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Maureen St John Ward

The photographs in this photo essay were taken by eleven and twelve year old girls in Grade 7 who were learning isiZulu as a second language (since most of them are English speaking) at a school in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. For their class project the girls were asked to take photographs of various aspects of their bedrooms, and then write captions for these photos in isiZulu. Each girl presented her images to the whole class in a Power Point presentation.

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'The Woman's Rose'

Olive Schreiner, the Short Story and Grand History

Graham Pechey

Olive Schreiner? South African writing at the crossroads? The title of this issue of Critical Survey connotes contemporaneity: Schreiner died when this century was only twenty years old. Provisionally to lift the weight of this seeming paradox off the reader’s mind – if not wholly to resolve it – I would only suggest that both ‘South Africa’ as an entity and its writing were as much (and critically) at a point of intersection – a choice of paths – in the 1890s as they have been in the 1990s, and that one century’s end speaks eloquently to another. It is of course always and only thanks to our own effort-free hindsight that we can speak of a writer’s foresight: of all those who exerted themselves in gazing forward as the last century ended and this one began, Schreiner scores in my view highest; and not on any yardstick of empirical prediction but rather because her brand of countercultural thinking and imagining is – and here another and harder paradox looms – always so productively non-contemporaneous, always so open to the other and to the future. We find this quality in the shortest no less than in the longer of her fictions, and the thousand or so words of ‘The Woman’s Rose’ from Dream Life and Real Life deliver its effects as strongly as any. Schreiner brings her experience as a woman on the frontier to bear upon the new South Africa that was emerging in the late nineteenth century. The story I have chosen offers a way in to the historical narratives of her formation as well as a commentary upon the ethical and sociopolitical options before the (new) new South Africa a hundred and more years on.

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Preface

JEMMS Relaunch

Editorial Committee

Ten years after launching the Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society (JEMMS) in 2009, it seems appropriate to look back and assess the journal’s achievements, review its purpose, and address prospects for the coming years. As the only journal of its kind dedicated to the dissemination of international educational media research in the humanities, JEMMS has provided a platform for authors from sixteen countries on seven continents, including Chile, South Africa, Macedonia, and China.

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Under the Sign of the Gun

Welcome to the Postmodern Melancholy of Gordimer's Post-Apartheid World

Simon Lewis

Raymond Chandler used to say that whenever he got stuck writing a novel he would get going again by having a character come through the door with a gun in hand. Reading the opening pages of Nadine Gordimer’s new novel with its account of a sensational murder, one might wonder whether South Africa’s 1991 Nobel laureate, faced with the end of apartheid and the consequent lack of a subject, was operating according to Chandler’s principle. The House Gun, however, indicates not so much the lack of a subject as a new way of looking at an old subject facing new circumstances – the old subject being the psychological and material effects of white racism on whites, the new circumstances being those of post-apartheid South Africa. Moreover, the apparent narrowing of focus from the macropolitics of Gordimer’s three most recent preceding novels, None to Accompany Me (1994), My Son’s Story (1990), and A Sport of Nature (1987), to the micro-politics of The House Gun suggests that we can read South Africa’s transition to full democracy as a paradigmatic change from a modern to a postmodern condition. Gordimer’s post- 1994 publications, and The House Gun in particular, lend themselves to being read as illustrative of two of Michel Foucault’s central insights: the ubiquity of power, and the consequent idea that given that ubiquity, care of one’s self (‘souci de soi’) becomes a new kind of political obligation.

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Portrait

Jean Comaroff

Jean Comaroff, Peter Geschiere, Kamari M. Clarke, and Adeline Masquelier

Colonial frontiers, we have long been told, put conventional categories at risk. I grew up on one such frontier, itself an anachronism in the late-twentieth-century world—apartheid South Africa, where many of the key terms of liberal modernity were scandalously, publically violated. Religion was one of them. Some have argued that the act of separating the sacred from the secular is the founding gesture of liberal modern state making (Asad 2003: 13). In this, South Africa was a flagrant exception. There, the line between faith and politics was always overtly contested, always palpably porous. Faith-based arguments were central to politics at its most pragmatic, to competing claims of sovereignty and citizenship, to debates about the nature of civilization or the content of school curricula. As a settler colony, South Africa had long experimented with ways to ‘modernize racial domination’ (Adam 1971) in the interests of capitalist production, frequently with appeals to theology. After 1948, in contrast with the spirit of a decolonizing world, the country fell under the sway of Afrikaner rulers of overtly Calvinist bent. They set about formalizing a racial division of labor that ensured that black populations, the Children of Ham, remained economically subservient and politically marginal.

