Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Wits University Press

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

“The knowledge practice of bungoma is a deep knowledge” – Robert Thornton at the launch of Healing the Exposed Being

Think ‘sangoma’. Images of ‘primitive’ practices, promises of solving money issues plastered on lamp posts, and pseudo-science medicinal practices most likely come to mind.

This is exactly what Robert Thornton, author of Healing the Exposed Being, writes against.

Addressing the audience at the recent launch of his book at Wits’ Institute for Social and Economic Research, Thornton emphasised that a Western perspective of the practice of bungoma, the knowledge and practice of ‘traditional’ healing, is a warped one, shrouded in ignorance.

Jonathan Stadler, Robert Thornton, and Sinethemba Makhanya

 

According to Thornton, bungoma is not a Christian influenced discourse, but an autonomous, consistent, intellectual practice. He also refrained from using Christian vocabulary to describe the practice of bungoma in the book.

“It’s not a primitive religion at all,” Thornton stated, neither is it pre-proto science; he refers to the practice as “medicinal parallelism” – it extends into various branches of medicine, as well as religion (religious parallelism), thus the practice of bungoma is not restricted to a certain religion, as the core beliefs thereof doesn’t stand in direct contradiction to other religious practices.

One has to respect bungoma as a tradition, Thornton continued, and he aims to do so by decolonising knowledge and knowledge practices attached to the practice, and describes the healer as an ethnographer; they attach personal identities to earth, minerals, plants and animals and are thus fully engaged with their environment and surrounds.

“The knowledge practice of bungoma is a deep knowledge.”

“We are all essentially exposed to another,” says Thornton, “and the focus of my book is the person as an exposed being.”

Exposure and recognition of the other creates conditions for the possibility of healing, yet it can also cause harm. Thornton cites exposure to illness, misfortune, and death as harmful aspects of exposure.

The healer protects via apotropiac magic (a type of magic focused on turning away harm or misfortune), which augments the person. The art of crafts and creating is pivotal in bungoma tradition, Thornton explained, as this embodies a sense of professionalism. Sangomas are thus contemporary professional persons, and should be respected as such.

Thornton’s interest in and introduction to healing stems from his great-grandmother, an Appalachian healer.

“I was teachable and had access to my ancestors.”

He was a potential candidate to practice as sangoma, yet his healer died and he didn’t go through the initiation process.

Respondent Sinethemba Makhanya praised Thornton for expanding the notion of what it means to be human – that it extends beyond the body.

She was curious about the notion of evil; whether one can co-opt it with Christianity, and what one loses or gains when writing about notions of evil. She also mentioned her concern with Thornton referring to Western philosophers, including Plato and Socrates, to explain the tradition of bungoma.

Thornton responded by saying that one shouldn’t co-opt the practice of bungoma with Christianity, as it isn’t a hierarchical practice. The philosophers described by Makhanya, according to Thornton, shouldn’t be described as ‘Western’ philosophers, but Mediterranean thinkers “at the threshold of radical analytical thought.”

Second respondent Jonathan Stadler described Healing the Exposed Being as an important contribution to South African ethnography and anthropology, and asked Thornton to elaborate on the similarities between his previous book (Unimagined Community: Sex, networks and AIDS in Uganda and South Africa) and Healing the Exposed Being regarding the necessity of exposure. He also touched upon traditional healing being pulled into the health bureaucracy and enquired about the entrepreneurial opportunities of sangomas.

Healing the Exposed Being is the second book in a trilogy about the history of sangomas, Thornton replied, and stressed the importance of exposing South Africans to others and other knowledge pools as method of gaining insights on the spreading of sexually transmitted disease, and how to prevent it.

Regarding sangomas as entrepreneurs, Thornton asserted that the traditional crafts created by sangomas are intellectual objects and as such sangomas are automatically included in the sphere of entrepreneurs.

(And, no, as one audience member enquired, sangomas are NOT zombies.)

