Critical literacy in action
Higgins argues that the critical literacy skills taught in literature courses can be usefully extended to non-literary forms of discourse and argument. Here, the power of combining historical analysis with painstaking attention to the detail of textual formulation and the application of relevant theoretical frameworks can yield surprisingly forceful results.
The results have recently appeared in his contribution to the recent Council on Higher Education publication, South African Higher Education Reviewed: Two Decades of Democracy, where he led and co-wrote the section on Staffing; his hosting of an international colloquium around the publication of North-South Knowledge Networks: Towards equitable collaboration between academics, donors and universities (which includes his chapter ‘Curiosity and Innovation in Higher Education Policy’); and his editing of, and contributions to, the latest issue of the South African journal Kagisano, Constituting Higher Education.
As he argued in his recent book, Academic Freedom in a Democratic South Africa, higher education both globally and in South Africa is under threat from global templates which seek to contain and inhibit critical thinking at a moment when precisely such thinking – informed by history, theory and the most careful attention to the words we use lest they use us - is most needed.
As a further dimension of Higgins's critical literacy initiative, UKZN Press has recently appointed Prof Higgins, alongside Professors Peter Vale (Director, Johannesburg Institute of Advanced Study) and Kole Omotoso as editors of a new book series. Off-Centre: New Perspectives on Public Issues focuses on social, political and cultural life of South Africa and the Southern African region and offers new perspectives on issues of public interest and concern for academic specialist and lay-person alike. Water in Southern Africa by Larry A. Swatuk at the Institute of Water Studies at UWC has just been published as the first volume in this groundbreaking new series.