Rhodes co-hosts first forensic linguistics conference in Southern Africa


A first for Southern Africa, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in affiliation with Rhodes University, the University of South Africa, and University Eduardo Mondlane, hosted the International Association of Forensic Linguists (IAFL) conference from 16-17 April 2018 at Lagoon Beach Hotel in Milnerton, Cape Town.

The IAFL is an international association focused on forensic linguistics, which is a relatively unknown research and specialisation area in law and language in South Africa, and across Africa in general.

Areas of expertise that make up the IAFL include police investigative interviewing, language use in the legal process, language used with and as evidence in legal cases, and the interpretation and translation of legal texts. Attendees will predominantly be scholars and researchers in the domains of language, law, anthropology, psychology, criminology, police science, and related disciples from all around the world.

This year’s theme of discussion for the IAFL was ‘New Frontiers of Justice in Forensic Linguistics’, which showcased a plethora of contributions from research on language and law, including legal recognition of African languages and cultures within the criminal justice system. This was approached from both a historical perspective in reflection of what has been achieved regarding the developmental initiatives pertaining this field, as well as from the angle of how current research can impact the future of forensic linguistics.

“Southern African nations are highly linguistically diverse and this conference will provide us with an immense opportunity to explore international and local emerging research, covering the interactions between multi-lingual citizenry and post-colonial justice systems,” explained Professor Russell Kaschula, Rhodes NRF SARChI Chair: Intellectualisation of African Languages, Multilingualism & Education, who has been heavily involved in making this regional conference possible.

International keynote speaker and panelist representation included Dr Georgina Heydon from the Centre for Global Research at Australia’s RMIT University, and Dr Celia Blake, attorney-at-law and Senior Lecturer at The University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

Keynote speakers and panellists sharing knowledge and research from an African perspective included Judge James Yekiso, who spent 15 years on the Bench of the Cape High Court, Professor Lirieka Meintjes-van der Walt, an adjunct professor of Law and the Project Leader of the Law, Science and Justice Research Niche Area at the University of Fort Hare, Cornelus JA Lourens, who has 29 years’ experience as a trial lawyer, and Dr Eliseu Mabasso, an assistant professor at University Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo, Mozambique.

The regional conference of the IAFL was held on the African continent for the first time.

“Rhodes University is privileged to be involved in the hosting of such a prestigious event,” Kaschula said.


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