Healing the Exposed Being

Book details


» read article

Cape Town launch: Race Otherwise by Zimitri Erasmus (20 November)

Race Otherwise brings together the full amplitude of Zimitri Erasmus’s thinking about how race works. It tunes into registers both personal and social. It is not without indignation, and not … insensitive to emotion and … the anger inside South Africa. It is a book that is not afraid of questions of affect. Eros and love, Erasmus urges, are not separable from the hard work of thinking.’ – Crain Soudien, CEO of the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa

‘People from different parts of the world ask ‘what mix’ I am. Which would you prefer? Salt and vinegar or cinnamon and sugar? Neither one of my parents was black Black. Neither one of them was white White. I am not half-and-half.’
(from Chapter 1, ‘This Blackness’)

How is ‘race’ determined? Is it your DNA? The community that you were raised in? The way others see you or the way you see yourself?

In Race Otherwise: Forging a New Humanism for South Africa Zimitri Erasmus questions the notion that one can know race with one’s eyes, with racial categories and with genetic ancestry tests. She moves between the intimate probing of racial identities as we experience them individually, and analysis of the global historical forces that have created these identities and woven them into our thinking about what it means to be ‘human’.

Starting from her own family’s journeys through regions of the world and ascribed racial identities, she develops her argument about how it is possible to recognise the pervasiveness of race thinking without submitting to its power. Drawing on the theoretical work of Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter and others, Erasmus argues for a new way of ‘coming to know otherwise’, of seeing the boundaries between racial identities as thresholds to be crossed, through politically charged acts of imagination and love.

Zimitri Erasmus is a professor of Sociology in the department of Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. She is the editor of the seminal volume Coloured by History, Shaped by Place: New Perspectives on Coloured Identities in Cape Town (2001) and in 2010 she was a UCT-Harvard Mandela Mellon Fellow. Race Otherwise: Forging a New Humanism for South Africa is her first monograph.

 
Event Details


» read article

“Everything your ever wanted to know about crime but were too afraid to ask” – Robyn Sassen reviews The Truth About Crime

“The Truth about Crime is replete with original insights. Reflecting on the disproportionate relationship between fear and actual danger in a number of major countries, Jean and John Comaroff explain why criminality, although far from matching many other potential sources of public peril, elicits much more civic outrage. We learn how changes in the meaning of criminality and the nature of crime-and-policing are associated with the recent shift in the relationship between capital, governance, and the state. We also learn how these developments in both the United States and the Republic of South Africa have resulted in steps taken to discipline or control certain groups defined or viewed as threatening. This is a compelling book, a must-read for scholars and laypersons alike.” – William Julius Wilson, author of The Truly Disadvantaged

The Comaroffs’ constant articulation of sparkling ethnographic vignettes, rich statistical data, and highly imaginative insights makes for a truly effervescent argumentation, creative and, at the same time, thoroughly documented. With this combination they offer a powerful book that newly addresses a theme that is becoming central all over the world: our increasing obsession with (in)security.“- Peter Geschiere, author of Witchcraft, Intimacy, and Trust
 
 
 
In this book, renowned anthropologists Jean and John L. Comaroff make a startling but absolutely convincing claim about our modern era: it is not by our arts, our politics, or our science that we understand ourselves – it is by our crimes. Surveying an astonishing range of forms of crime and policing – from petty thefts to the multibillion-dollar scams of too-big-to-fail financial institutions to the collateral damage of war – they take readers into the disorder of the late modern world. Looking at recent transformations in the triangulation of capital, the state, and governance that have led to an era where crime and policing are ever more complicit, they offer a powerful meditation on the new forms of sovereignty, citizenship, class, race, law, and political economy of representation that have arisen.

To do so, the Comaroffs draw on their vast knowledge of South Africa, especially, and its struggle to build a democracy founded on the rule of law out of the wreckage of long years of violence and oppression. There they explore everything from the fascination with the supernatural in policing to the extreme measures people take to prevent home invasion, drawing illuminating comparisons to the United States and United Kingdom. Going beyond South Africa, they offer a global criminal anthropology that attests to criminality as the constitutive fact of contemporary life, the vernacular by which politics are conducted, moral panics voiced, and populations ruled.

