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Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

Listen: Jean and John Comaroff, authors of The Truth About Crime discuss what crime says of a society

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.

Anna Saldinger recently interviewed the authors on the Californian radio station KPFA. Listen to their conversation here:

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Listen to the recording of the launch of Critique of Black Reason

Renown philosopher, political theorist and intellectual, Achille Mbembe, recently launched his latest book, Critique of Black Reason, at Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER).

Moderated by Sarah Nuttall, associate professor of literary and cultural studies at WiSER, Mbembe was in conversation with Bongani Madondo, Candice Jansen, Victoria Collis-Buthelezi, Claudia Gastrow, and Rogers Orock.

Nuttall expressly stated that each panelist had 10 minutes to deliver his or her comments on Critique of Black Reason which most of them managed to do.

Mbembe opened the discussion by giving a brief overview of his book and how moving to American made him realise that he had never confronted slavery; this motivated him to write Critique of Black Reason.

The panelists shared their opinions of the book’s content, varying from commenting on black student activists, questioning the absence of black women in the book, and the book’s relevance in relation to the history of slavery and colonialism.

Nuttall’s strict adherence to time-keeping meant that Mbembe was unable to respond to the questions and comments raised by the panel, to which he laughingly replied “Thank you for saving me from flagellation!”

He thanked the panelists for their “subtle, powerful criticism”, after which he elaborated on the translation of the original French title, Critique de la raison nègre.

“‘Nègre,” Mbembe related to the audience, translates to “an object which is bought or sold, or a currency through which the exchange is made.”

After this powerful statement, Nuttall mentioned that WiSER has created a reading group, open to the public, in which books such as Critique of Black Reason will be discussed.

Listen to the recording here:

Critique of Black Reason

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Co-editor of Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa discusses the book on Africa Past and Present

Janet Remmington, Regional Director, Africa for Taylor & Francis/Routledge, recently discussed Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa on the African Studies Association podcast, Africa Past and Present.

First published in 1916, Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa was written by one of the South Africa’s most talented early 20th-century black leaders and journalists. Plaatje’s pioneering book arose out of an early African National Congress campaign to protest against the discriminatory 1913 Natives Land Act. Native Life vividly narrates Plaatje’s investigative journeying into South Africa’s rural heartlands to report on the effects of the Act and his involvement in the deputation to the British imperial government. At the same time it tells the bigger story of the assault on black rights and opportunities in the newly consolidated Union of South Africa – and the resistance to it.

Originally published in war-time London, but about South Africa and its place in the world, Native Life travelled far and wide, being distributed in the United States under the auspices of prominent African-American W E B Du Bois. South African editions were to follow only in the late apartheid period and beyond.
The aim of this multi-authored volume is to shed new light on how and why Native Life came into being at a critical historical juncture, and to reflect on how it can be read in relation to South Africa’s heightened challenges today. Crucial areas that come under the spotlight in this collection include land, race, history, mobility, belonging, war, the press, law, literature, language, gender, politics, and the state.

Listen to the podcast here.

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Listen to Alex Schoeman Narrate the Rise and Fall of the Great Farming Civilisation at Bokoni in Mpumalanga

Forgotten WorldAlex Schoeman, one of the authors of Forgotten World: The Stone Walled Settlements of the Mpumalanga Escarpment, was recently featured on Lawrence Tlhabane’s radio show Power Perspective on Power FM.

In the interview, Schoeman tells Tlhabane about the story of the Bokoni civilisation, which is the subject of his book. He has been working on the Bokoni project since 2010.

Schoeman’s research has revealed fascinating artifacts and evidence of sophisticated farming methods. This flies in the face of assumptions that African farming practices are usually erosive and destructive. He says these methods were “developed in situations to make things work in that place”. There was an intense focus on being able to “excel as farmers”. But, the civilisation met an unfortunate area.

Listen to the podcast:


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Catapulted into the Study of Fossil Man: Phillip Tobias Shares the Story of His Career (Podcast)

Into the PastTobias in ConversationJenny Crwys-Williams recently shared an old interview with Phillip Vallentine Tobias, who sadly has since passed away, on her CapeTalk/ Talk Radio 702 book show. The paleoanthropologist speaks about his memoir Into the Past.

In the interview, Crwys-Williams asks Tobias to share how he made the jump from his interest in genes to paleoanthropology. In response, he says most people who study fossils pay little attention to the genetic aspect, which he regards as very unfortunate because “genes are in fact basic to what we are. He explains that “what we see when we dig up bones is just the by-product of the genes”.

