The cradle to the grave: Reflections on race thinking

Posted in Africa, Articles, New Media, Philosophy, Social Science, South Africa on 2013-03-25 18:32Z by Steven

The cradle to the grave: Reflections on race thinking

thesis eleven: critical theory and historical sociology
Volume 115, Number 1 (April 2013)
pages 43-57
DOI: 10.1177/0725513612470533

Gerhard Maré, Professor of Sociology
University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Despite a constitutional and oft-stated political commitment to an undefined notion of non-racialism, South Africans continue to operate in formal and informal ways with ‘race’ as the common-sense organizing principle of legal systems, ways of thinking, social identities, constructing arguments or closing debate, organizational and mobilizing strategies, policy development and execution, and interaction in daily life. This state of affairs is regrettable and dangerous, often questioned and rejected, but objections are waged and alternatives suggested against the tide of societal trends. What the organizing principle of race thinking does is to close the mind to alternative possibilities – of thought, social practice and ways of living. Here I explore an overview of racialism as it permeates and shapes the life cycles of citizens from birth to death. I make an argument for a way of thinking that is necessarily utopian, as one of few options of escaping a social world made in the image of apartheid.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Under the Skin

Posted in Africa, Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, South Africa on 2012-12-09 22:07Z by Steven

Under the Skin

Finch Publishing
August 2012
210 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781921462801

Marion van Dyk

This beautifully written and evocative memoir is a fascinating insight into the lives of her family, living under apartheid, who struggled to create a sense of identity and personal worth. It’s a book of historical relevance in its revelations about resistance to Apartheid by South Africans of mixed race; and it is also a book of social relevance to the debate on racism today, in Australia, South Africa, and elsewhere in the world.
 
Marion van Dyk’s absorbing memoir submerges the reader in the world of South Africa in the 1950s through to the 1980s. Classified as a ‘coloured’ (being neither black nor white) by an apartheid government, she and her family are forced to live as second-class citizens, caught between two worlds. Marion and her family struggle to make ends meet after they are forced to leave their family home when their area is redesignated for whites only.
 
After relocating to a small ‘coloured’ township, Marion attends a school where, despite severe restrictions, her teachers fight tooth and nail to give her an education. She becomes head of a computer programming department, breaking through racial and gender barriers in the process, before emigrating to Australia with her husband and son.
 
Marion van Dyk was a finalist in the 2012 Finch Memoir Prize for this, her first book, the memoir Under the Skin.

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Zakes Mda: The Madonna of Excelsior

Posted in Africa, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, South Africa on 2012-11-16 22:31Z by Steven

Zakes Mda: The Madonna of Excelsior

Muthal Naidoo: Published Books, Plays, Poems and Articles
2011-11-01

Muthal Naidoo

(2002. Cape Town. Oxford University Press)
 
The Immorality Act of 1927, which prohibited sex between Blacks and Whites, was amended in 1950 to prohibit sex between Whites and all non-Whites. Zakes Mda bases his novel, The Madonna of Excelsior, on the 1971 case in which 19 people from Excelsior were charged under the Immorality Act. He traces the lives of Niki, one of the accused, and her children Viliki and Popi, and the effects of the ‘illicit’ activities on their lives and those of the people around them.

Niki, the Madonna of Excelsior, lives in Mahlaswetsa, the black township of Excelsior. She and several other women fall prey to circumstances of poverty and become involved with white men from Excelsior. When the women give birth to white babies, fourteen of them are arrested and put on trial with five white men. But the case comes to nothing; the Minister of Justice withdraws the charges. And there are no fathers of the white babies of black women. This attempt to wipe out the whole event and pretend it never happened may have succeeded in the rest of the country but in Excelsior it lives on in the shame that families both black and white feel, in the many ‘coloured’ children walking the streets, in the unacknowledged connections that they represent. And especially in Popi’s hatred of herself. People call her ‘boesman” and she is ashamed of her blonde hair, blue eyes and hairy legs. She has a white half-brother whom she does not acknowledge and clings to the memory of her black father…

Read the entire review here.

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The Madonna of Excelsior: A Novel

Posted in Africa, Books, Media Archive, Novels, South Africa on 2012-11-12 18:53Z by Steven

The Madonna of Excelsior: A Novel

Picador (an imprint of Macmillan)
March 2005
288 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches
Paperback ISBN: 9780312423827; ISBN10: 0312423829

Zakes Mda, Professor of Creative Writing
Ohio University

In 1971, nineteen citizens of Excelsior in South Africa’s white-ruled Free State were charged with breaking apartheid’s Immorality Act, which forbade sex between blacks and whites. Taking this case as raw material for his alchemic imagination, Zakes Mda tells the story of one irrepressible fallen madonna, Niki, and her family, at the heart of the scandal.

