazz Theater, Basel, Switzerland

2002 -03 Executive Member of the Postgraduate Association (PGA),
University of the Witwatersrand

PGA Representative University Council, Wits University

2002-08 Founding member of the Political Studies Forum,
Wits University
The Forum organises, together with the History Workshop,
lectures by PhD Candidates, national and international visitors.

2005 Carnegie Equity Student Leader for Sustainable Dialogue
Student leaders raise awareness about issues of equity and transformation amongst the student population and the faculty through social and academic events.

2005 Consultant with the Wits Writing Centre

2006 Consultant and presenter for an undergraduate short course, Ethics,
Protocols and Practices of International Research, University of
Virginia, USA

2007 World of Work Training Program, Wits University
A one month Business Training Program in the Faculty of
Humanities, involving workshops with business people which address all aspects of doing business in contemporary South Africa.

Computer - Hardware: IBM and Apple personal computers
- Software: Word Processing (Microsoft Word, Powerpoint) and
spreadsheet (Excel), internet and email

Languages Afrikaans, reading ability
French and German, fluent in oral and written expression


Journal article:

South African Historical Journal, ‘The Afrikaners and Nation Building in Post-apartheid South Africa’, 51, (2005)

The Journal of South African and American Studies (Safundi), ‘Looking at ‘The Heart of
Whiteness’ in South Africa Today’, vol. 9, issue 1, (January 2008), 81-96.

Chapters in a book:

Fragile Freedom, eds. Greg Cuthbertson and Alan Jeeves ‘A New South African Imaginary: the Afrikaners and Nation Building in Post-apartheid South Africa’ (UNISA Press, Pretoria, 2008).

The South Africa Survey 2007/08, South African Institute of Race Relations, chapters on the economy and education


Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS) newsletter, 2003, ‘Thinking
Blackness and Africa’. Three Lectures by Achille Mbembe

African Studies Review, 2004,‘Whiteness is just not what it used to
Be’. Melissa Steyn (2002).

H-Net SAfrica, 2007, ‘The Populist Dimension to African Political Thought: Essays
In Reconstruction and Retrieval’, P.L.E. Idahosa (2004)

H-Net SAfrica, 2007, ‘The Illusion of Cultural Identity’, Jean-Francois Bayart (2005)

Politikon, 2009, ‘African Intellectuals in the 19th and early 20th Century South Africa’,
Mcebisi Ndletyana (ed.) (2008)

Beeld (Johannesburg), ‘Skep nuwe geskiedenis, Afrikaners moet ophou om ‘n ’aparte
groep’ te wees’, Sept. 6, 2005, p. 11

Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Working Paper Series, 2006, no. 4, ‘Afrikaner Identity after Nationalism’

Conference Papers and Presentations
2002 PhD Forum, University of the Witwatersrand, State and Narration:
Afrikaner Identity

2004 Ten Years of Democracy in Southern Africa: Historical Achievement, Present
State, Future Prospects:

- Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada, May 2-5, 2004, The Afrikaners and
Nation Building in Post-apartheid South Africa

- University of South Africa, Pretoria, August 23-25, 2004, Identity after Nationalism: Young Afrikaners and the New Nation

2005 South African Association of Political Studies (SAAPS) Colloquium,
Pietermaritzburg, 22-23 September 2005, Young Afrikaners: new citizens
of the nation?

2006 Discussant for Rehad Desai’s documentary Heart of Whiteness at the
Graduate Conference, Wits School of Literature and Language Studies, March 18 -19

Seminar Leader: Truth, Reconciliation and Transformation in
South Africa, Interdisciplinary Seminar: Paradigms of Community Engagement in South Africa, Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and Ikageng Itireleng, Soweto; May 28

Basler Afrika Bibliographien and Namib Resource Centre, and Historisches Seminar University of Basel, Switzerland, June 12, Afrikaner Identity after Nationalism

International Sociological Congress and Junior Sociology Workshop, Durban, July 22-29, Afrikaner Identity after Nationalism

2007 Anthropology South Africa Conference, University of Pretoria,
September, 2007, ‘Transforming Identities among the rainbow nations’s
youth: Interactions across “races, colours, ethnicities”, gender, classes and
sexualities in Johannsburg, with Zethu Matebeni and Brigitte Bagnol

Human Resources Africa Conference, Johannesburg, November 2007, ‘Scarce
skills in 2010’, with Marius Roodt

2008 Presentation to undergraduate students at Wits University, 24 May 2008
‘South Africa Mirror: Socio-economic and political indicators’,

Colloquium on Race and Racism in South Africa, 18 June 2008, University of
South Africa, (UNISA) ‘Race, Racism and Liberalism’

2010 Experience and Experiments: Afrikaners after apartheid,
‘Afrikaners after nationalism: young Afrikaners and the new nation’, University of Stellenbosch, 18 February 2010

2002-2004 Post-graduate Merit Award, University of the Witwatersrand,
Johannesbrg, South Africa

1994 Dean’s Honor Roll, Capilano College, West Vancouver, BC, Canada

Prof. Jonathan Hyslop
Deputy Director, Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research (WISER), University of the Witwatersrand, RSA
011 717 4272

Prof. Shela Meintjes
Chair, Department of Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, RSA
011 717 4371

Dr. Alioune Sall
Executive Director, African Futures Institute, Tshwane, RSA
012 352 4071/4107

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Conflict Resolution In Practice

