This article discusses the contemporary history of South African social science in relation to the Azanian Philosophical Tradition. It is addressed directly to white scholars, urging introspection with regard to the ethical question of epistemic justice in relation to the evolution of the social sciences in conqueror South Africa. I consider the establishment of the professional social sciences at South African universities in the early twentieth century as a central part of the epistemic project of conqueror South Africa. In contrast, the Azanian Philosophical Tradition is rooted in African philosophy and articulated in resistance against the injustice of conquest and colonialism in southern Africa since the seventeenth century. It understands conquest as the fundamental historical antagonism shaping the philosophical, political, and material problem of ‘South Africa’. The tradition is silenced by and exceeds the political and epistemic strictures of the settler colonial nation state and social science.
This article sets out a few key questions, themes, and problems animating an Azanian social and political philosophy, with specific reference to the radical promise of undoing South African disciplinary knowledges. The article is made up of two parts: The first part discusses the epistemic and political forces arrayed against black radical thought in South Africa and beyond. A few current trends of anti-black thinking – liberal racism, Left Eurocentrism, and postcolonial post-racialism – which pose challenges for the legibility of Azanian critique are outlined. Part two constructs an exposition and synthesis of key tenets of Azanian thinking elaborated upon under three signs: ‘South Africa’, ‘race and racism’, and ‘Africa’. The aim of the discussion is to illustrate the critical, emancipatory potential of Azanian thought and its radical incommensurability with dominant strands of scholarship in the human and social sciences today. The article ultimately defends the reassertion of black radical thought in the South African academy today and underscores in particular the abolitionist drive of Azanian political thought.
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