Black History Month: Centre for Socio-Legal Studies Celebrates its Black Alumni, Blessed Ngwenya

Blessed studied for a MSt and then DPhil at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) from 2009 to 2014 under the supervision of Bettina Lange and Nicole Stremlau.  His research focused on the post-apartheid South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and its crisis of independence. Since leaving Oxford Blessed has gone on to take up a senior lecturership in the Communication Science Department at the University of South Africa. Blessed considers his greatest accomplishment to be his first book published by Routledge in 2020

Reflecting on his time at CSLS Blessed argued that what stands out about the Centre is the heterogeneity of the student body, staff and the trans-disciplinarily nature of socio-legal Studies. Asked to offer advice to current and future students he said:

The CSLS can be intimidating and at times a lonely place especially after the proposal presentations. One’s ego can be bruised and confidence tattered to shreds in these presentations. The experience, if not well managed, can negatively affect people in their time at Oxford. Some in my cohort, including myself testified of the ‘beating’, however. To mitigate against such we formed groups where people would present to their peers and rigorous interrogation and feedback was given in those semi-seminars. However, there is no need to throw in the towel, I feel that is a vital part of the academic turf. No pressure no diamond. Less pressure equals coal.

Blessed has also offered the following advice to other black scholars:

Oxford is a great place to be for a black person in as much as I feel there is a need to engage in meaningful conversations about race, ethnicity and identity. As de-colonial scholars have pointed over the years that race structures the world we are living in, it is important for students, not only black to discuss race and racism at Oxford. Of course, this may seem overwhelming, for example, if one hails from Southern Africa and is at Rhodes House, the statue of Cecil John Rhodes towers over them. It does send a different message to the Southern African individual, especially where one who caused so much damage, pillaging, plunder and genocide is held in awe at such a prestigious institute of learning.  On a personal note, I never experienced any racism from the student body or academic staff at Oxford.

Interrogating the interface between the rhetoric of formal rights and the lived reality of legal process is the heart of everything CSLS aspires to do. Issues around race and law are currently being explored in a number of projects but CSLS staff and students encourage you to read about these and other projects, share your thoughts, and challenge us.  We actively encourage black scholars to approach us with a view to engaging with our community of scholars or joining our research degrees programmes.