The result is a disturbing but necessary portrait of the modern era, one that asks critical new questions about how we see ourselves, how we think about morality, and how we are going to proceed as a global society.

Artist, academic, and visual artist Robyn Sassen recently reviewed the book:

It infiltrates our very existence – from the way in which we conduct ourselves in life, to the literature we read, the misconceptions of others we indulge in and the sensationalism that it smears across a world of broken dreams.

The concept and reality of crime, that is. And with this reflection on the all-pervasiveness of it, the Comaroffs’ latest publication The Truth About Crime is unputdownable, but not for the conventional reasons.

This foray into the complexities of crime, particularly in a South African context comes under the intense focus of quintessential seasoned sociologists Jean and John Comaroff; while you will not emerge with one gleaming “truth” which reflects “solution”, you will have a rollercoaster of a read.

Academic writing is a curious thing. Fraught with many rules of accreditation and checks and balances, it can be immensely dry and formulaic. Combined with old-fashioned hard work and rigorous intelligence, it can surpass the value of any bit of fiction, even yarns well-written.

And this is what you get here: an intense, oft witty, detailed and wise explication on stories that go bump in the night, about real people. The text is dense but it flows with a mellifluousness that makes you want to read it out aloud. The Comaroffs play with sounds and idioms, with parables and metaphors as they knit together associations and perceptions, book research and field work.

Continue reading Sassen’s review here.

Book details


» read article

Launch: Memory Against Forgetting by Rusty Bernstein (30 October)

The memory so eloquently contained in this book tells especially the younger generations of South Africans who live in freedom that they should never forget that, indeed, that freedom was not free.
Thabo Mbeki, anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, 1994–2008

‘The silence of the cell is less disturbing than the deliberate silence of the human beings who come and go. I know that it is part of the process, designed to break my morale, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I calculate that I am speaking less than twenty words a day, and begin to wonder whether my vocal chords will dry up and wither if this goes on … I have never been very talkative, but now I begin to hunger after talk more strongly than for either food or drink.’

Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein was arrested at Liliesleaf Farm, Rivonia, on 11 July 1963 and tried for sabotage, alongside Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and other leaders of the African National Congress and Umkhonto we Sizwe in what came to be known as the Rivonia Trial.

He was acquitted in June 1964, but was immediately rearrested. After being released on bail, he fled with his wife Hilda into exile, followed soon afterwards by their family.

This classic text, first published in 1999, is a remarkable man’s personal memoir of a life in South African resistance politics from the late 1930s to the 1960s.

In recalling the events in which he participated, and the way in which the apartheid regime affected the lives of those involved in the opposition movements, Rusty Bernstein provides valuable insights into the social and political history of the era.

Book details

  • Memory Against Forgetting: Memoir of a Time in South African Politics 1938-1964 Second edition by Rusty Bernstein
    EAN: 978-1-77614-154-8
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article

Launch: Healing the Exposed Being by Robert Thornton (31 October)

Healing the Exposed Being is a scholarly, rich and engaging account of the complex and individualised knowledge systems and passages of influence that shape sangoma practices in South Africa. Thornton’s descriptions of and insight into the philosophies, rituals, and objects of the sangoma, and the ancestors, spirits and others beings with whom they work, change our view of these healers as custodians of the living, advisers, philosophers and guardians. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in health and illness in the region.” – Lenore Manderson, Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Medical Anthropology, University of the Witwatersrand

In Healing the Exposed Being, Robert Thornton presents a new vocabulary and ontology for understanding fundamental concepts of a regional version of the Ngoma cult, found throughout the Bantu language-speaking areas of Africa.

He is thus able to provide a more integrated anthropological account of beliefs and practices that have survived from pre-colonial to postcolonial times, describing them in their own terms rather than presenting them as a reflex of modernity or reaction to colonialism, or as a consequence of neoliberalism or other social, political, economic or historical factors.