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“Small Acts”

The Perspective, Location and Agency of Theory in South African Cultural Studies

Ashraf Jamal

In an interview with David Attwell, recorded in 1993 at the School of Criticism and Theory at Dartmouth College New Hampshire, Homi Bhabha turns his liminal gaze to the fate of South Africa. His position, that of “an outsider … a bystander and consumer of the media” (Attwell 1993: 109), invokes a reading of the state of the nation and its cultural predicament which, nine years hence, remains compelling. What is particularly striking about the conversation, conducted at a geographical remove during a charged historical time when South Africa forges what will prove to be an on-going process of disinterring itself from a legacy of oppression, is Bhabha’s eschewal of a saving telos and his insistence on turning and returning to “the semiosis of the moment of transition” (1993: 104). For Bhabha this moment is not the Gramscian interregnum between two distinct states of governance. Rather, his conception subsumes the notion of two distinct states as well as Antonio Gramsci’s conception of the moment between as the emergent locus for a symptomatic morbidity. Here Bhabha diverges from the perception of those within South Africa for whom the interregnum has served as a prevailing trope, most notably Nadine Gordimer in The Essential Gesture: Writing, Politics and Places (1988: 262) and Michael Chapman in Southern African Literatures (1996: 327-331). Rather, between the renunciation of a past and the proleptic fulfilment of a future, Bhabha proffers a more enabling conception of the moment of transition; one which, having “overcome the given grounds of opposition … opens up a space of translation: a place of hybridity, figuratively speaking, where the construction of a political object that is new, neither the one nor the other, properly alienates our political expectation, and changes, as it must, the very forms of our recognition of the moment of politics” (Bhabha 1994: 25).

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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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AIDS and Postcolonial Politics

Acting Up on Science and Immigration in France

Michael J. Bosia

From a postcolonial left that challenges the French state over immigration policy and neoliberal globalization, Act Up has advocated for the social and political rights and needs of women, inmates, drug users, and immigrants with HIV/AIDS. This essay examines as well Act Up's engagement with science and globalization in response to new experimental medical trials in the Global South. Act Up's emphasis on local empowerment against global economic and social actors has earned criticism from American and South African AIDS activists, but at the same time these campaigns stress the universalist impulse imbedded in the Act Up brand of French Republican politics.

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Facing East, Facing West

Mark Twain's Following the Equator and Pandita Ramabai's The Peoples of the United States

Brian Yothers

Mark Twain's Following the Equator (1897), a narrative of a journey to the South Pacific, Australia, South Asia, and South Africa, has occupied a small but significant space in the consideration of Twain's wider career as both a travel writer and social critic. Twain's work has not, however, been considered in conjunction with the works of later nineteenth-century South Asian travelers in North America. The present article puts Twain's discussion of India and Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) in dialogue with Indian scholar and women's rights activist Pandita Ramabai's 1889 travelogue The Peoples of the United States.

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Forget Forgiveness

On the Benefits of Sympathy for Political Reconciliation

Nir Eisikovits

The work of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has generated a great deal of interest in the role of forgiveness in politics. More specifically, it has raised the question of whether forgiveness should be a constitutive part of reconciliation processes between groups. In this paper, I argue that it should not, and that it might be both more useful and more realistic to consider something like Adam Smith’s notion of ‘sympathy’ instead. The first part examines the arguments for and against policies promoting political forgiveness. The second part suggests sympathy as an alternative. The third part considers and rejects some objections to the employment of sympathy in this context.