Research Radar – Sarah E. Duff

Sarah E. Duff is an Assistant Professor of African and World History at Colby College, Maine. You can follow her on her website: https://sarahemilyduff.tumblr.com/

Who is your favourite academic?

Isabel Hofmeyr.

What are you reading for work and/or for leisure these days?

For work I’m reading Franziska Ruedi’s excellent The Vaal Uprising of 1984 and the Struggle for Freedom in South Africa, which will go nicely with the next book on my pile, Emily Bridger’s Young Women Against Apartheid: Gender, Youth and South Africa’s Liberation Struggle.

For leisure I’m switching between Jack by Marilynn Robinson, and Mabel Dodge Luhan’s memoir of DH and Frieda Lawrence’s stay in New Mexico in the 1920s, Lorenzo in Taos.

Intellectually and in other ways, I am far more a fox than a hedgehog.

What podcast do you recommend?

It was profiled recently in the New Yorker so it’s hardly unknown, but I’m enjoying Dissent’s Know Your Enemy podcast on the history and contemporary manifestations of US conservatism. It’s been useful for developing my own thinking on histories of conservative political thought in South Africa.

Radio New Frame is really good on South African society and politics.

What is your favourite archive or library?

It’s easily a tie between the Special Collections Reading Room at the Cape Town branch of the South African National Library—an exceptionally beautiful space—and the British Library.

What book or movie changed your life?

I’m not sure I could identify a single text which changed my life, but there are always books and films that inform my thinking at specific moments. Right now, The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh, Tim Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy, and Lee Edelman’s No Future are important to me for understanding the present and my scholarship in it.

Abbas Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us, which I saw for the first time last year, has helped me to think about how we find what we seek as scholars, and how the narratives we construct in relation to our own interests come up against the lives and thoughts of the people we write about.

Do you play music while you work?  If so, what?

I wish I could! Alas I have to work in absolute silence.

What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career/degree?

It’s alright to be a fox, rather than a hedgehog. In fact, cultivate it.

What is your favourite way to de-stress?

Cooking, yoga, mooching around antique shops.

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