Tobias describes the series of experiences that “catapulted” him into the study of fossil man, when he had been “dead set for working on the living peoples of Africa through genetic insights”. Along the way, he speaks about the significant skulls, like “Dear Boy” and “Mrs Ples”, he has worked on during the course of his career.

Listen to the podcast:


Book details

  • Tobias in Conversation: Genes, Fossils and Anthropology by Phillip Tobias and Goran Strkajl, edited by Jane Dugard
    EAN: 9781868144778
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

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“What Time is it?” Achille Mbembe Discusses SA’s Important Questions at the Launch of On the Postcolony

Ashraf Jamal and Achille Mbembe

On the PostcolonySometimes “a full house” means that most available seats were filled, sometimes it it means that latecomers have to content themselves with standing room at back of the room. But for the launch of the first African edition of Achille Mbembe’s On the Postcolony, “a full house” meant that the audience overflowed onto the pavement outside of The Book Lounge. Such is the appeal of the public intellectual and the continued relevance of his seminal work.

At the launch Mbembe spoke with cultural analyst Ashraf Jamal and Ntone Edjabe, founding editor of Chimurenga, about On the Postcolony and the ideas the book explores. He said he was pleased to launch it at The Book Lounge, which he regards as an important and influential cultural space in Cape Town.

Achille Mbembe with Ashraf Jamal and Ntone EdjabeThe author opened with a few remarks as an introduction to his discussion with Jamal and Edjabe. Mbembe reflected on a recent conference he attended at which the ideas of Steve Biko and Frantz Fanon featured prominently in discussions. He says the ideas of these two great thinkers are inextricably linked, and both remain relevant and important to contemporary South Africa. He considered “Why is it that Fanon and Biko so much invoked here and now?” He believes that is essentially because both were interested in the question of self-determination, and both spent time working with people who suffered.

Mbembe says he was struck by how both men were concerned with asking questions that were essential at the time, and understanding their contexts by asking “What time is it?” Both Biko and Fanon saw that “their projects only made sense in the context of the breadth of humanity”, and thus that answering the important questions would affect everyone and work for the good of all humanity. Mbembe went on to explain why he sees On the Postcolony as “an extended discussion, conversation and confrontation with Fanon”. He believes that South Africa is country living through a Fanonian moment – which he describes as a time in which it is important to wrestle with significant unresolved questions.

Mbembe said that he wrote On the Postcolony at night; adding: “It would have been an entirely different book if it were written in the daytime.” As it was what he listened to at the time, his writing was also infused with Congolese music. He advised the audience to get hold of Congolese music as soon as they got home if they were not familiar with the electric rhythms of Brazzaville. He also mentioned important books that he was reading when he wrote the book. All in all, he said, On the Postcolony was “an attempt to answer that important question: ‘What time is it?’”

In the discussion with Jamal and Edjabe, Mbembe discussed the way that he went about answering the question “What time is it?” and the important cultural forces that helped him to construct an answer in the way that he did. The conversation was directed at better understanding the South African present, and so the three men discussed current political controversies and the way that student protests have shaken up the country this year. Mbembe commented: “Disruptive movements are needed because they point out something that will not work.” He said what was important is that we find a way to reanimate public discussions about the issues.

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Erin Devenish (@ErinDevenish811) tweeted from the event using #livebooks:


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Listen to a podcast of the discussion:


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Where to After #FeesMustFall? Adam Habib Reveals Wits’ 9-step Plan (Podcast)

After a week of turmoil across universities in South Africa, the government has agreed to a zero percent fee increase for 2016. So, where do we go from here?

South Africa's Suspended RevolutionInguqukombuso YeNingizimu Afrika Eyabondwa YashiywaNtwa ya Boitseko e Fanyehuweng ya Afrika BorwaRewolusie op ys

Professor Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of Wits University and author of South Africa’s Suspended Revolution, released a statement in which he shared the outcomes of Friday’s meeting between the presidency and Universities South Africa.

Read the article:

The Vice-Chancellors and Chairs of Council represented through Universities South Africa, today presented the following proposals to the joint meeting hosted by the Presidency at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

1. All parties should collectively commit to a zero percent (0%) increase for 2016, with government stepping in to make up the difference

2. Universities will independently commit to deliberate on their expenditure and make immediate efficiency gains.

3. The Presidential Task Team that was established will deliberate and attend to the plight of students in debt and increase funding for financial aid.

