UCT book awards



Litheko Modisane


Dr Litheko Modisane, Centre for Film and Media Studies, Faculty of Humanities.
South Africa’s Renegade Reels.

Dr Litheko Modisane, senior lecturer at the Centre for Film and Media Studies, has won the 2016 UCT Book Award for South Africa’s Renegade Reels: The Making and Public Lives of Black-Centred Films. His winning work inspects the circulation and reception of anti-apartheid cinema and breaks new ground for traditional ways of analysing films.




Associate Professor Sa'diyya Shaikh, Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Humanities.
Sufi Narratives of Intimacy.

Associate Professor Sa'diyya Shaikh (Department of Religious Studies) has won the 2015 UCT Book Award for her exploration of the ideas of a 13th century Sufi mystic, poet and scholar in Sufi Narratives of Intimacy. Her book combines feminism and Sufism in such a unique way that critics have labelled it "ground-breaking" and "pioneering". It represents a dialogue between the social and spiritual concerns of 21st century Muslims on the one hand and the rich legacy of a compelling Muslim thinker – Muhyi al-Din ibn al-'Arabi – on the other.


Jenni Case


Professor Jenni Case, Department of Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment.
Researching Student Learning in Higher Education.

Professor Jenni Case’s book Researching Student Learning in Higher Education: A social realist approach is the winner of UCT’s Meritorious Book Award for 2015. In her winning book, Case tackles crucial aspects of students’ access and success in higher education and asks questions about the role that higher education should play in post-apartheid South Africa. Case is based at UCT’s Centre for Research in Engineering and Science Education.



Professor Nicoli Nattrass, School of Economics, Faculty of Commerce.
The AIDS Conspiracy.

The 2014 UCT Book Award was presented to Professor Nicoli Nattrass (School of Economics) for her book The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back. In her book Nattrass argues that AIDS conspiracy beliefs (such as HIV being deliberately created by scientists) are strongly mediated by local history and culture.




Ms Sonja Loots, School of Languages and Literatures, Faculty of Humanities.

The 2013 UCT Book Award was presented to Sonja Loots for her novel Sirkusboere. Loots' Sirkusboere tells the story, based on fact, of a group of traumatised, maimed and penniless veterans of the South African War (1899 to 1902) who were recruited in the aftermath of the war by legendary circus owner Frank Fillis to participate in a bizarre military spectacle at the 1904 World's Fair in St Louis, Missouri. Known as the Boer War Circus, it became one of the most popular events at the fair. The meticulously researched Sirkusboere is a story about trauma, diaspora, showbiz, freakery, racial discrimination, loss, displacement, rollercoasters and sport, and is described as "a wild bronco ride in history's rodeo".



Emeritus Professor JC (Kay) de Villiers.
Healers, Helpers and Hospitals.

Professor JC (Kay) de Villiers, who formerly held the Helen and Morris Mauerberger Chair of Neurosurgery, won the Book Award for his work Healers, Helpers and Hospitals: A history of military medicine in the Anglo-Boer War. In this two-volume work, the fields of history and medicine converge as it focuses on that far-reaching conflict, fought at a time when war killed more people through disease than through wounds.



Emeritus Professor Christopher Vaughan, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences.
Imagining The Elephant.

Christopher (Kit) Vaughan, emeritus professor of biomedical engineering and director of UCT spin-off company CapeRay, won the UCT Book Award for 2010 for Imagining the Elephant: a Biography of Allan Macleod Cormack, his ode to the South African-born Nobel laureate. Cormack, a 'lowly' UCT-trained physicist, was co-winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his computer-assisted tomography (CAT) scanner. His work also inspired a new generation of medical scientists, including Vaughan, who established a medical imaging research group at UCT in 2000, just two years after Cormack's death, in the latter's honour.



Professor Philippa Skotnes, Michaelis School of Fine Art, Faculty of Humanities.
Claim To The Country.

Professor Pippa Skotnes of the Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts in the Faculty of Humanities was awarded the prize for her work Claim to the Country: The Archive of Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd. The book and accompanying DVD brings together most of an archive on the San people created by philologist Wilhelm Bleek and linguist and folklorist Lucy Lloyd in the late 1800s. Claim to the Country was described by one reviewer as "hauntingly beautiful, deeply informed, and poignantly moving". Anthropologist David Lewis-Williams says the book is "surely the most amazing ethnographic source in the world".



Professor Nigel Penn, Department of Historical Studies, Faculty of Humanities.
Forgotten Frontier.

Professor Nigel Penn of the Department of Historical Studies was recognised for his book Forgotten Frontier: Colonist and Khoisan on the Cape's Northern Frontier in the 19th Century. In the book, released in 2006, Penn resurrects the history of the Northern Cape frontier. Relying primarily on records of the Dutch East India Company, he argues that the Northern Cape played a crucial role in shaping the attitudes and institutions that contributed to the subjugation of the Khoisan people. The move into the interior by the Dutch colonists had by the end of the eighteenth century, says Penn, either reduced these herders and hunters into an underclass in the colonial world, or expelled them beyond it.




Associate Professor Peter Bruyns, Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science.

Dr Peter Bruyns, a mathematician specialising in the theory of permutation groups, received the 2008 Book Award for his two-volume work, Stapeliads of Southern Africa and Madagascar. The work is a culmination of his 25 years of research, trekking remoter parts of the globe in search of a group of fleshy-stemmed succulents known as Stapeliads. Stapeliads are succulents with striking, pentagonal-shaped flowers belonging to the family Apocynaceae, quite plentiful in the drier parts of Africa but generally considered very difficult to identify.



Emeritus Professor William Nasson, Department of Historical Studies, Faculty of Humanities.
Britannia's Empire.

The UCT Book Award for 2007 was presented to Emeritus Professor Bill Nasson of the historical studies department for his book Britannia's Empire - Making a British World. The book has been described as "packed with elegant and concise argument, original insights and what can only be described as Nassonian witticisms". This is his second such award. Nasson, who describes himself as a writer of history, not a historian who writes, won his first UCT Book Award in 1993 for Abraham Esau's War: A black South African War in the Cape 1899-1902.



Professor Peter Knox-Shaw, Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Humanities.
Jane Austen and the Enlightenment.

The 2006 UCT Book Award was presented to Professor Peter Knox-Shaw, an honorary research associate in the English department, for his work Jane Austen and the Enlightenment. Knox-Shaw was a full-time member and senior lecturer of the English department from 1975 to 1991. He was made an honorary research associate of the department in 1994. His aim in writing the book was twofold. He wanted to demonstrate how responsive Jane Austen was to the deep social changes that took place during her lifetime, changes that now lie at the foundation of the modern world, and also to reassert her presence as a liberal and progressive figure in it.



Professor Nicoli Nattrass, School of Economics, Faculty of Commerce.
The Moral Economy of AIDS in South Africa.

The 2005 UCT Book Award was presented to Professor Nicoli Nattrass for her work The Moral Economy of AIDS in South Africa. The book has been widely acclaimed as it presents the interface between the moral and economic facets of AIDS in South Africa. Nattrass, who heads the AIDS and Society Research Unit (commerce faculty) in the Centre for Social Science Research, is hopeful that the award will boost similar academic output in her resident faculty.