Bungoma, the knowledge and practice of ‘traditional healing’ in eastern Mpumalanga, is built on the fundamental premise that all persons are exposed to each other and to other person-like agents, including ancestors and witches, among others.

This mutual and inescapable exposure is the condition for the possibility of healing, but also ultimately the cause of all illness, misfortune and death. Against this, the sangoma as healer attempts to augment the self of the exposed being through protective magic and by exposing relations between tangible (living human) and intangible (spiritual) agents or persons.

Bungoma comprises multiple modalities including trance, music and rhythm, divination, herbal lore, teaching and learning, craftsmanship and healing. The aim of bungoma is to enable patients to heal themselves by transforming their personal narratives of self.

Thornton brings this local anthropology and its therapeutic applications into relation with global academic anthropology by exploring it through political, economic, interpretive and ecological-environmentalist lenses.

Book details


» read article

Second edition of Rusty Bernstein’s Memory Against Forgetting provides valuable insights into the socio-political history of apartheid-era SA

The memory so eloquently contained in this book tells especially the younger generations of South Africans who live in freedom that they should never forget that, indeed, that freedom was not free.
Thabo Mbeki, anti-apartheid activist and former President of South Africa, 1994–2008

‘The silence of the cell is less disturbing than the deliberate silence of the human beings who come and go. I know that it is part of the process, designed to break my morale, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I calculate that I am speaking less than twenty words a day, and begin to wonder whether my vocal chords will dry up and wither if this goes on … I have never been very talkative, but now I begin to hunger after talk more strongly than for either food or drink.’

Lionel ‘Rusty’ Bernstein was arrested at Liliesleaf Farm, Rivonia, on 11 July 1963 and tried for sabotage, alongside Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and other leaders of the African National Congress and Umkhonto we Sizwe in what came to be known as the Rivonia Trial.

He was acquitted in June 1964, but was immediately rearrested. After being released on bail, he fled with his wife Hilda into exile, followed soon afterwards by their family.

This classic text, first published in 1999, is a remarkable man’s personal memoir of a life in South African resistance politics from the late 1930s to the 1960s.
 
 
In recalling the events in which he participated, and the way in which the apartheid regime affected the lives of those involved in the opposition movements, Rusty Bernstein provides valuable insights into the social and political history of the era.

Book details

  • Memory Against Forgetting: Memoir of a Time in South African Politics 1938-1964 Second edition by Rusty Bernstein
    EAN: 978-1-77614-154-8
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article

“Religion in South Africa’s past has been saturated by politics and politics saturated by religion”

The author deftly guides the reader through various committees, negotiation forums, interest groups, political parties and legal wrangles to uncover the often-surprising developments, alliances and political about-turns in the process of Constitution-making. This is not just politics as the search for power, or the politics of big men … but a thoroughly human affair with its attendant messiness, idealism, complexities and ambiguities. — Ilana van Wyk, author of A Church of Strangers: The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in South Africa.

The Dutch Reformed Church, it was said in apartheid South Africa, was the National Party at prayer, and indeed, given that the Bible was so fundamental to much of the legislation that governed the apartheid state, that apparently satirical description had the ring of truth.

‘Religion in South Africa’s past’, writes Dhammamegha Annie Leatt, has been ‘saturated by politics’ and politics ‘saturated by religion’. So how, she asks, was it possible for a new state to found itself without religious authority? Why did the churches give up so much of their political role in the transition? How can we think about tradition and the customary in relation to secularism? How can we not?

In The State of Secularism Leatt guides the reader from a history of global political secularism through an exploration of the roles played by religion and traditional authority in apartheid South Africa to the position of religion in the post-apartheid state. She analyses the negotiations relating to religion in the constitution-making process, arguing that South Africa is both secular in its Constitution and judicial foundations and increasingly non-secular in its embrace of traditional authorities and customary law.

