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The University Research Office is based at the Govan Mbeki building on Westville campus

The University of KwaZulu-Natal currently has more than 250 post-doctoral fellows

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College of Humanities

Professor Philippe Denis

Professor philippe Denis

Prof Philippe Denis’ main interest is religious history. Since the beginning of his academic career – in Liège, Belgium – in the mid 1970s he has authored or co-authored 7 books and submitted an eighth one for publication. He has edited or co-edited 17 books and published more than 120 peer-reviewed articles or chapters of books in his discipline. He teaches the History of Christianity at the University of KwaZulu-Natal since 1993. During the past twenty-five years he has been visiting professor in Paris, Louvain, Brussels, Montpellier and Milan.

In the 1970s and 1980s, his main area of expertise was the history of the Reformation in Germany, France and the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th century. He worked on issues of confessional development, biblical exegesis and cultural representations. During the last two decades, while continuing to work in the field of early modern history, he moved to a different area of investigation and adopted a new methodology.  His primary area of research has become the history of indigenous Christianity in southern Africa, mostly but not exclusively in the 19th and 20th centuries. By indigenous Christianity is meant the manner in which African people have transformed Christian theology and practice over time, sometimes in opposition to the missionaries, and in reference to their indigenous cultural heritage. Indigenous Christianity is present within and without the boundaries of mission churches. Because the point of view of the indigenous people is insufficiently represented in the written sources, the missionary reports and the colonial archives for example, Prof Denis has developed an interest in oral history. This in turn encouraged him to reflect on issues of memory and resilience. Part of his work belongs to the emerging field of memory studies.

This work led to the creation, in the mid 1990s, of the Sinomlando Centre for Oral History and Memory Work in Africa (, which Prof Denis has developed with the assistance of doctoral or post-doctoral students and colleagues active in the disciplines of Religion and Theology, Historical Studies and of Psychology. This research and community development centre of the University of KwaZulu-Natal has completed so far seven oral history projects (indigenous clergy under apartheid; black women’s Christian organisations; female traditional healers; family life and religious beliefs during the times of political violence in KwaNxamalala; apartheid and political violence in Mpophomeni township; multiple woundedness and healing in KwaZulu-Natal; the experience of NGO workers and pastoral agents in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Umgungundlovu District). The Sinomlando Centre is a widely recognized oral history training centre. During the past fifteen years it has facilitated numerous workshops for university students, high school teachers, heritage workers and NGO staff. It has also developed a memory work programme for community organisations working with families affected by HIV/AIDS.

Prof Denis is currently the chairperson of the Church History Society of South Africa. He is also a member of the South African Historical Society. Since 2006 he is an associate member of the Royal Academy of Belgium and attends their meetings on regular occasions. Since 2009 he is a member of the Editorial Board of the Louvain Journal of Church History and of the Scientific Committee of the Foundation of Religious Sciences of Bologna.

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