Kurt Campbell

Kurt Campbell

Biography

Artist and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art and New Media at the University of Cape Town
To Write as a Boxer: 
Affect, Disability and Re-signification in the Text of the Blinded South African Pugilist Andrew Jeptha
Mandela Mellon Fellow
Fall 2017

 

Kurt Campbell works as an artist, curator and academic writer. Recent writing projects have been published in the European Journal of English Studies and Harvard University’s Transition.The conceptual frameworks of his visual research often engage the post-apartheid, post-colonial space of aesthetic ideation in South Africa. Solo exhibitions that reflect these concerns include Night Fighter (2014) and Boxing Ghosts (2015). These creative projects focused on historical interpretation through exhibition making, and the productive possibilities that early pugilists from Cape Town offer in thinking the limits of racial subjectivity and self-craft in contemporary society. Campbell's PhD was completed at the Centre for Humanities Research (NRF Flagship on Critical Thought in African Humanities) at the University of the Western Cape. This thesis positions the writing of the blinded champion boxer Andrew Jeptha as an important contribution to Postcolonial and Disability Studies.

Campbell's largest curatorial project to date (titled Athlone in Mind) served as the official exhibition for the meeting of the Consortium for Humanities Centers and Institutes in August 2017 and featured the leading artists from South Africa including Jane Alexander, Berni Searle and Kemang Wa Lehulere.

 

Project Description

To Write as a Boxer: 
Affect, Disability and Re-signification in the Text of the Blinded South African Pugilist Andrew Jeptha

I will research and complete a book manuscript based on a rare pugilistic text published in early South Africa: A South African Boxer in BritainA South African Boxer in Britain contains the unique aesthetic of the Cape Town born fighter Andrew Jeptha, the first black fighter to win a British welterweight title in 1907. The booklet was published in 1910 to offer pecuniary relief to the blinded author (Jeptha) who incurred the affliction during the very match that secured him the title. Thus, although masquerading as a ‘light read’ of sporting achievements and memories from abroad, I argue the booklet authorizes a complex thinking on text, disability and boxing. In my forthcoming book, I take care to present the publication as a crucial historical work that offers a level of psychic and racial strategy not naturally thought to exist in the genesis of a turn-of-the-century boxer. The textual ideation manifest in Jeptha’s booklet is thus mooted as distinctive in its accommodation of both desire and difference, rendering a calculation that sees the text not as the deserted boundary where ‘mind’ and ‘flesh’ depart, but rather as a particular bibliographic configuration where both these worlds meet in a moment that remands reductive views of the gladiator and his words of care.


Fall 2017: Mandela Mellon Fellow


 

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