In the final chapter Leatt turns her attention to post-apartheid South Africa, examining changing relationships between churches and the ruling African National Congress and the increasing influence of traditional leaders and evangelical Christians in an anti-liberal alliance.

This book makes a tremendous contribution to the literature on postcolonial politics on the African continent. It has wonderful insights into the founding of a constitutional democracy in South Africa and will appeal to students in history, politics, sociology, anthropology and constitutional law.

Book details


» read article

LSE literature blog reviews Ties that Bind: Race and the Politics of Friendship in South Africa

Ties that BindTies that Bind is an intriguing and long overdue book about race and friendship. It marks a time worldwide when virtual friendships are fast becoming the norm. And yet, after reading the chapters, one is left with a clearer sense of what it takes – or might take in the future – to actually be friends across race. Sarah Nuttall, author of Entanglement: Literary and Cultural Reflections on Post-apartheid

What does friendship have to do with racial difference, settler colonialism and post-apartheid South Africa? While histories of apartheid and colonialism in South Africa have often focused on the ideologies of segregation and white supremacy, Ties that Bind explores how the intimacies of friendship create vital spaces for practices of power and resistance.

Combining interviews, history, poetry, visual arts, memoir and academic essay, the collection keeps alive the promise of friendship and its possibilities while investigating how affective relations are essential to the social reproduction of power. From the intimacy of personal relationships to the organising ideology of liberal colonial governance, the contributors explore the intersection of race and friendship from a kaleidoscope of viewpoints and scales.

Insisting on a timeline that originates in settler colonialism, Ties that Bind uncovers the implication of anti-Blackness within nonracialism, and powerfully challenges a simple reading of the Mandela moment and the rainbow nation. In the wake of countrywide student protests calling for decolonization of the university, and reignited debates around racial inequality, this timely volume insists that the history of South African politics has always already been about friendship.

Written in an accessible and engaging style, Ties that Bind will interest a wide audience of scholars, students, and activists, as well as general readers curious about contemporary South African debates around race and intimacy.

Mantė Vertelytė and Sarita Fae Jarmack recently reviewed Walsh and Soske’s work for The London School of Economics’ Review of Books:

As an analytical concept, friendship, in contrast to kinship, has taken a marginal position in anthropological and sociological studies, while in philosophical thought it has been a central concern in discussions of the nature of the political order, solidarity as well as human life and relations since the times of Aristotle. Ties That Bind: Race and the Politics of Friendship in South Africa, edited by Shannon Walsh and Jon Soske, therefore marks a notable growing interdisciplinary scholarly interest in the topic of friendship.

The particular Aristotelean notion of friendship inscribed in his quote o philoi oudeis philos (‘O friends, there are no friends’), and later brought up in Jacques Derrida’s writings in The Politics of Friendship, perfectly describes the paradoxical understanding of friendship replicated in this edited volume. In Ties That Bind, friendship appears as a simultaneously inclusionary and exclusionary relationship: it is as material as it is sublime; mundane as it is extraordinary; emotional as it is political. As noted in the introduction:

Friendship can crystallize almost instantly both practices that resist structures of oppression and those that enable them: intimacies and complicities. Perhaps the blurry boundaries of friendship become even more in flux when it crosses the different paths inscribed in bodily power relations and structural inequalities, such as the marked race relations in South Africa given the country’s histories of colonial power and apartheid. As Walsh and Soske state: ‘a history of colonial power in South Africa must therefore incorporate a genealogy of the language and practices of friendship’. Within this context, the ambition of this anthology is to bring friendship to the centre of attention, enabling an explanation as to how dimensions of power are manifested within everyday social relationships. As such, the book’s emphasis is on friendship and ‘difference’, as summarised by the editors: ‘Rather than assume that cultural entanglement necessarily disrupts or diminishes difference, we are interested in the inverse: how intimacies expressed through friendship produce and structure difference’.

To do so, Walsh and Soske, with a history of bridging their scholarly disciplines with visual approaches, bring together methodologically varied work, identifying three main avenues to approach an exploration of friendships within a South African context: namely, ‘structure of settlement’; ‘operations of power’; and ‘critique of solidarity’.