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Racialised ethnicities and ethnicised races: reflections on the making of South Africanism

Posted in Africa, Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2012-07-09 00:06Z by Steven

Racialised ethnicities and ethnicised races: reflections on the making of South Africanism

African Identities
Published online: 2012-06-21
DOI: 10.1080/14725843.2012.692550

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Professor in the Department of Development Studies
University of South Africa

This article discusses how the politics of South African identity-making continues to be spoiled by racialised and ethnicised identities cascading from colonialism and apartheid. These problematic identities continue to live on, raising sensitive issues of nativity versus settlerism as well as rights versus entitlement to resources. Identity issues cannot be understood without a clear historical analysis of politics of translating a geographical expression into a national identity that dates back to colonial encounters. The article unpacks complex nationalisms, namely Anglicisation, Afrikanerisation, and Africanisation, that operated as ID-ologies, i.e. identitarian quests for a shared identity, albeit mediated by notions of whiteness and blackness. These ID-ologies became sites of struggles mediated by vicissitudes of inclusions and exclusions. The question of who was the subject of liberation, who constitutes the ‘authentic’ subject of the nation, and who is entitled to resources such as land and mines remain contested. Whites use the constitution to claim rights and to maintain the status quo of privilege, whereas Africans try to mobilise notions of both rights and entitlements as part of the redress of past and present exclusions.

Introduction

This article traces the problematics of the idea of South Africa with a view to enlighten the current questions of belonging, citizenship, and ownership of resources rocking the country. It is a historical study that explores changing translations of a geographical expression into an identity of a people. The historical analysis slices right through the imperial and colonial encounters of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, right up to the present constructions of the ‘rainbow nation’. The main proposition of the article is thay South African national identity is, if not a failing national project, at least very much a contested work in progress, which is open to different interpretations and trajectories. This proposition is given credence by the fact that racialised and ethnicised identities formed under imperialism, colonialism, and apartheid continue to hang like a nightmare on the body politic of the rainbow nation, refusing to die. and continuing to throw up toxic questions around issues of belonging, citizenship, entitlement and ownership of resources like land and mines…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Parading Respectability: An Ethnography of the Christmas Bands movement in the Western Cape, South Africa

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Dissertations, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, South Africa on 2012-07-08 14:31Z by Steven

Parading Respectability: An Ethnography of the Christmas Bands movement in the Western Cape, South Africa

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
May 2012
238 pages

Sylvia R. Bruinders


The Christmas Bands march through Adderley Street late at night during the “festive season” in Cape Town, 2001.
Picture by Henry Trotter. The author releases it to the public domain.

A Dissertation Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Musicology

In this dissertation I investigate the Christmas Bands Movement of the Western Cape of South Africa. I document this centuries-old expressive practice of ushering in the joy of Christmas through music by way of a social history of the colored communities. The term colored is a local racialized designation for people of mixed descent–often perceived as of mixed-race by the segregationist and apartheid ideologues. In the complexity of race relations in South Africa these communities have emerged largely within the black/white interstices and remained marginal to the socio-cultural and political landscape. Their ancestral area is the Western Cape where most still live and where several of their expressive practices can be witnessed over the festive season in the summer months from December through March. The Christmas Bands Movement is one of three parading practices that are active during this period.

Drawing on Foucault’s notion of “embodied subjectivity” and Butler’s work on gender and performativity, I explore three main themes, two of which are overlapping, throughout this dissertation. First, I investigate how the bands constitute themselves as respectable members of society through disciplinary routines, uniform dress, and military gestures. Second, I show how the band members constitute their subjectivity both individually as a member and collectively as a band; each has a mutual impact on the other. Even though the notion of subjectivity is more concerned with the inner thoughts and experiences and their concern with respectability is an outward manifestation of a social ideal, these two themes overlap as both relate to how the members constitute themselves. Third, I explore how the emergent gender politics, given renewed emphasis in the new South African constitution (1995) has played out in local expressive practices through the women’s insistence on being an integral part of the performance activities of the Christmas Bands Movement. Their acceptance into the Christmas Bands has transformed the historically gendered perception of the bands as male-only expressive forms. Furthermore, I will illustrate how this cultural practice has gained in popularity during the last seventeen years of democratic rule in South Africa, which may suggest that the historical marginality of the communities is still very present.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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‘Non-racialism’ in the struggle against apartheid

Posted in Africa, Articles, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2012-05-15 00:17Z by Steven

