This article engages with Frantz Fanon’s writings on different responses by artists among colonised peoples to the fact of their colonisation. Fanon develops a dialectical account in which an initial stage of assimilation of Western techniques and paradigms is followed by a phase of immersion in African artistic traditions. These two phases then function as prelude to a third, combative stage which is presented as the most efficacious and authentic way for artists to play their part in decolonisation. The article problematises the temporal logic and implicit hierarchies of Fanon’s account. It does so by using Jacques Rancière’s redemptive reading of early working class mobilisations in 1830s and 1840s France, prior to the advent of Marxian proletarian politics, as a counterpoint. The article here finds a different, more affirmative, nondialectical and non-historicist way of evaluating the liberatory potential of artistic practices by the colonised prior to combative decolonisation.
Fanon, Rancière and the Struggle Toward Decolonisation on the Aesthetic Front
Bridging the Artist-Scholar Divide
Ibanga B. Ikpe
One of the consequences of hyper-positivism on contemporary scholarship has been an increase in measuring academic excellence by instrumental rather than intrinsic value. Increasingly, university disciplines are required to demonstrate their relevance in the marketplace, resulting in a tendency by some arts and humanities scholars to deemphasise research and concentrate on creative practice. This paper attempts to bridge the gap between these two responses. It argues that concentrating on creative practice (techne) reduces the art academic to a tradesperson and that concentrating on rhetoric while ignoring arts practice alienates the artist from vital skills and techniques. It identifies scholarship as the defining feature of academic excellence and argues that this is better achieved when academics use critical thinking to balance creative expression and research based practice.
The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits), has been a prominent site of student protests since 2015. In the midst of the conflicts various Wits actors claimed or implied a special democratic legitimacy. This article examines five exercises at Wits: the election of student representatives, the student protest movement, a student petition, a management-initiated poll and an aborted General Assembly. These exercises are scrutinised and scored along six democratic dimensions: directness, participation, representation, pluralism, equality and deliberation. According to the weak thesis, this dimensional analysis reveals a landscape of democratic complexity that belies the claim of any one actor to a superior democratic model. According to the strong thesis, there is a particular problem with democratic practices that score weakly in terms of representation. The weakness of the ‘fallist’ student movement in the representation dimension undercuts its claim to prefigure a superior form of comprehensive university-wide democracy.
Theoretical Debates on Agency
Sunday Paul Chinazo Onwuegbuchulam and Khondlo Mtshali
In contemporary development and political studies the Capability Approach as proposed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum has become an alternative analytical framework used to conceptualise the promotion of well-being (‘capabilities’) in society. Notably, an important component of this framework is agency, which underscores the various ‘transformation mechanisms’ towards realising well-being in societies. This study straddles the area of political theory and development studies and seeks to contribute to the literature on the Capability Approach from a fresh perspective of the contest for agency between the different political stakeholders in society’s development arena. The study interrogates the agency roles of different stakeholders in society’s development focusing on the liberal-communitarian and the state-in-society debates on the politics of state from the perspective of the Capability Approach.
The Concept of Secular Philosophical Grounding
Jaan S. Islam
This article examines the two major orientations of cosmopolitanism and offers a philosophical and logical deconstruction of their roots. Firstly, ‘philosophical cosmopolitanism’ is critiqued based on its assumption of universal thought and reason. Secondly, the foundations and assumptions of ‘pluralist cosmopolitanism’ are deconstructed on the basis that it relies upon the abstract validity of philosophical cosmopolitanism. On basis of these evaluations, this article concludes that liberal cosmopolitanism – regardless of its form – bases its validity upon the moral validity of the premises of cosmopolitanism. The primary argument made is that contemporary cosmopolitan scholars, having stripped cosmopolitanism from their metaphysical origins, are unable to defend their philosophies from a metaphysical point of view. A call to reform and reconsider the fundamental tenets of liberal cosmopolitanism is made.
Rawls, the Fair Value of the Basic Political Liberties, and the Collapse of the Distinction Between ‘Ideal’ and ‘Nonideal’ Theory
Susan Orr and James Johnson
John Rawls famously distinguishes between ideal and nonideal theory, according priority to the former. He depicts his own efforts to articulate the conception of justice as fairness as an instance of ideal theory. Subsequent political theorists have taken Rawls’s distinction as a template for how we should understand the tasks of political theory. Yet they also have struggled to clarify the underlying distinction with notable lack of success. We argue that Rawls himself does not abide by the distinction between ideal and nonideal theory and that this affords a good reason to set the distinction aside as a distraction.
A Bikoist Challenge to Professor Xolela Mangcu
Professor Xolela Mangcu argues in his article ‘Whites Can Be Black’ that Steve Biko’s philosophy of Black Consciousness would support the thesis that white people can become black. In this article I argue that this thesis is incongruent with the articulation of Black Consciousness in Biko’s book of collected writings, I Write What I Like. I show that, for Biko, Black Consciousness is possible only in the context of a non-white person’s experience of white racism that is not only a material experience but also a psychological experience based on the racist claim that there is a hierarchy of race. I contend that a correct analysis of Biko’s writings would show that white people self-identifying as Politically Black are acting from bad faith that results from a flight from the responsibility that accompanies their facticity.
A Nkrumahist Perspective
Ezekiel S. Mkhwanazi
The African intelligentsia played a pivotal role in the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle in Africa. Not only did it provide intellectual resources to the political struggle leaders but also took active part in the political leadership. Since independence, this role has diminished tremendously, as some of the intelligentsia are ‘silenced’ and others become ‘captured’ by the newly independent states. As a result, a wedge is driven between the intelligentsia and the political leadership. However, given that there is a deficit in efforts to reconstruct Africa, the pan-African intelligentsia are called upon to reinvigorate and reposition themselves to assist in developing organisations and institutions to serve African people worldwide. This call challenges them to take a creative, innovative role in the reconstructive task of Africa, thereby bidding farewell to intellectual isolationism. The article draws from Kwame Nkrumah’s ideas, thereby affirming the relevance of his political ideas in contemporary Africa.
Retrieving the Africanist (Liberatory) Conception of Non-racialism
South Africa since 1994 is widely represented as a society which has broken both historically and politically with white supremacy. One of the central discursive pillars sustaining this representation is the appeal to the most recent South African constitution Act 108 of 1996, the founding provisions of which declare that South Africa is founded on the value of non-racialism. The central argument of this article is that an examination of the philosophical underpinnings of the non-racialism of the constitution can give us a better understanding of why and how South Africa remains a racial polity despite the coming into effect of the constitution. We will conclude the article by considering the ethical and political demands which must be met before the actuality of non-racialism may be experienced.
Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi
What vision directs pan-Africanism and which developmental model does it support and promote? To answer this question, the article evaluates pan-Africanism within the demands of African modernity and locates the extent to which pan-Africanism meets the aspiration of African modernity. It argues that pan-Africanism has what amounts to a north-bound gaze and supports development imperialism, and shows that for this reason it is not properly grounded on African realities, the consequence of which is the weakness of African modernity. The article suggests a re-articulation of pan-Africanism through the ideology of pro-Africanism, which holds that autonomy and self-will are two cardinal principles that are fundamental to African self-definition but which pan-Africanism is not in a position to provide because it amounts to a subordination of African difference. It concludes that a redirection of the African vision in this direction is a worthier ideological alternative to pan-Africanism.