Continue reading here.

Book details

  • Ties that Bind: Race and the Politics of Friendship in South Africa edited by Jon Soske, Shannon Walsh
    EAN: 978-1-86814-968-1
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article

“Race as biology was created to justify politics of colonialism” – Zimitri Erasmus at the launch of Race Otherwise

The launch of the academic and author Zimitri Erasmus’s new book Race Otherwise: Forging a New Humanism for South Africa recently took place at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre. Zimitri was in conversation with Angelo Fick, an old friend of hers, self-proclaimed “recovering academic”, and news analyst for eNCA. Hugo Canham, senior lecturer in Wits’ psychology department, introduced the speakers and described Race Otherwise an ‘unsettling’ read, as it challenges the way we think about race.

Angelo opened the conversation by commenting on Zimitri’s decision to include her own lived experiences in her publications, to which she responded that “so much of academic writing is bereft of soul … I aimed to create a book which was both intellectually sound, and soulful.”

She stressed the importance of lived experiences, as these are shaped by history and as such are wider and larger than the individual and/or the present. Zimitri added that it’s difficult to find one self in academic writing, and drawing on personal experiences is “welcome to the style.”

Angelo raised the issue of the symbiotic relationship between power and racism, where after he asked Zimitri to distinguish between the concepts of anti-racialism and anti-racism, and what an anti-colonial critique of racism entails.

“The book is not about racism as structure of power,” Zimitri responded. “It’s about racism.”

“Anti-racialism is being against the talk a racialised society relies on; and that’s what I want to write against.”

Anti-racism signifies being against the notion that racial being gets preference; “When what you look like becomes more important than what you do … Anti-racism is challenging structures we’re confronted with everyday – be it in the supermarket, university corridors, or taxi ranks.”

An anti-colonial critique of racism refers to “a legacy which is not bio-scientific; it lifts it [the legacy], and locates it to the 15th century, and not as a legacy of race as biological concept or phenotype. Race as biology was created to justify politics of colonialism.”

As Zimitri was stating that particular ways of learning race has been taking place for generations, a young man from the audience left the theatre, to which Zimitri responded by asking “Did I upset you?” After a hearty laugh was enjoyed by all, she added “I just wanted to lighten things up…”

Expanding on her comment about the way we have been learning race, she questioned why race has to serve as “the distinction between you and me.”

“Why is ‘race’ the point around which we create solidarity? Why don’t we create solidarity around reading the same books, or playing the same instruments? Why does solidarity depend on the genetic ancestry test? Our perceptions around ‘race’ is sedimented knowledge. This is how the world works; I want to unsettle the way the world works — profoundly.”

Zimitri draws upon the concepts of Eros (love/the life drive) and Thanatos (the death drive) in Race Otherwise as modes of explaining South Africa’s racialised society. (And, no, by Eros, she does not mean the “fluffy kind of love the missionaries brought with them”). Angelo asked her how (if at all) we can accommodate Eros in South Africa, with it’s current political climate.

“We have to let our guard down, but we have to be discerning about with whom we allow ourselves to let our guards down. South Africans should have a relationship based on integrity; we have to be warm … We have to be civil.”

Zimitri is a staunch believer in “if this is what you think, live it … Attempt to live your life according to that which you truly believe in, which radiates resistance to the sediment.”

She shared an anecdote involving her experience of being racialised in a bottle store in Melville, when a stranger queuing behind her asked her what “tribe” she’s from. This, Zimitri said, is indicative of the language which is still left behind when it comes to talking about race; a language which is embedded in phenotypes. “Go down south,” Zimitri quipped, “there are lots of people who look like me!”

“Working with Eros is not always successful,” Zimitri added. “It’s hard work trying to do life differently in the space of South Africa where life has so little value … Am I going on a tangent?” she laughed

“No,” Angelo replied, “tangents are good.”

