john perkins on empire’s power tools

“Fear and debt. The two most powerful tools of empire.”
– John Perkins

Image: #Umhlangano

Image: #Umhlangano

urgent call for help by art students under threat from paramilitary security on campus

#umhlangano

Dear Comrades, Allies and Supporters. 

WE NEED YOUR URGENT HELP. TOMORROW IS D-DAY FOR #UMHLANGANO

WE ALSO NEED VISIBLE SUPPORT OUTSIDE AND INSIDE  OUR CAMPUS TOMORROW. GATHER AT 5 AM, CAMPUS FORMERLY KNOWN AS HIDDINGH, ORANGE STREET, GARDENS. COME DRESSED PLAYFULLY. WE WANT A PLAYFUL, CREATIVE PERFORMANCE, THE MORE RIDICULOUS THE BETTER. WE DO NOT NEED TO BE BRUTALISED FOR THIS OKAY?

On Monday #october3 Max Price, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town says the he will send private security to #openUCT. Government has given the go-ahead to use force to reopen school. 

We, #Umhlangano, are in direct talks with the Dean of Humanities and the staff of Drama and Fine Art. 

We are intervening peacefully, making art, performance and play making on the Campus Formerly Known as Hiddingh. We are exploring non-violent responses to police brutality and private security occupation on our campuses. On Monday, the institution sends former soldiers, dressed in private security uniforms, in full body armour against us. For making art, for intervening peacefully, for doing the work that they just want us to study, but we guess, not actually practice.
Artists are expected to intervene in society. To make meaningful contribution, to shift the status quo. Nothing about this is right. Nothing about this is fair. Nothing about this is either democratic or reasonable. 
We are trying to make safe space to explore what a free decolonial education looks like after years of listening to how the institution just needs time to implement substantive reforms but never does. 
If Max Price and the UCT council get their way, on Monday none of us are safe on campus. We will be teargassed, brutalised and shot at. Even the sight of these weaponised security guards has triggered PTSD symptoms in most of us. We watched members of our collective crumbling before us. Those who had , the previous week, drew courage from the power of love and creativity now trembled and sobbed in the arms of their cadres. The action we took came from a belly-deep desperation to be heard, to be visible and regarded as equals.
If you visit the website of the privatised private security company that they will send against us. http://www.vetusschola.co.za to understand why we are so concerned. Why we have slept with one eye on the door and know why #october3 we will be finding creative ways to keep ourselves, and other vulnerable student safer, no matter what violence sent against us. We need your help, write letters, write emails, make facebook posts, tweet @uct_news and blow up Max Price’s email (vc@uct.ac.za) Please, no more violence. Please, no more teargas, stun grenades, no more bleeding brutalised students. USE WHATEVER CHANNEL YOU CAN. 
More love, more music, more art, more play, more collaboration. 

#UMHLANGANO 

#BLACKLIVESMATTER

PLEASE SHARE, WE NEED THIS VIRAL BEFORE TOMORROW MORNING.

keeping time at uct, 2 august 2016

This coming Tuesday, find out more about the extraordinary archive of photographs and live recordings made by Ian Bruce Huntley in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 2013 I was involved in putting this archive of recordings online, which you can explore HERE.keeping time event

Keeping Time: Ian Bruce Huntley’s South African jazz archive
by Jonathan Eato

Ian Bruce Huntley is not a name that you’ll find readily in the burgeoning annals of South African jazz. Unless, that is, you talk to the dwindling generation of jazz musicians who were working in South Africa in the mid-1960s. Tete Mbambisa remembers Huntley as the man who ‘recorded our gold’, and this Huntley did through a series of remarkable photographic images and live audio recordings. Having privately preserved these records for over forty years, throughout the state repression of grand-apartheid and into the democratic era, they have recently been made available for the first time.

This talk will consider how, in the face of increasing political oppression, Huntley’s archive documented a community of vernacular intellectuals exploring and developing ideas in counterpoint to much commercially available South African jazz post-‘Pondo Blues’.

For more info:

email: ems@uct.ac.za
tel: 021 650 2888

Facebook event HERE.

gayatri spivak at uct next week

spivak at uct

The Institute for Creative Arts is proud to present internationally renowned theorist, Professor Gayatri Spivak.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is one of the most significant and influential literary theorists of our time.

Having first come to prominence with her translation of Derrida’s Of Grammatology in 1976, Spivak has since applied deconstructive readings to theoretical engagements and textual analyses including feminism, Marxism, literary criticism and postcolonialism – capturing complex theories that transgress disciplinary boundaries.

The Institute for Creative Arts (ICA, formerly GIPCA) in collaboration with UCT’s Black Academic Caucus (BAC) is honoured to present this esteemed academic and philosopher as part of the ICA’s Great Texts/Big Questions lecture series.

Of her address, entitled “Still hoping for a revolution”, Spivak writes:

Now that the first wave of “revolution” against decrepit empires, leading to state capitalism and vanguardism, is showing its deep fault lines, I reopen the question of Marx’s real project and focus on holistic education into citizenship – as the conjuncture has moved from the central agency of the industrial proletariat – as a robust substitute for both vanguardism and techniques of pre-party formation.

This is particularly interesting for me because I have myself learned from many mistakes made since 1992, when I presented the T.B. Davie Memorial Lecture in Cape Town on “Thinking Academic Freedom in Gendered Post-Coloniality.” The general response, as I heard it reported, was “we already do this.” Yet, in 2002, Joan Vincent included the piece in her The Anthropology of Politics: A Reader in Ethnography, Theory, and Critique, commenting that I had been “prescient.” I therefore hope that my audience, which will be different, will also have learned from past “mistakes.”