‘Non-racialism’ in the struggle against apartheid

South African Review of Sociology (originally Society in Transition)
Volume 34, Issue 1 (2003)
pages 13-37
DOI: 10.1080/21528586.2003.10419082

Gerhard Maré, Professor of Sociology
University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

This article examines the movement of South African society from a racialised past to a racialised present. It argues that an important opportunity, arising out of the transitional conjuncture, seriously to come to grips with the racist and racialised categories of apartheid, is rapidly being lost. Racism and a racially-ordered system is founded on the soft bed(rock) of race-thinking, and continues to draw on the banal perpetuation of notions of race in everyday life, as well as in political practice in a democratic South Africa. The author proposes that the undoubted commitment of the African National Congress to ‘non-racialism’ has remained unrealisable because there was no serious theoretical investigation of the status of race categories, either how they operated within apartheid South Africa or within the struggle for democracy itself. For this reason, it seems clear that the ANC’s ‘non-racialism’ more appropriately should be read as ‘non-racism’, as the notion of the existence of ‘races’ as socially meaningful categories have remained pivotal political categories and continue to operate as everyday common sense.

…In this paper I focus on the commitment to ‘non-racialism’ by the ANC, a commitment called the ‘unbreakable thread’ of decades of struggle against white domination (Frederikse 1990), and note some other positions and organisations. I will, in effect, take issue with the application of the term ‘non-racialism’ to describe the position of the ANC, which is much more accurately termed multi-racialism, despite Tambo’s rejection of such an interpretation. In conclusion I will suggest some of the implications of such misuse, most importantly that it cannot be the basis for ‘the primary goal [of] a completely restructured society’ (Frederikse, 1990:3-4).

Race thinking is embedded in our everyday thinking. It is located in racialised social identities, lived through what has been variously referred to as ‘stories of everyday life’(Wright, 1985:15; Heller, 1982), the ‘minutiae of everyday existence’ (Comaroff, 1996:166), the ‘banality’ of living within the ‘assumptions and common-sense habits’ (Billig, 1995:37) of a society permeated with race thinking. Such racialism will have to be disembedded from there, through deliberate social practice, institutional and legal change, and finding ways of subverting, rather than corroborating, daily experience and racialised ways of making sense. We continue to operate with race as a collective identity, and as the articulating and organising principle for other identities and/or moments when we draw on an array of alternate identities. Non-racialism remains without content if it continues to be a largely unexamined rhetorical commitment to an ideal.

At the same time, however, it is necessary immediately to note that my argument does not deny, in any way, the extreme dehumanisation and domination suffered under the system of apartheid, or under any racist system. Nor does it deny, as should be clear, that race thinking is located in real social conditions, and effectively makes sense of the way in which people have experienced, and continue to experience, that social reality, within a changing pattern of domination. It does not explore, here, the various ways in which race thinking serves, at times justificatory, exploitative, and other purposes. On the contrary, my argument depends on recognising the strength of pervasive racialisms, and demands and forms the basis for investigating racism. I will return to this point…

Read the entire article here.

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The ambivalence of authority and secret lives of tears: transracial child placements and the historical development of South African Law

Posted in Africa, History, Law, Media Archive, South Africa on 2012-05-08 01:20Z by Steven

The ambivalence of authority and secret lives of tears: transracial child placements and the historical development of South African Law

Journal of Southern African Studies
Volume 18, Issue 2, (June 1992)
pages 372-404
DOI: 10.1080/03057079208708319

Frederick Noel Zaal, Professor of Law
University of Kwazulu-Natal

The negative attitudes towards racially mixed familial groups which underlay many mid‐twentieth century South African statutes had deep historical roots. Early in the seventeenth century it became fashionable for Dutch travellers to write memoirs in which they routinely condemned the effects of transracial sexual relationships which they had witnessed in the colonies of other nations and in which they ascribed witch-like powers to women of colour who consorted with Europeans. The pessimistic mythology about miscegenation that was thus begun affected policy makers when the Dutch East India Company subsequently began to establish the first Dutch colonies in the East Indies. Both in the Indies and at the small Dutch colony in South Africa, uncomfortable tensions resulted because of the fears and racial prejudice engendered by this mythology in the face of a contrary need to assimilate the offspring of miscegenation. In South Africa the legal mechanisms which the Dutch East India Company had developed to cater for this need were forgotten by the late nineteenth century. However, the mythology about the undesirability of racially mixed familial groups lived on into the twentieth century. As the century progressed, it resulted in an erosion of the legal status and rights of children whose parents were given different population group classifications by a government which steadily increased the number of such groups. During the period 1960–1990 there was a series of governmental attempts to prevent the artificial creation of mixed familial groups by prohibiting transracial adoptions. The legislation which was designed for this purpose remained ambiguously worded because modern Western notions about the rights and vulnerability of children compelled a covert approach. In the early 1990s, as the white minority fears for its future, there has been an unwitting return to the kind of selectively acquisitive child placement strategies once utilized by the Dutch East India Company.

