Louise Bethlehem has described herself as a “long-distance South African” in the South African poet and writer Denis Hirson’s phrase. She graduated with a B.A. (magna cum laude) from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in 1984, as the top graduate in the Faculty of Arts. She then proceeded to obtain her M.A. (summa cum laude) and Ph.D. (with distinction) from The Program in Comparative Literature and Poetics at Tel Aviv University. She held a Lady Davis Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1998-1999), and is currently an associate fellow of the Africa Unit of The Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace there.
Bethlehem’s research interests straddle South African literary and cultural history, the history of expressive culture in the anti-apartheid struggle, postcolonial theory, urban studies and visual culture. She has supervised graduate students working on Palestinian urban history and has translated the work of prominent dissident Israeli intellectuals into English, notably Ariella Azoulay’s Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography (2009). She is a founding member of the Israeli Association for African Studies, and a Fellow of the Harry S. Truman Institute for The Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In South Africa, Bethlehem maintains an ongoing association with the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where she is also currently a Senior Visiting Fellow in the School of Literature, Language and Media. She participated in the Johannesburg Workshop in Criticism and Theory in 2010, speaking in a studio session and contributing a blog entry. Bethlehem has also been featured in the online journal, The Johannesburg Salon, alongside leading postcolonial scholars, including Jean Comaroff and Achille Mbembe. She contributed an essay to the Theory & Event Special Issue—The Israeli War on Gaza 2014.
Bethlehem serves on the international advisory boards of a range of journals in African and literary studies, including African Identities, African Studies, Critical Arts: A Journal of South-North Cultural and Media Studies, English in Africa, English Studies in Africa, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Poetics Today: International Journal of Literature and Communication, Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, and Scrutiny2: Issues in English Studies in Southern Africa.