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak is currently professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University where she founded the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Her critical writings include Of Grammatology (1976), In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (1987), The Post-Colonial Critic (1990), Thinking Academic Freedom in Gendered Post-Coloniality (1992), Outside in the Teaching Machine (1993), A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (1999), Death of a Discipline (2003), and Other Asias (2005).

The lecture, followed by an open question and answer session, will take place from 17:30 – 19:00 on Friday 22 July 2016 at Jameson Hall, University Avenue, University of Cape Town Upper Campus.

Refreshments will be served from 17:00.

No booking is necessary and all are welcome.

For more information, contact the ICA office: +27 21 650 7156 or ica@uct.ac.za

seminar at huma (uct) tomorrow

Tendayi Sithole: “Decoloniality and Rhodes Must Fall: On Wynterian Meditations of the Fallen Flesh” – happening at the University of Cape Town’s Institute for Humanities in Africa (Huma) tomorrow at lunch time.huma seminar

huma seminar at uct this thursday

humaHUMA Seminar Series

“’Then you are a man, my son’: Kipling and the Zuma Rape Trial” presented by Lucy Graham (UWC)

When: Thursday, 30 July 2015

Time: 13h00 – 14h30

Venue: HUMA Seminar Room, 4th Floor, The Neville Alexander Building (formerly known as the Humanities Building), University Avenue, Upper Campus, UCT

One of the strangest incidents during the Jacob Zuma rape trial was surely the moment when Judge Willem van der Merwe, handing down his verdict that exonerated Zuma, addressed Zuma with the following words: “Had Rudyard Kipling known of this case at the time he wrote his poem, ‘If’, he might have added the following: ‘And, if you can control your body and your sexual urges, then you are a man, my son’”.

It is now nine years since the Zuma rape trial, and yet this allusion to Kipling’s famous poem has been passed over by other commentators on the trial. Of what exactly is Kipling a spectre as he appeared in the judge’s verdict, and how do we read the judge’s strange politics of (dis)affinity that arises out of his rescripting of Kipling: his insistence on the developmental and racialised difference of boyhood and manhood, while at the same time his possible consolidation of a more absolute difference based on gender? How was discourse and performativity during and around the Zuma rape trial related to the history of “Zuluness”, and to the reception of narratives of intraracial sexual violence by the ANC? What significance does an analysis of the Zuma rape trial that takes into account colonial history have for contemporary South Africa, and specifically for the UCT: Rhodes Must Fall movement at the University of Cape Town? In this paper I am interested in the ways in which spectres of colonial patriarchy continue to haunt the South African present.

on colonial legacies and the violence of liberal whiteness at uct – april 2015

Here’s a thought piece I wrote for an MPhil African Studies class back in April, in the thick of the Rhodes Must Fall resistance. I want to put it here to archive it.

Problematising the Study Of Africa Assignment: 

On Colonial Legacies at the University of Cape Town

 

“Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life.” — Cecil John Rhodes[1]

“[N]o matter what a white man does, the colour of his skin—his passport to privilege—will always put him miles ahead of the black man. Thus in the ultimate analysis no white person can escape being part of the oppressor camp.” —  Bantu Stephen Biko[2]

“For the black man there is only one destiny, and it is white.” — Frantz Fanon[3]

Rhodes statue, head covered in garbage bags. University of Cape Town, 17 March 2015. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

Rhodes statue, head covered in garbage bags. University of Cape Town, 17 March 2015. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

As a child, I remember reading about the railway Cecil John Rhodes envisioned from Cape Town to Cairo, and never imagining it in any light other than as a benevolent feat of engineering that would link people to others, bringing access to resources and the rest of the modern world for those cut off from Western civilisation, literally bringing light to the darkest parts of the continent.

I revised my romantic understanding of Rhodes’ expansionist desires as I became aware of the rampantly exploitative nature of these ambitions, and colonial mechanisms of dominion and exploitation more generally, but it was not until the recent events at UCT surrounding a statue of the man on campus that I realised the true psychological extent and durability of this oppressive colonial legacy, and the way its violence has been rendered almost invisible to those of us on the privileged side of what Walter Mignolo terms the “colonial difference” or divide[4].

The call for transformation is not new: it stretches back more than two decades. The present moment is notable in that students, staff and workers have organised powerfully in concert. A bucket of human excrement thrown on a statue of Rhodes that occupied a central position on UCT’s upper campus escalated tensions around institutional racism that have flared regularly since even before the formal end of the Apartheid era 21 years ago.  Black students formed a movement that became known as “Rhodes Must Fall” (RMF) after the social media hashtag they used to mobilise. The students occupied an administrative building for several weeks, in which they held intensive teach-ins and discussions around decolonisation in solidarity with the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), other students, academic staff and workers. University management eventually capitulated to the removal of the statue on 9 April 2015, after a month-long struggle in which RMF demanded to be engaged on their own terms, rather than allowing university management to dictate the terms or to dismiss the protest as had been the case on many previous occasions.

Richard Pithouse describes the mobilisation thus:

The students in Cape Town have, very rapidly, punched a gaping hole into the continuum of English liberal hegemony over the university, and a set of linked sites of a certain kind of elite power, and, thereby, a mode of white supremacy and coloniality that has not been subject to sufficient critique and opposition. It is an extraordinary political achievement that will, no doubt, inscribe itself into the history of the South African academy, and the wider society.[5]

At this historically significant moment, it is on white liberal hegemony and institutional transformation at UCT that I reflect: how has hegemonic whiteness been constructed at UCT, and how does the university continue to function as a colonial space, despite speaking about transformation?

