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The Discourse of 'Ritual Murder'

Popular Reaction to Political Leaders in Botswana

Ørnulf Gulbrandsen

In re-engaging the classic theme of sorcery and witchcraft in African anthropology, it is asserted that something new is happening in terms of the manifestation and magnitude of the phenomena that are commonly included in these notions.1 Geschiere, for one, claims that ‘nearly everywhere on the continent the state and politics seem to be true breeding grounds for modern transformations of witchcraft and sorcery’ (1999: 6). And Jean and John Comaroff (1999) speak of escalations of what they label ‘occult economies’ in postapartheid South Africa, escalations they also trace in other parts of the world, including the West and the post-communist East.

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The Justice of Crime Prevention

The Case of South Africa

Thaddeus Metz

The Kantian principle that persons must be treated with respect is the most widely accepted normative foundation of a constitutional democracy. Because the state must treat citizens as free and equal persons or in a way consistent with their dignity, it is obligated to abide by majority rule but to ensure that a constitution prevents a majority from violating minority rights to civil liberty and due process. My broad purpose in this article is to explore the implications of the principle of respect for criminal justice in South Africa.

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Throwing the Genes

A Renewed Biological Imaginary of 'Race', Place and Identification

Zimitri Erasmus

In the United States of America, use of DNA samples in criminal investigation and of genetic ancestry tests in 'personalised medicine', 'pharmacogenetics' and for personal consumption has grown exponentially. Moreover, use of such technologies is visible in the public sphere. In South Africa, DNA sampling for ancestry testing is the most publicly visible application of these technologies. This work has shifted constructions of 'KhoiSan' communities from yesterday's 'missing evolutionary link' to today's 'Edenic origin of humankind'. I question human biogenetics as a home for meanings of history, humanity and belonging. To this end, I read selected genetic genealogical studies of communities considered 'KhoiSan', 'Coloured' and 'Lemba' in South Africa against concerns raised in recent literature about the use of such studies in the United States of America. I ask why bio-centric conceptions of 'race', identity and 'the human' remain so resilient. To grapple with this question, I draw on Sylvia Wynter's (2001; 2003) adaptation of Frantz Fanon's (1986) concept of 'sociogeny' into 'the sociogenic principle'. I close by suggesting the code for what it means to be human is best located in the 'word' rather than the human genome.

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Patrick Lenta

My purpose in this paper is to assess the plausibility of three claims asserted by Wilhelm Verwoerd in his book Equity, Mercy, Forgiveness: Interpreting Amnesty within the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2007) in support of the granting of amnesty by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Amnesty in this context refers to conditional amnesty: immunity from prosecution and punishment, conditional upon the full disclosure by perpetrators of the details of their wrongdoing, extended to individuals who had committed gross human rights violations between 1 May 1960 and 10 May 1994. Verwoerd rehearses several arguments that have previously been advanced in support of conditional amnesty, but his original contribution consists in asserting three claims concerning its moral status. These are that the granting of amnesty: (1) satisfies the demands of equity; (2) constitutes an act of mercy; and (3) amounts to forgiveness of perpetrators. I seek to show that, considered separately, each of these claims is false and that, asserted together, they are inconsistent.

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Jérémie Barthas

‘No government can protect the rights of citizens without rigorous police, but the difference between a free regime and a tyrannical one is that, in the former, the police are employed against that minority opposed to the general good as well as against the abuse and negligence of the authorities; whereas, in the latter the State police are employed against the down-trodden who are thus delivered into the hands of injustice and impunity’.

This declaration was not a reaction to the Marikana massacre (16 August 2012), when a British mining company operating in South Africa had a special unit of the post-Apartheid South African Police Service murderously repress a mine workers strike, by means of mass shooting; many of those killed were later found to have been shot in the back as they ran away from the volley of bullets. It was made about two hundred and twenty years before, in April 1794, when revolutionary France was experiencing its most tragic moments. In the context of the Terror, and facing the necessity to discipline it, its author, Saint-Just (1767–1794), redeployed some of the most classical concepts in the History of Political Thought – freedom versus tyranny, general good versus particular interest, elite accountability versus impunity of power – in order to provide the ideological principles framing the organisation, within the web of the revolutionary police, of a special office in charge of the surveillance of the Executive and of public authorities.