Let me thank Berenice de la Croix, director of 'Learning in Practice' for an insightful seminar on conflict resolution. The very same day I put her advice into practice. I had an assignment to do background research, mainly web-based, for a seminar series. My colleague expected me to send some results this week. I was unable to do so as I had a hectic week with emergency meetings and all-night work to deliver submissions for another project. So I sent an email saying I would have more time to deliver research findings on friday and on the week-end. As I wrote the email, I received an email, worded quite strongly, that my failure to meet the deadline was unacceptable and so on. I was very annoyed by the tone and the insinuation that I was not serious about the work. One of the problems was also that I was not fully aware of the deadlines. My colleague sends email after email with lots of words on banal and superfluous things to the effect that I read them only quickly. My first reaction was to send a rebuttal but I took the time to chill, looked out of the window, and reconsidered. Finally, I sent an apology and a very conciliatory email. After all, I was supposed to have done the work before and it was expected to be done. Instead of competing, I went for accomodation. After reflection, I felt some of the blame was justified. Let me add here that I usually choose to compete when dealing with conflict. But in this case, to accomodate was the far better strategy. Indeed, not much was at stake and to accomodate did not cost me anything. So ja, a great thank you to our passionate presenter for offering different strategies for dealing with conflict.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Company Culture

I was struck by ECI's Janet Pringle's recurrent comment about the importance of fitting in with the culture of the company you intend to work with. Does this apply to all companies? This may also mean that you focus less on your skills and more on who you are, your appearance and so on. This also seems in contradiction to what Andrew Hofmeyr suggested. For him, the focus was on your skills and what you have to offer. Perhpas there are different types of employers and they look for different things in a candidate. I guess the trick is to be aware of what type of comany you want to work with and shape your profile and presentation towards that objective. In an article in the weekly magazine 'noiseweek'the talk was about 'fifo' - fit in or fuck off. There are those who require uniformity and adherence to strict rules but no doubt there are others who look form more diversity amongst the workforce.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I really liked Andrew Hofmeyr's workshop with us. First, he is a great individual, a real 'mensch'. He came across as an honest, human being. Second, his theme, to think what you have to offer to an employer and even to the world suggests a radically different way of looking for employment. It is about evaluating yourself first, who you are, what you have to offer and then identifying what you can do and with whom. This is an empowering way of thinking about life and the world of work.

Quizz of the day

Who is the author of the following quote:
"There is no lower form of life than guru-hood."

a) Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics
b) Roy Blumenthal, Artiste-at-Large
c) Idriss Naidoo, Swami for Transcendental Meditation

Email to for the answer.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The basics about Blogging (Roy's seminar)

I was the team leader for the seminar by Roy Blumenthal on Blogging. Here are my notes and summary of the session.

Roy started off by saying that you needto stick to a discipline to keep your blog going. He suggested that we all agree to blog at least three times a week. Lesley felt one could even blog everyday. But the main thing is to be consistent and not disappoint your reader. We should seek consistency but not necessarily perfection.

Roy also mentioned that it is not really the content that counts but that we be successful. I am not quite sure what he meant by this. After all, WHAT I put on my blog matters! So please come forward with any explanations.

A blog is an online diary but it is pointed. I think this means that the blog has to be concise. Avoid rambling on.

A blog is a marketing tool. This does not need much explanation. For our World of Work program, we want to use the blog to communicate with potential employers.

The blog reflects a sharing ethos. You share your thoughts and experiences with others. You offer them something from you and you can also expect somehting in return. You want to share generosity and personal growth with others.

In your blog, you can reveal your ideologies and passions. "You need your blog to be you", Roy said. Your blog is then your personal stamp of identity. Don't try to hide yourself but use the blog to express yourself. People want to know about you and with your blog, you can reveal who you are and how you think.

The blog is then about you as a person. Do not confuse 'person' with 'persona'. Try to post matters that truly show who you are rather than pretending to be someone you are not.

Your blog also shows how you grow over time. Instead of deleting blogs, leave them there so people can see how you have developed. Remember, Dan Sonnenberg from Matrix Consulting mentioned that he does not look for people who know it all but who can learn.

Your blog is like a shark: it has to move to remain alive. So you need to post regularly but you also need to post interesting and meaningful things on your blog. So content does matter?!

Try to make regular updates on your blog. Make sure your blog has personality. The more it says about you, the more interesting it is. You also want to have a focus on your blog. Maybe you can show how you work on your blog towards a specific aim; how it evolves, how it takes shape.

Let me end with a personal observation. While I can understand that the blog has to be you, that is, you want to be authentic and truthful, there are always issues that will be left out. I mean, I write here to a global audience, to every Dick, Tom and Harry in the universe, I even use it to market myself. So there are limitations to what I put on my blog. In this sense, you get a glimpse of 'my truth', but probably not the 'whole truth'.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

How to change fonts and colours of your blog

A big hi! to all bloggers, especially those from the Wits World of Work program!

Let me share with you how to change the colours and fonts of your blog. From your blog site (ie. you click on 'new post' (upper right hand corner), then choose 'template', then 'fonts and colours'. After you have followed these steps, you should now have different colours and fonts in front of you and you can click on them at your pleasure. After all, as Lesley said at the seminar, colours stimulate your brain and creativity. And I remember, we always made fun in high school of those students who illustrated their assignments with many colours. Maybe they were on to something I did not know at the time...

After having posted my first blog, how do I feel?

I am feeling good. Even relieved, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. It took me a while to sort out the technicalities so there was some annoyance about getting started. Thinking about the process of blogging over the last 48 hours puts me more at ease about the whole thing. I mean, anyone can access my thoughts directly and respond to it - that is intimidating!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

How I feel about blogging?

I have heard a lot about blogging in the past. People talk about it and you encounter some blogs when you surf the net. I hope the audience will enjoy it; I think I will enjoy it as I like to write. So here I go - my own blog! Raise the curtains!