I have made several false starts on this assignment (one of which has been losing an entire day’s work on it due to a computer glitch). Initially my idea was to write an open letter to university management, particularly the deputy Vice-Chancellor with the portfolio for transformation, Crain Soudien, whose public behaviour over the past weeks – both in his capacity as a member of university management[6] and in his written statements in the press – has seemed at odds with his historically professed radical stance against uninterrogated hegemony, and his advocacy of deep transformation as chair of the country-wide Ministerial inquiry into institutional racism just a few years ago[7]. Soudien, and other prominent black members of the corporate, academic establishment such as Jonathan Jansen, are interpellated[8] representatives of their institutions’ ideology, and any hint of activism they once displayed has evaporated.

However, I decided that I could not, in good conscience, from my position as an historical beneficiary of the untransformed system, write such a letter. So, dropping the academic apparatus as prompted by this assignment, I feel I have only enough authority to write from a personal, situated angle in attempt to contextualise the recent Rhodes Must Fall chain of events at UCT, with particular reference to the institution’s persisting coloniality. I cannot assume anything other than my own subject position, as a white, cisgender, heterosexual female, who comes from relative privilege. To do so would be disingenuous, as I have learned a trenchant lesson through listening to what students have been saying these past weeks: despite my best intentions and all the empathy I can muster, I cannot have knowledge of what it is to experience institutional racism.

As a “white” person, I have ancestrally been on the powerful side of the racial divide put in place with the advent of Western colonial activity, and I continue to be identified with that subject position. “Whiteness” is the term used to describe the position of privilege this subjectivity puts me and others like me in.

If there is one thing the Rhodes Must Fall moment has driven home to me, it’s that from my subject position I am unqualified to make authoritative pronouncements regarding the experiences or motives of anyone except myself, regardless of racial identity: it’s obvious that I can’t speak to “black” experience, but the most common “white” responses to RMF have largely made me feel alienated, too.

Two decades of rainbow nation narrative have led to the unreflexive “I don’t see colour” rhetoric becoming the status quo among liberal-thinking white South Africans, as well as black people assimilated to corporate institutional capitalist ideology. This is pernicious in that it obscures the very real, material persistence of different life experiences and oppression based on inherited structural inequalities, stemming from racial discrimination.

Coloniality, the set of dispositions, values and forms of practice set in place in the colonial world, outlives the moment of formal political decolonisation, and carries through beyond it in lasting ways. The white Western self speaks from the site of the universal, as a bearer of modernity and civilisation, situated dynamically inside of linear time and at home in a global, cosmopolitan world. All forms of knowledge produced by the Western self, in other words, are deemed to have universal, rational, historical currency.

In contrast, those selves and forms of knowledge encountered by the Western self that are deemed to be other than the Western self are deemed to be “local”, labelled “indigenous”. An indigenous self or indigenous knowledge is constituted as static, standing outside of history and linear time, and inside of tradition, which becomes the opposed category to modernity. Western, colonial knowledge is framed in binaries, in relation to Western supremacy: the privileged poles of these dyads are whiteness, maleness, heterosexuality, and so forth.

Manichean power relationships instituted on the basis of the colonial apparatus did not end with apartheid in 1994. They persist throughout social interactions, their oppressive dynamics all but invisible to those on the privileged side of such relationships, such as white people and males, due to the hegemonic nature of this framing.

A common criticism I saw levelled at black protesters by white commenters was that things changed with the coming of the democratic dispensation in 1994, and that they should stop “holding on to the past” or “playing the race card” with a “victim mentality”, that they should “move on”. But being cognisant of how the legacy of chronologically past events persists into the present is not the same as “holding on to” the past. Only those who are not experiencing the continuation of structural oppression every day can advocate ignoring or disregarding it, and “moving swiftly on”.

Western knowledge systems condition us not to admit any other perspective to the realm of validity. It thus takes concerted effort from white people to listen and not dismiss other points of view if they are to “click” and be able to acknowledge that the hegemonic “white” point of view is not the only, natural point of view. Recognition of the persisting inequality and oppression of black people generates a sense of discomfort and cognitive dissonance. I have realised through conversations with white people I know, as well as the comments I’ve read on social media, that most are unwilling (or perhaps intellectually unable?) to make this effort. Most who identify as liberal (“colour-blind”, non-racist) do not want to accept that they continue to benefit from this system at the expense of others, and display great defensiveness when confronted with the persistence of structural racism, and white complicity therewith.

The comments I have seen by white people who consider themselves liberal and “non-racial” (strenuously disavowing racism) against protesters have been telling – describing them as “uncivilised”, “uneducated”, “unreasonable”, “backward”, “barbarians”, “savages”, “childish”, “monkeys”: these epithets bear the distinctive, unreflexive tang of colonial binaries, binaries set up in implied counterpoint to the opposite values ostensibly possessed by the hallowed university. These colonial tropes have pervaded media, misrepresenting Rhodes Must Fall as an unthinking, destructive mob, when the reality is that the movement created, in a deliberate and considered way, an autonomous space which has surfaced deep pain, but also fostered constructive discussion and reimaginative work.[9]

Acts of physical protest occur when speech has failed, or is perceived to be inadequate. The act of flinging sewage at the statue of Rhodes went beyond talking, because talking was no longer believed to be a viable option for engaging. For dialogue to happen, there needs to be a willingness to listen communicated clearly. UCT, and whiteness more generally, has historically demonstrated itself to be dismissive, unprepared to engage black students’ and staff’s grievances about structural oppression. UCT even went so far as to criminalise protesters.

