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Matthias Pauwels

Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy, University of Johannesburg

Matthias Pauwels is a cultural and political philosopher who joined UJ's Department of Philosophy in 2017 as postdoctoral research fellow. He obtained his DPhil degree at the University of Pretoria with a dissertation on the relation between aesthetics and politics in the work of contemporary French philosopher Jacques Rancière. He earned his BA and MA degrees in Philosophy at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and also holds a MSc degree in Architecture from the Catholic University of Leuven.

His research focuses on the entanglements of aesthetics and politics in the South African ‘postcolony’ and the ensuing conceptual intricacies, challenges and debates. More generally, his broad research interests include contemporary radical political philosophy (Rancière, Badiou, Negri, Žižek, Jameson), the Frankfurt School, Lacanian psychoanalytic theory, political aesthetics, contemporary political art practices (postconceptual, relational, activist), as well as African political philosophy and philosophies of
liberation and decolonization.

Previously he has worked in the Netherlands for many years where he co-founded and ran the independent theoretical research office BAVO. Key publications here are two co-edited volumes Cultural Activism Today. The Art of Over-Identification (2007) and Urban Politics Now. Re-Imagining Democracy in the Neoliberal City (2007), as well as the co-authored monograph Too Active to Act. Cultural Activisme After the End of History (2010).

Recent articles include:

‘Portrait of the Artist as Colonial Subject. Fanon, Rancière and Decolonization on the Aesthetic Front.’ Theoria. A Journal of Social and Political Thought 155: 72-97 (June 2018).

‘In Defence of Decolonial Philistinism. Jameson, Adorno and the Redemption of the Hatred of Art.’ Cultural Politics 13(3): 326-347 (November 2017).

‘Welkom in de woestijn van het dekoloniale filistijnisme. Esthetische reflectie te midden van radicale culturele strijd in Zuid-Afrika. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe 57(1): 76-94 (March 2017).

‘Post-Struggle Art: Its Vicissitudes and Atavisms. Reconsidering the Political Value of Brett Murray’s Hail to the Thief Works.’ South African Journal of Philosophy 35(2): 171-183 (July 2016).


  • –present
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy, University of Johannesburg