“It’s only because I’m finally relaxing!” She jovially replied.

Angelo continued their conversation by stating that “[s]ome of us live in protected spaces, some don’t. This denies those who do not live in protected spaces their full humanity.

“How does love (Eros) work in spaces of supreme dehumanisation?”

After a moment of deliberation Zimitri responded by referring to her chapter on the Fallist movement of 2016.

“Love, in its political sense, was far more present at [the] Concourse [of Senate House, Wits University] than the eleventh floor of Wits. Students were supporting each other; arguing with each other; grappling with the complexity of the issue.”

A critical question she posed to the audience as a whole was “Where do you stand when matters of social justice are on your doorstep?”

“We should show empathy – not sympathy – for the devalued life,” Zimitri added. “Eros is absent in spaces of power … the realm of feeling escapes…” Expanding on one particular Fees Must Fall protest which took place at Wits she commented on her impression of the students present at the protest: “Just because they were there does not mean they embody the texture of what’s going on … they were quite distant from the texture.”

Class plays a significant role in Zimtiri’s work, and she addressed the issue of class divides and attitudes towards race, citing that “poor people are far more open to connections across race,” as opposed to racial attitudes in protected spaces. “Protected spaces are not where real work happens; the real work happens in hard, unprotected spaces where poverty is grinding.” She added that poor people “cultivate empathy in a much more real way.”

Monolingual (English-speaking) South Africans were criticised by an audience member in that they don’t contribute to a more inclusive South Africa, to which Zimitri responded that “non-English speakers do the work”, using monolingual registrars in hospital words who have to ask fellow registrars to translate patients’ requests as they don’t understand any South African language besides English as an example. If the majority of South Africans were able to speak more than one of our official languages, “structures of power might begin to shift.”

Another audience member had a query about the relationship between kinship, affinity, and race.

“I want the politics of politics, not the politics of blood,” Zimitri powerfully concluded before imploring the audience whether they could finish there because “I’m so hungry!”

Thank you for feeding our minds, Zimitri.

Mila de Villiers, @mila_se_kind

Race Otherwise

Book details


» read article

Launch: The Unresolved National Question (21 September)

The Unresolved National Question in South Africa is an extremely valuable contribution to the decades-long debate on South African nationhood. Its striking feature is its highly professional and balanced approach to the various narratives and traditions that address the National Question.
- Vladimir Shubin, Russian Academy of Sciences

 
Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 21 September 2017
  • Time: 4:00 PM for 4:30 PM
  • Venue: WiSER Seminar Room, 1 Jan Smuts Avenue, Braamfontein, Johannesburg | Map
  • Guest Speaker: Firoz Cachalia
  • Chair: Karl von Holdt
  • RSVP: Najibha.Deshmukh@wits.ac.za
     
    The re-emergence of debates on the decolonisation of knowledge has revived interest in the National Question, which began over a century ago and remains unresolved. Tensions that were suppressed and hidden in the past are now being openly debated. Despite this, the goal of one united nation living prosperously under a constitutional democracy remains elusive.

    This edited volume examines the way in which various strands of left thought have addressed the National Question, especially during the apartheid years, and goes on to discuss its relevance for South Africa today and in the future. Instead of imposing a particular understanding of the National Question, the editors identified a number of political traditions and allowed contributors the freedom to define the question as they believed appropriate – in other words, to explain what they thought was the Unresolved National Question. This has resulted in a rich tapestry of interweaving perceptions.

    The volume is structured in two parts. The first examines four foundational traditions – Marxism-Leninism (the Colonialism of a Special Type thesis); the Congress tradition; the Trotskyist tradition; and Africanism. The second part explores the various shifts in the debate from the 1960s onwards, and includes chapters on Afrikaner nationalism, ethnic issues, Black Consciousness, feminism, workerism and constitutionalism.

    The editors hope that by revisiting the debates not popularly known among the scholarly mainstream, this volume will become a catalyst for an enriched debate on our identity and our future.

    Book Details


» read article