Steven Friedman remarks:

It is no accident that the protests are happening on the campuses of English-speaking “liberal” universities, which have long claimed to be victims of racism: it is precisely at those institutions that race is kept alive by denying it. Under apartheid, many English-speaking whites insisted that apartheid was created by Afrikaners alone. The “liberal” English-language universities joined in — they proclaimed their right to teach whatever and whomever they pleased, declaring that discrimination was imposed on them by the state. This smugness ignored the extent to which white English speakers in the professions and business profited from the denial of opportunities to others — and the degree to which they believed that blacks could win acceptance only if they adopted the values of whites. The universities ignored the reality that, when they were allowed to do as they pleased, they limited black student numbers and taught courses that assumed that every South African was white… This shows how deep-rooted the attitudes that underpinned apartheid are — and it points a finger at a form of liberalism that has washed its hands of racism while continuing to practise it…

When democracy arrived, the legal barriers tumbled; deep-rooted beliefs that whites are superior did not. The “liberal” universities now had the right to teach who and what they pleased: they used it to keep alive the racial pecking order in a “colour blind” guise… Whites remain largely in charge — but, because they are “liberal”, they always have a good “nonracial” reason for why this should be so.[10]

Hegemonic white power is not always subtle.  UCT management has an historical track record of overt institutional racism too. There are several junctures at which these issues have crystallised blatantly, and I will mention two:

In 1968, the accomplished black anthropologist, Archie Mafeje, was made an offer of employment by UCT, but this offer was rescinded under pressure from the Apartheid government, sparking protests. In 1991, the university again offered Mafeje a position. Although he had by that time, 23 years after the first offer, attained the rank of professor, it offered him only a senior lecturer post, still treating him as a junior academic. UCT apologised to Mafeje for this indignity after his death, naming a room in the Bremner building in his honour. It was no coincidence that this room was made the headquarters of Rhodes Must Fall when they occupied that building, renaming it “Azania House” in symbolic redress.

The so-called “Mamdani Affair” unfolded at UCT in 1996 when eminent Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani, who at that point held the AC Jordan Chair in the Centre for African Studies, challenged the university to place African scholarship at the centre of the curriculum. He compiled a curriculum centred on African scholarship which was met with resistance from the all-white advisory committee, apparently because it did not reflect thinkers well-known enough to the committee – that is, it did not reproduce the established western canon of writing about Africa closely enough.  Via a manipulation of administrative processes, the curriculum Mamdani planned was rejected and replaced by one produced by the committee. He was suspended and left UCT soon afterwards for the United States. Nomalanga Mkhize charges that the affair “exposed the ignorance of many prominent, predominantly white South African scholars who, because of their racially privileged positions, had risen up the ranks without having to engage three decades of rigorous post-independence African scholarship.”[11]

Black students and academics are angry. Twenty years since the formal end of apartheid, they are still treated as second-class citizens on campus. Only a fraction of teaching staff are black[12], and the syllabus overwhelmingly represents the perspectives of white thinkers. Black thinkers continue to be marginalised. The disciplines are still, overwhelmingly, epistemologically “white”. Francis Nyamnjoh, writing in 2012, describes the insidious outcome of this:

In Africa, the colonial conquest of Africans – body, mind and soul – has led to real or attempted epistemicide – the decimation or near complete killing and replacement of endogenous epistemologies with the epistemological paradigm of the conqueror. The result has been education through schools and other formal institutions of learning in Africa largely as a process of making infinite concessions to the outside – mainly the western world. Such education has tended to emphasize mimicry over creativity, and the idea that little worth learning about, even by Africans, can come from Africa. It champions static dichotomies and boundedness of cultural worlds and knowledge systems. It privileges teleology and analogy over creative negotiation by Africans of the multiple encounters, influences and perspectives evident throughout their continent. It thus impoverishes the complex realities of those it attracts or represses as students.[13]

A statement by UCT’s Student Representative Council, made at a meeting the day the statue was removed, echoes the points made above:

[T]he black folk’s problem is still chiefly the potency of whiteness. In the new democratic dispensation, we have only been concerned with the ‘rainbow nation’ rhetoric and singing kumbaya while our economy still reflects the same socio-economic disparities of the apartheid era. Democracy has granted a few blacks seats at the master’s table; the rest are still fighting over breadcrumbs falling off the table. And it is these few and mostly politically connected ‘privileged’ blacks who assist their white masters in maintaining the status quo.

Whites have not even begun to see blacks as equals and as being capable of thinking for themselves. They continually want to have a say in how we break the shackles of oppression administered and maintained by them. They cry foul as soon as blacks start organising and speaking for themselves. Deep down they understand that they stand to lose their privileges. The white liberal has continued to play a rather peculiar role in the oppression of the black masses, his racist and conservative ways continue to be shielded in his subtle and ‘angelic’ approach. It is the white liberal who is at the forefront of spreading the gospel of integration and a peaceful society. White liberals point towards white conservatives as the problem, and they have convinced themselves that they have arrived at enlightenment pertaining to the sins committed by their forefathers. Yet subconsciously they share the same set of values and desire to protect their privileges.