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Peter Vale

Higher education reform has a particular character in the United Kingdom as Stefan Collini points out in his book, What are universities for? Margaret Thatcher's assault on social institutions put the university, as an institution for the common good, under particular economic pressure. As a result, British-oriented higher education systems world- the legacy of Empire - have suffered similar mounting pressures. This includes South Africa where the debate has been strongly influenced by the idea that university, in the name of democracy, should be more accountable and transparent. But, this purported shift towards openness masks the powerful hold of market-driven economics on the contemporary university and poses a threat to its immediate purpose and the long-term future of higher education.

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Beyond the utility of violence

Interpreting five homicides in the South African lowveld

Isak Niehaus

This article points to the limitations of utilitarian theories of violence, as evident in the works of anthropologists who insist that all acts of violence either serve instrumental purposes (such as advancing one's own position) or expressive purposes (such as communicating key social ideas). Against the totalizing claims of such theories, the article observes that most homicides that occurred in the South African lowveld village where I conducted fieldwork research were the unanticipated consequence of men striking out in moments of anger. Although not the purposeful outcome of calculated conduct, these homicides were not however random. The high incidence of homicide can be explained in terms of Sahlins's concept of conjunctive agency, and by the co-presence of structural conditions of deprivation, ideologies of masculine domination, the wide prevalence of firearms, and the social enactment of rage.

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A Bridge over Troubled Waters, or What a Difference a Day Makes

From the Drama of Production to the Production of Drama

Ronald Frankenberg

Gluckman's paper, "The Bridge," challenged received social anthropology, initially in segregated South Africa, at the LSE, and more generally, by illustrating that professional observers and participants in social situations are profoundly mutually interinvolved with one another despite wide cultural differences. While retracing his own history within it, the present writer relates this new anthropology to the methods of modernist literature (and to changing natural science approaches) in which writers such as Joyce and Woolf, and more recent successors, revealed the culture of an epoch in the closely analyzed incidents of even a single day. They paralleled Freud's methods in psychoanalysis and the specific analyses of discrete political situations in Marx, as well as in later developments of television, film, and the visual arts. After Gluckman's move to the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, Oxford, and finally Manchester, he and his colleagues and students are shown as developing this interpretive method in very varied contexts.

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Picking up the relay baton

Translating traditions in apartheid and democratic South Africa

Andrea M. Lang

This article reflects the particular construction of 'Culture' by a network of ethnographers, bureaucrats, politicians, and traditional leaders in South Africa. It analyzes the impact of this specific understanding of Culture during the apartheid years and in the new democratic dispensation using actor network theory (ANT) as developed by Callon and Latour. The essay also explores the establishment of the network in colonial times, examines its working method during the apartheid years, and queries the reasons for its survival and restrengthening after the dismantling of apartheid. Furthermore, the article deals with the popularization of the network's Culture credo and discusses some consequences of this special understanding of Culture and of how the government should preserve it.

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Penny Enslin

Like other major developments in political philosophy, John Rawls’s Political Liberalism (PL) has raised important issues for philosophy of education. Rawls’s defence of liberalism as a political doctrine whose principles do not depend on any one comprehensive moral or philosophical doctrine for their justification, against comprehensive liberalism, which by contrast expresses a particular conception of the good life, engages with current controversies in schooling policy in liberal democracies like the United States and the United Kingdom, and potentially in South Africa.2 In such societies there are groups which oppose what is seen as the tendency of liberal education, with its emphasis on the development of qualities like autonomy and individuality, to show intolerance towards particular ethnic, cultural or religious groups and to threaten their continued existence. Their objections appear to require a political rather than a comprehensive liberal approach to schooling.