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Challenging Certain Aspects of Intergroup Relations in “The Shaping of South African Society, 1652 – 1840″: A Review Article

Posted in Africa, History, Media Archive, Social Science, South Africa on 2012-05-08 00:58Z by Steven

Challenging Certain Aspects of Intergroup Relations in “The Shaping of South African Society, 1652 – 1840″: A Review Article

Kronos
Number 17 (1990)
pages 71-76

Hans Heese, University Archivist
Stellenbosch University

When the first edition of “The Shaping of South African Society 1652-1820″, dealing with the integration of southern Africa into a world economy and the domination of whites over blacks, was published in 1979, it filled a need which was increasingly being felt in South African historiography. In its introduction the authors stated that they wanted to “redress” the imbalance created by previous, Eurocentric historiography which has given “inadequate attention to non-Europeans: in this case the slaves, Khoikhoi, Khoisan hunter-gatherers, Bantu-speakers, free blacks and persons of mixed descent”

The volume consisted of four parts: the first part covered the major population groups, the second the rulers and the ruled, the third the expansion of the colony and its frontiers, and in the last part Elphick and Giliomee reviewed the development of social stratification over the whole period.

The other contributors were Armstrong, Freund, Guelke, Legassick, Schutte and Shell who had all done prolonged research in the various archives of South Africa, the Netherlands and Great Britain. With the exception of Legassick, all of them represent the “liberal” school — as opposed to the “radical” school.

In 1982 an Afrikaans translation, ’n Samelewing in Wording: Suid-Afrika 1652-1820, was published. Both versions were used as textbooks at undergraduate and postgraduate level at South African universities.

In 1989 a second edition was published under the title The Shaping of South African Society, 1652-1849. The new edition contained two new chapters—one on the Cape economy and the other on the Cape under the British, 1814-1834. The chapters on the Khoisan and Slaves had been extensively revised and extended to cover the period up to the 1830′s, both with the help of Malherbe and Worden as co-authors respectively. The authors of these two additional chapters—the one on the Cape economy and the other on the British at the Cape—were Robert Ross and Jeff Peires. Giliomee incorporated his earlier chapter on the burgher rebellions (1795-1815) from the 1979 edition in his contribution on the Eastern Frontier in the second edition…

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Between black and white: Rethinking Coloured identity

Posted in Africa, Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Philosophy, South Africa on 2012-03-13 01:15Z by Steven

Between black and white: Rethinking Coloured identity

African Identities
Volume 1, Issue 2 (2003)
pages 253-280
DOI: 10.1080/1472584032000173139

Pal Ahluwalia, Pro Vice Chancellor of Education, Arts and Social Sciences
University of South Australia

Abebe Zegeye
Goldsmiths College, University of London

Identity who we are, where we come from, what we are is difficult to maintain … we are the ‘other’, an opposite, a flaw in the geometry of resettlement, an exodus. (Said 1986: 16 17)

The photographs

Stephen Greenblatt offers two models for the exhibition of works of art resonance and wonder. Resonance, he argues, equates with the ‘power of the displayed object to reach out beyond its formal boundaries to a larger world, to evoke in the viewer the complex, dynamic cultural forces from which it has emerged and for which it may be taken by a viewer to stand’ (Greenblatt 1991: 42). Clearly a work of art that evokes such resonance creates its own context albeit that it is far removed from its original site. In contrast, by wonder, he means, ‘the power of the displayed object to stop the viewer in his or her tracks, to convey an arresting sense of uniqueness, to evoke an exalted attention’ (ibid.).

Greenblatt argues that what has increasingly happened in the practice of mounting exhibitions is the triumph of resonance over wonder. For an exhibition to have maximum impact, he argues (ibid.: 54), it is important that there should be ‘a strong initial appeal to wonder, a wonder that then leads to the desire for resonance, for it is generally easier in our culture to pass from wonder to resonance than from resonance to wonder’. It is in this context that we urge readers to make acquaintance with Chris Ledochowski’s photographs. First and foremost, they are works of art that evoke wonder. These works of art, however, are deeply resonant with the racial quagmire that has dominated and continues to dominate   South Africa’s culture, history and politics…

Read or purchase the article here.

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