The ideology and culture of formerly ‘whites only’ spaces has still not changed. What has taken place is that blacks can now access those spaces of learning and living in order to immerse themselves in a western culture. Thus, for the blacks to enjoy the benefits of accessing those places they have to integrate into whiteness. Our integration is nothing but black people assimilating to what is still regarded as righteous, ordained, intelligent, beautiful and angelic whiteness.[14]

Richard Pithouse comments, with hope:

Liberalism has always been fundamentally tied up with the poisonous fantasy of its barbarian other. In 1859 John Stuart Mill, the great philosopher of English liberalism, declared, in his famous essay On Liberty, that “Despotism is a legitimate mode of dealing with barbarians”. The essential logic of actually existing liberalism – freedom for some, despotism for others – was never merely, as they say, academic. In 1887 Rhodes, speaking in parliament in Cape Town echoed these sentiments when he declared that: “we must adopt a system of despotism in our relations with the barbarians of South Africa”.

Yet in 2015, in a society still fundamentally shaped by the historical weight of this idea of freedom for some and despotism for others, a text book for first year politics students, written and prescribed in South African universities, a text book in which not a single African person is presented as a thinker worthy of study, declares that “Most discussions of freedom begin with John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty”.

This sort of academic consensus, which seemed entrenched a few weeks ago, no longer seems to have much of a future. The students have made an intervention of real weight and consequence.

In addressing the necessity of curricular transformation, Harry Garuba writes about the need for a “contrapuntal pedagogy that brings the knowledge of the marginalised to bear on our teaching… The Cecil John Rhodes statue at the centre of the upper campus of UCT may have been physically removed, but what we now need to move is the hegemonic gaze of the Rhodes that is lodged in our ways of thinking… our professional practices as teachers, academics, scholars and students. We need to take a critical look at our everyday routines… In short, we need to remove the Rhodes that lives in our disciplines and the curricula that underpin them.”[15]

Stories about the past do not only tell us where we come from. They also tell us where we belong and where we should be headed: they influence how we understand our present and imagine our future. Statues and memorials intentionally inscribe in space particular stories, effectively fixing in stone a version of the past chosen by those in power.

The spatial symbolic order at UCT is hard evidence of the university’s lack of transformation.  The university, stretched across the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak, is a carefully curated memorial landscape that concretises colonial ideologies of power and knowledge: a site of prospect, and temple of rarefied knowledge on the hill. Moving through this space as individuals, we are forced to conduct a conversation with these imperial ideas: they exert their influence on us tangibly, directing our attention. Little has been changed about symbolism on the campus in the past twenty years, save for the additive naming of a few buildings and spaces after black icons: Steve Biko Student’s Union,  Cissy Gool Plaza, Madiba Circle.

Dependent on one’s subject position, the power exerted by such spatial and ideological configurations feels more or less oppressive. As white people, we may not give much thought to whether we feel at home or belong in the landscape. Black people, on the contrary, constantly confronted by representations of white triumph at the expense of black lives, feel alienated and suffocated. SRC Chair Ramabina Mohapa said at the 16 March meeting convened by UCT management on Heritage Signage and Symbolism, before walking out with most of the student body present, that black students “can no longer breathe”.[16]

As already discussed, colonial dispositions are not easily apprehended or altered, because they remain hegemonic in wider society, rendering them invisible to those who fall on the privileged side of the colonial divide between those privileged and those not privileged.

However, moments in which the symbolic order is ruptured, like the toppling of the Rhodes statue, provide rare opportunities where the usually obscured hegemony becomes plainly apparent. It is at catalytic moments such as these that spacetime is malleable: contrapuntal conversations become possible, competing epistemologies thinkable; candid self-examination and interventions, too. Perhaps substantive transformation happens more effectively in sudden shifts than gradually.

I would like to close with a trio of comments that I gleaned from my Facebook feed on 10 April 2015, the day after Rhodes’ statue was removed.

We stop mistaking Rhodes for a good white person and we stop believing in white supremacy because everywhere you look you see white people’s statues – it’s almost as though there was no one here when they arrived and they just happened to discover the gold (which, coincidentally, was discovered by a black man). When the statues are gone, we can start asking the important questions like why are there 110 white male South African professors and not a single black female South African professor at UCT – South Africa’s most prestigious university. And questions like why is the curriculum at these universities so Eurocentric in its outlook with scant reflection on Africa and her rich history and her bright future. Without these statues and the prestige and honour bestowed on the founding fathers of white supremacy, the leaders of these institutions will have no choice but to answer those questions truthfully and reflect on those answers. Further, removing these reminders of the fallacy of white supremacy leaves space for black excellence to flourish without having to use the white gaze and its tools of measurement to validate itself.

– Fumbatha May

Watched Rhodes fall last night. I’ve never experienced such an atmosphere of happiness and liberation at UCT – particularly when the students refused to let the old bastard go gracefully but crowned him with a bucket of paint as he rode off into the sunset of empire. For the past few weeks, the students have been teaching the university its most important lesson in decades, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. At last, being at UCT is beginning to feel like being at a real university.

– Carlo Germeshuys

Driving home from work passed the plinth where Rhodes stood. It has a tag sprayed on the neat wood box that is covering the base: ‘C.J. WAS HERE ~>’ There is a black girl in a blue dress leaning up on it, smiling broadly as she chats to a white guy in green shorts who is sitting on the edge of it, swinging his legs as he rummages for something in his bookbag beside him. I swear there is a lighter feeling seeing that figure gone! An invitation to a new conversation.

– Debbie Pryor

These comments convey the general mood on campus well: there is a sense of hope and determination that the symbolic fall of Rhodes’ statue will be followed by deep institutional transformation, sentiments I share.

