Denise Lim

Postdoctoral Scholar, Stanford University Archaeology Collections
Building 460, Room 020

Dr. Denise Lim is a postdoctoral scholar for the African Collections project at the Stanford University Archaeology Collections (SUAC). Denise has a BA in English and Sociology from Bryn Mawr College, an MA in African Studies, and a PhD in Sociology from Yale University, where she was both a lecturer and a research fellow at the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH). Denise has worked for over 16 years in the transdisciplinary sociology of diverse African communities, concentrating on southern Africa and the region’s diverse cultural practices. She co-curated the Contemporary Art/South Africa exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery in 2014 and has undertaken curation, research, and teaching within Yale’s notable African art collection. As part of her dissertation fieldwork, Denise collaborated with South African artist Mikhael Subotzky to access and research his and Patrick Waterhouse’s Ponte City (2014) art archive.

As part of her dissertation fieldwork, Denise photographed and catalogued thousands of artifacts that the two artists collected from an infamous residential tower named Ponte, a Brutalist building in the heart of Johannesburg that was constructed during apartheid in 1975. Changing owners had attempted to renovate and gentrify the residence, forcibly evicting tenants from their homes in 2008 to make way for wealthier clients. Denise recontextualized these artifacts with multimedia forms of data including Ponte’s photographic archive, architectural blueprints, city planning documents, tenant applications from the National Archives, documentary films, and newspaper articles. She is now completing her most recent project, a survey on behalf of the Yale IPCH and the Global Consortium for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage to evaluate the impact that COVID-19 has had on cultural heritage and preservation training programs throughout the African continent.

While at Stanford, Denise has co-taught a course entitled, The African Archive Beyond Colonization with Dr. Sarah Derbew in the Autumn 2021 quarter where students curated a virtual exhibition featuring 15 of SUAC’s highlight African artifacts spanning from Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Sudan. Denise will co-teach Museum Cultures: Exhibiting the African Imaginary with Dr. Christina Hodge in the Spring 2022 quarter, where SUAC will continue to work with students to plan, design, and curate an on-site exhibition at the Stanford Archaeology Center featuring materials from Nubian Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan. The on-site exhibition is scheduled to launch on May 27, 2022, with a keynote address given by Swedish-Somali archaeologist, Dr. Sada Mire.


Lim, Denise L. 2022. “Remnants of Apartheid in Ponte City, Johannesburg” in The Politics of Design: Privilege and Prejudice in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia & South Africa edited by Federico Freschi, Farieda Nazier, and Jane Venis, Otago Press, Dunedin, New Zealand.

—2021. “Prototyping New Possibilities: Digital Architectures for the Preservation of African Cultural Heritage” in Spectral Hauntings: Spaces of the Hyperreal in Post-Colonial Egypt. Johannesburg: University of Johannesburg, Graduate School of Architecture. Pp. 28 – 31.

Lim, Denise and Sumayya Vally. 2021. “Diasporic Entanglements” in Conversations Across Place: Reckoning with an Entangled World, edited by Nicola Brandt and Frances Whorrall-Campbell. Berlin, Germany: The Green Box.

Lim, Denise L. 2020. Excavating Palimpsests in Ponte City. Ph.D diss., Yale University, New Haven.

—2018. “What the Landscape Recalls: Articulating Scales of Violence in Landscape Trauma in Namibia.” ART AFRICA, February 8. Retrieved (

—2018. “Quiet Images of the Zionist Christian Church.” City Press, July 8, 12–12. Retrieved (