4. The immediate establishment of a commission to look at the restructuring of the entire system, including fee increases, subsidy and cost drivers and historical inequality, including infrastructure renewal.

Yesterday, Habib told Talk Radio 702’s Stephen Grootes that he’s disappointed that some students haven’t ceased protesting. He explains that although the initial demand of a zero percent fee increase for 2016 has been met, there are still outstanding issues that students feel need to be addressed. His primary concern, however, is getting the academic programme back on track.

“I think all of those other demands are imminently addressable within the university and we are prepared to sit down and talk to them; we’re prepared to address the academic programme, the examination schedule,” Habib said.

“The one big issue is outsourcing and insourcing,” Habib continued. “I recognise that it’s an exploitative practise but our big challenge is how to do this.”

Listen to the podcast:


Wits also released a statement on Monday in which Habib said that academic activities at Wits will resume on Wednesday. Habib revealed the university’s nine-step plan to meet the demands of students and improve the academic environment at Wits:

1. There will be no increase in fees. This means that academic, residence and any other fees will not be increased. The Presidency has agreed to underwrite the cost of this, provided that the university makes some contribution.

2. The university is prepared to address the increase in the upfront fee payment.

3. The university recognises that the protests have adversely affected the ability of students to write their examinations. It therefore commits to restructuring the academic programme and examination timetable.

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Does Mcebo Dlamini Have a Point About Transformation at Wits? Yes and No – Adam Habib (Podcast)

South Africa's Suspended RevolutionRewolusie op ysNtwa ya Boitseko e Fanyehuweng ya Afrika BorwaInguqukombuso YeNingizimu Afrika Eyabondwa Yashiywa

Does Mcebo Dlamini, the former SRC President at Wits University who expressed his love for German leader Adolf Hitler on social media, have a point?

This question was put to the Vice-Chancellor of Wits, Professor Adam Habib, on Power FM, shortly after the news broke that no action would be taken against Dlamini for his views, which were ruled to constitute freedom of speech.

In the podcast, Habib says the answer depends on what Dlamini is talking about. If the issue that is being raised is that transformation hasn’t happened yet, Habib is happy to respond to that. “I think that part of what he says is accurate, what he’s saying is that we haven’t done enough on transformation, I think that that’s true.”

However if Dlamini is saying that “Wits is anti-black”, that is not a statement Habib can agree with. Habib tells an anecdote of when he was a student at Wits and his experience of racism in 1987. A lecturer told him that Wits was not the place for him, and he should rather join a university in Durban. “That was 35 years ago. Now, that no longer happens,” Habib says.

“Has Wits been racist in its past? Absolutely! Do we need to do more? Absolutely. But let’s talk about real issues.”

Listen to the podcast:

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John Kani Honoured to Have Nothing But the Truth Chosen as Matric Setwork: “I Studied Dead Authors!”

Nothing But the TruthJohn Kani says he was “overawed” when his play, Nothing But the Truth, was chosen as a matric setwork.

“What an honour. I studied dead authors!” he tells Pippa Hudson of CapeTalk. “To go into a school in Soweto or all over South African and the young people say ‘that’s him, he wrote the book – I passed your book!’

“I felt such honour to be part of the material that will shape the future leaders of this country.”

Kani is an actor, producer and playwright, a Tony Award winner, one of the founders of the famous Market Theatre in Joburg, and chairman of the National Arts Council.

Listen to the conversation:

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Educating Your Children and Getting Married in Style – Why SA’s New Middle Class Get into Debt

Money from NothingDeborah James, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and author of Money from Nothing: Indebtedness and Aspiration in South Africa, chatted to Bruce Whitfield on the Money Show on Radio 702 recently.

James spoke about the social, economic and anthropological implications of money lending in South Africa, where many unscrupulous people lend money to desperate people.

“What my book shows is that it’s a very contested area, so every person who starts blaming the new middle class for getting massively into debt, you’ll find another person belonging to that new middle class who will actually defend their activities and say there are reasons why they have to borrow money.

“One of them has to do with educating all their children to university level, having in a previous generation maybe not had any university education. Another has to do with getting married in style, another has to do with not wanting to drive around in a terrible old car. so there are many valid social reasons why people get into debt, but there are also racial conflicts over it.”

Listen to the podcast:

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