__

REFERENCES

Africa Network Expert Panel.  2014. Why are there so few black professors in South Africa? The Guardian Africa, 6 October 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/06/south-africa-race-black-professors

Althusser, L. 1971. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)”. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. Verso.

Biko, S. 1988. I Write What I Like. London: Heinemann.

Friedman, S. 2015. “The racial denialism of South African liberals”. Rand Daily Mail. 1 April 2015. http://www.rdm.co.za/politics/2015/04/01/the-racial-denialism-of-south-african-liberals

Garuba, H. 2015. “What is an African curriculum?” Mail and Guardian, 17 April 2015 00:00. http://mg.co.za/article/2015-04-17-what-is-an-african-curriculum

Goodrich, A. 2015. “Statue controversies in South Africa – reimagine/recontextualise/replace” April 15, 2015. http://www.syntheticzero.net/2015/04/15/statue-controversies-in-south-africa-reimaginerecontextualisereplace/

Majavu, M. 2015. “Uct and Rhodes: Removing Statues, Dismantling Colonial Legacies”. Equal Times, 30 March 2015. http://www.equaltimes.org/uct-and-rhodes-removing-statues?lang=en#.VTUs9tyUd8E

Mangcu, X. 2015. Danger of ‘rationalist conceit’ in Cape Times, March 25 2015 at 01:52pm. http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/danger-of-rationalist-conceit-1.1836933

Mangcu, X. 2015. “Assault on idea of academic freedom”. Cape Times,April 14 2015 at 01:44pm. http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/assault-on-idea-of-academic-freedom-1.1844918.

Mignolo, W. 2002. “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference”. The South Atlantic Quarterly 101.1 (2002) 57-96. Duke University Press.

Mkhize, N. 2015. “Anger over Rhodes vindicates Mamdani”. Business Day, 7 April 2015. http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/columnists/2015/04/07/anger-over-rhodes-vindicates-mamdani

Moodie, A. 2010.”The Soudien Report: Deny racism at your peril”25 April 2010. University World News, Issue No:121. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20100424200305969

Mudimbe, V. 1988. The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge. London: James Curry.

Muller, S. 2014. “Transformation is not UCT’s priority”. Mail and Guardian 21 November 2014. http://mg.co.za/article/2014-11-21-transformation-is-not-ucts-priority

Nyamnjoh, F. 2012. “’Potted Plants in Greenhouses’: A Critical Reflection on the Resilience of Colonial Education in Africa”. Journal of Asian and African Studies. February 15, 2012. doi: 10.1177/0021909611417240.

O’Connell, S & Himmelman, N. 2011.  “Lessons in continued oppression: UCT’s conception of post-apartheid freedom sets the bar too low”. https://concernedcasstudents.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/lessons-in-continued-oppression-ucts-conception-of-post-apartheid-freedom-sets-the-bar-too-low/

Pithouse, R. 2015. “South Africa in the Twilight of Liberalism”. Kafila, 19 April 2015. http://kafila.org/2015/04/19/south-africa-in-the-twilight-of-liberalism-richard-pithouse/

Soudien et al. 2008. Report of the Ministerial Committee on Transformation and Social Cohesion and the Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education Institutions. 30 November 2008

Soudien, C. 2015 “UCT stands devoted to debate”. Cape Times, April 14 2015 at 12:43pm. http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/uct-stands-devoted-to-debate-1.1844882

Wolpe, H. 1995. “The debate on university transformation in South Africa: The case of the University of the Western Cape.”  Comparative Education, 31(2): 275 – 292.

___

[1] Attributed in “The lottery of life”, The Independent, 5 May 2001.

[2] From I Write What I Like: Selected Writings by Steve Biko, 1969 – 1972. Heinemann, 1987.

[3] Introduction to Black Skin, White Masks. Translated by Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press, 1967.

[4] Mignolo, 2002.

[5] Pithouse, 2015.

[6] See, for example, Soudien’s handling of a walkout by the SRC and Rhodes Must Fall during a meeting at UCT on “Heritage, Signage and Symbolism”, 16 March 2015: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NgpJ00M5Ho

[7] Compare Soudien et al 2008; Alison Moodie’s 2010 interview with Soudien, entitled “The Soudien Report: Deny racism at your peril” and the defensive tone of Soudien 2015.

[8] Althusser, 1971. Interpellation is the process by which the ideology of an institution constitutes individual subjects’ identities through the process of the institution and its discourses ‘hailing’ them in social interactions.

[9] I would like to state as an aside that I do not believe it is the place of beneficiaries of structural racism to offer opinions on how transformation would be best effected. I believe white people should make space to listen and take cues from those who are still being squashed by the non-transformation of the society we inhabit as to what to do. Those who encounter the problem have far more authority in this matter. This is difficult for some white people to grasp due to an ingrained sense of entitlement, and the way whiteness and white knowledge regimes still have hegemonic authority. Several have accused me of promoting self-censorship. It is very far from that. As a white person, to make space for black voices at this moment in the way I am advocating is not to disengage from the debate. It is an active decision to be quiet, to listen and reflect, an action based on a recognition that unless we with white voices behave differently, the status quo of the balance of representation being skewed in the favour of white voices will not change materially.

[10] Friedman, 2015.

[11] Mkhize, 2015.

[12] The number of white professors at UCT stands at about 87 per cent, whereas black professors make up only 4 per cent of the professorial complement (Majavu, 2015).

[13] Nyamnjoh, 2012: 129-130.

[14] UCT SRC statement delivered by Ramabina Mahapa on 9 April 2015. http://www.uct.ac.za/dailynews/?id=9096

[15] Garuba, 2015.

[16] A video of the proceedings can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NgpJ00M5Ho.

izithunguthu

The Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative, where I work, is hosting an interesting conference next month:

IZITHUNGUTHU: 

Southern African Pasts Before the Colonial Era, their Archives and their Ongoing Present/Presence

16, 17, 18, July, 2015
Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative
University of Cape Town

“You can write and remember but for our part we are simply izithunguthu” (Thununu ka Nonjiya, 1903, in James Stuart Archive, vol.6. p.289)

Thunguthu (Isi), n. One flustered or put out, made to forget by being scolded or cross-questioned, though well-informed. Colenso’s Dictionary (4th ed., 1905, p. 627)

Transcript of Thununu ka Nonjiya, 1903, in James Stuart Archive, vol.6. p.289

Transcript of Thununu ka Nonjiya, 1903, in the James Stuart Archive

In late 2014 the sixth volume of the James Stuart Archive of Recorded Oral Evidence Relating to the History of the Zulu and Neighbouring Peoples (edited by the late C.de B.Webb and J.B. Wright) was published by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, bringing the number of pages of edited, translated and annotated archival text to a total of 1697 (excluding indexes), organised alphabetically from Antel to Zwayi, under the names of 185 primary interviewees.

The conference celebrates this remarkable editorial achievement and its contribution to the enquiry into the southern African past in the many eras before the advent of European colonialism. It also foregrounds and seeks to take forward new developments and thinking about these eras. It does this through a double focus on the different forms of archive relevant to the various eras and on the innovations – conceptual, theoretical, methodological, technological, practical or creative – involved both in mobilizing such archives, and indeed other materials considered to be not-archive, and in pursuing enquiries into those eras.

The conference will be organised around four central themes:

  • the making and remaking of the James Stuart Archive;
  • the nature and forms of archive, and indeed other forms of historical material, pertinent to these eras;
  • the meanings of pasts designated “pre-colonial” in the present, and in past presents;
  • innovations- conceptual, theoretical, methodological, technological, practical and creative – in enquiry into these eras.

The Making and Remaking of the James Stuart Archive
The James Stuart Archive is a rare southern African treasure for a number of reasons, of which two are particularly significant. The first is that while the collection is undoubtedly the work of the collector, and has been fundamentally shaped by him in ways that are the subject of ongoing critical scholarly investigation, the recorded texts also offer insight into the thinking of the various people whose accounts Stuart recorded. The bulk of the material was documented between 1897 and 1922, when Stuart interviewed some 200 people whom he considered to be well informed on contemporary and historical matters relevant to the region. He took detailed notes in the course of the conversations, often seemingly recording people in their own words. His working methods, the contributions of his interlocutors and all the other factors that shaped the archival texts, are the subject of ongoing scholarly attention. The combination of the extensiveness of the corpus and the nature of the material covered by interviewer and interviewees, often dealing with topics little discussed elsewhere in written documentation of the time, makes it one of South Africa’s most valuable historical resources pertinent to the late independent era in south-east Africa, as well as the colonial period that followed.

Archive and its “Others”
The past decade has seen the paying of close attention to the making and shaping of archive in many forms, while archive/s have also been the subject of sustained theoretical and methodological discussion. Long understood to be a time without an archive, the eras of the past before European colonialism and enquiries into them both draw from and contribute to, in distinctive ways, the larger critical discussion about archive, itself otherwise decisively shaped by European intellectual history.  The conference theme on the nature and forms of archive focuses attention on these distinctive ways, seeking to understand what they mean for the wider understanding of archive and what they mean for enquiries into the long southern African past.

We welcome papers not only on similarly iconic text-based archives (like the much celebrated Bleek and Lloyd Archive of material collected from /xam and !kung speakers between 1870 and 1884) but also on lesser known text-based sources, including ones which might heretofore have never been explicitly treated as archives. The conference hopes to interrogate taken-for-granted distinctions between primary and secondary sources.  When, for example, is a published account be considered an archive, and of what precisely is it an archive? We are interested in discursive materials that may not take a written form, including poetic forms, songs and invocations, and in interrogating critically the notion of “oral tradition”, seeking not only its disaggregation, but also careful reassessment of the conceptual apparatus associated with it.

We are especially interested in the nature of materials that are relevant to the remote past which have been or are yet thought of explicitly as “not archival”. Items of material and visual culture are widely used as sources for various aspects of enquiry into the past, but often in a manner that assumes that they have a timeless cultural relevance. We invite papers that build on recent work which historicises such items, paying close attention to particularities of provenance, circumstances and effects of collection, classification and curation. Current work is beginning to recognize incorporated, as opposed to inscribed, archival forms, notably embodied forms of materials that refer to the past. We invite contributions that grapple with the complex challenges involved in exploring, for example, contemporary instances of spirit possession and rituals concerning ancestors, for what they might add to an understanding of the distant past.

The Entangled “Pre-colonial”
How do we think of what has been termed the pre-colonial beyond the strictures of prepositional time? The academic orthodoxy teaches us to approach it as the distant past, as an evacuated experience, as a domain of specialists. And yet, our everyday scenes are stamped by its uncanny fecundity, its untheorised proximity, its entangled lives in the contemporary.  In a variety of different ways – imaginatively, expansively, subjectively, critically, affectively – contemporary artists, writers, family and clan historians, politicians and intellectuals engage the body of inherited materials that academics and lawyers use as “sources”, often with very different purposes, from the celebratory through the denunciatory to the parodic.  All of these engagements with the eras of the past before European colonialism, and with the ways in which the colonial and apartheid eras dealt with the earlier periods, undertaken by historians and many others, contribute to contemporary understandings and meanings of the distant past and fall within the purview of the conference.

In the nineteenth century, many colonial intellectuals took the history of the region before colonialism seriously enough to record and collect materials pertinent to it and to write its histories. In the post-conquest context of the twentieth century, the many eras of the long past, and indeed the history of indigenous people in the colonial and apartheid eras, were systematically ghetto-ised as the subject of the disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, linguistics and prehistory, and as requiring a specialist conceptual apparatus pertinent to the study of ‘tribal’ or ‘pre-modern’ societies. Unpacking the legacies of this conceptual apparatus requires comparative perspectives from across and beyond the continent attentive to the cross-genealogies of the tribal and the modern. These concepts have lingering effects that are yet discernible. In trying to think about the past beyond the warranty of these concepts, we also invite reflections on the ways of being in the world in which that past may not necessarily be an object of capture.

Conceptual Innovations
Our conference, therefore, is inevitably an engagement with the new. As it seeks to break out of the academic ghetto-isation, its exploratory restlessness challenges the established boundaries of disciplines, regions and identities. What happens when we consider enquiries into the past before European colonialism in the light of the contemporary insights on religion and affect, fashion and beauty, embodied knowledges, decoloniality, performance theory, border epistemologies, theory from the south, and so on?

The conference rationale is founded in a long view of history, seeking to subvert persistent habits of treating the past before colonialism as another country, and the advent of colonialism as the history of the region’s starting point with only a passing nod to, or introductory paragraph on, what went before. What happens when histories of ideas, modes of thought, institutions and practices, and the changes which they have undergone, are traced across the early state, late independent, early colonial, apartheid, and even post-apartheid, eras? In the conference even the latter, provisional, periodization would itself be open to debate and question.

For more information, please email APC-admin@uct.ac.za.

achille mbembe on fire

Brilliant and inspiring lecture by Prof. Achille Mbembe in conversation with Rhodes Must Fall at UCT on 29 April 2015, talking about decolonising the university.

Read his speaking notes here: Achille Mbembe – Decolonizing Knowledge and the Question of the Archive (pdf document).

uct panel discussion – decolonising the university

Charting a path forward for anti-sexist and anti-racist scholarship and activism. This discussion was hosted by the Van Zyl Slabbert Visiting Chair, the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and the University of Cape Town’s SRC and moderated by Prof Xolela Mangcu on Thursday 23 April 2015.

“The fact that we are able to have this conversation in South Africa as though it is new, as though these issues have never been thought of before, is precisely because of our inability to engage, and to read…In a staggering display of willful ignorance, we continue to have conversations that have been had, that have been taken in remarkable directions, as though we have just discovered them.” – Pumla Gqola (at 0:26:00)

south africa in the twilight of liberalism: richard pithouse

KAFILA - 12 YEARS OF A COMMON JOURNEY

[Note: Recent events in South Africa – from raging student movements across university campuses to xenophobic violence in the streets of Durban – seem to echo so many struggles both inside and outside the university “here.” This is the first of hopefully several posts from South Africa, that seek to listen and travel across.]

Guest Post by RICHARD PITHOUSE

South Africa was supposed to be different. We attained our freedom, such as these things are, after everyone else but Palestine. It was late in the day but the afternoon sun was glorious and the best people, people who had passed through the long passage of struggle, told us that we would be able to avoid the mistakes made everywhere else.

There was a mass movement that, whatever its limits, had won tremendous popular support and carried some noble ideals through its travails. Its leaders cast long shadows. Our Constitution, we…

View original post 2,655 more words

olive schreiner on cecil john rhodes

“We fight Rhodes because he means so much of oppression, injustice, and moral degradation to South Africa; – but if he passed away tomorrow there still remains the terrible fact that something in our society has formed the matrix which has fed, nourished, and built up such a man!”

— In a letter to John X. Merriman on 3 April 1897, published at Olive Schreiner Letters online.

Rhodes statue, head covered in garbage bags. University of Cape Town, 17 March 2015. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

Statue of Cecil John Rhodes, head covered in garbage bags. University of Cape Town, 17 March 2015. Photo: Rosemary Lombard

Some more provocative white writing about the legacy of Rhodes can be found HERE.

ethel waters – his eye is on the sparrow

Pause to watch, listen and reflect.

Have you ever experienced the weird magic of coming across something obliquely on Youtube, on your way somewhere else, and it speaks so powerfully, so uncannily, to all the things happening right now around you that all the hairs on your body stand on end? This is one of those times. The scene comes from a 1952 film called The Member of the Weddingbased on the book/play by Carson McCullers, starring Ethel Waters, Julie Harris and Brandon De Wilde. I came across it because my housemate Khanyi and I were singing this old hymn, hamming it up Lauryn-Hill-in-Sister-Act-2 style. I wanted to check out some of the older versions… and this clip revealed itself to me, complete with contextual preamble.

Just to tether this to a little of my own current context (I unfortunately don’t have time to write much right now), here is something written by one of my MPhil classmates about the student protests demanding the removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes that are currently happening at UCT, and here is the official SRC statement on the matter.

member-of-the-wedding-julie-harris-ethel-waters-brandon-de-wilde-1952