Editorial

POSTAMBLE VOLUME 9.1

TRANSDISCIPLINARITY, TRANSFORMATION
AND THE HUMANITIES

POINTS OF DEPARTURE

When we met towards the end of last year to plan the revival of POSTAMBLE, we decided that we should conceive of this editorial project as a new beginning. In the absence of fixed editorial structures, funding agreements or thematic constraints, we realised that we were free to use the journal as a site of experimentation, an independent intellectual space for a community of young scholars thinking critically about Africa—a community we feel still needs to be coaxed into existence.

We agreed that the main objective of POSTAMBLE should be to make an original contribution to the key debates of our time, one based as much on thorough scholarly engagement as on creativity and the desire to explore new forms of knowledge production. In pursuing this vision, we wanted the journal to be more than just a training ground for “real” academic or editorial work, unconstrained by any need to conform to the established norms of accreditation.

The openness of the Centre for African Studies (CAS) at the University of Cape Town (UCT), the journal’s institutional base, makes it the ideal platform for the pursuit of our vision. CAS is a space where “African Studies” as a discipline is continually being negotiated and problematised, where critical heritage studies, alternative archives, post- and decolonial thought form part of everyday practice.

How directly these kinds of epistemological concerns relate to issues at the heart of post-apartheid South Africa became blindingly apparent through the Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) movement, and its interventions at UCT this year. In its call for a radical re-imagination of the post-apartheid/post-colonial university, RMF positioned itself in relation to a long tradition of campus protest that has frequently involved CAS staff and students.

As recently as 2011, in the run-up to the institutional subsumption of CAS into the New School for School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics (AXL), the Concerned CAS Students’ Group pushed issues around the marginalisation and silencing of African Studies—as a place for the “struggle for epistemological decolonisation”—onto the front pages of national media. In their call for a rethinking of the role of African Studies at UCT, both the RMF and the Concerned CAS Students Group linked their demands to the CAS-centred “Mamdani Affair” of 1997 and Mafeje scandals of 1968 and 1990—past opportunities that UCT’s management had, and missed, to transform its “Mini Oxford” into an African university.

Describing the particular version of African Studies being developed at UCT, Harry Garuba has emphasised that African Studies should have more to offer than the production of knowledge about Africa. It should go beyond the Area Studies paradigm, which constructs knowledge “from a distance about an area of the world by ‘experts’, from an outside of the area in question”. In a speculative passage, Garuba asks:

What will the study of Africa look like if the problematic was constructed from a standpoint of embodied intimacy rather than distance? And what if the critical and methodological frameworks that orient the process of knowledge production take that previously unnameable transdisciplinarity, that undermining of disciplinary boundaries and the fragmented knowledges they foster, as their point of origin?

This passage was one of two provocations that made up our Call for Papers for this issue. The second, almost as an expansion of Garuba’s challenge, came from Victoria Collis-Buthelezi, who points to the broader implications of such a “previously unnameable transdisciplinarity”:

Others still pressed for a clearer articulation of what the global state of the humanities is in relation to the local. What of transformation? And if we transform, what does that mean for the university as we know it, or the disciplines from which we work?

Read in conjunction with the previous passage, Collis-Buthelezi’s questions invite us to think about how a transdisciplinary approach to Africa might dovetail with a commitment to transformation (at the societal and university level), and how both might impact the larger institutional setting of the humanities as a space for “disciplined” thought. They ask us to consider what conception of the humanities would be necessary to allow imaginative and utopian conceptions of transformation to emerge.

With these questions in mind, we sent out our Call for Papers earlier this year. Despite its hyper-academic-sounding theme, we understood this issue primarily as a first step into new territory that we were curious to explore ourselves.

The contributions we received illustrate, more than anything, how differently questions of transdisciplinarity and transformation can be interpreted, and the myriad associations and responses that can be evoked by these ideas. It becomes clear, as one reads through the various pieces, that they are not responding directly to or even engaging explicitly with the key terms outlined above. And yet they all share a sense of the inadequacy of inherited social models and academic formats for the study of Africa; they are all committed to risking alternative spaces of intellectual inhabitation. This combined stance of rejection and risk-taking is, of course, the mark of transformative thinking, and it lends a particular quality and relevance to the writing assembled in this issue.

A TRANSDISCIPLINARY ONLINE POSTGRADUATE JOURNAL

A “transdisciplinary online postgraduate journal” seems to us the ideal format for exploring alternative academic approaches. As is probably self-evident, the medium of online publishing allows for greater experimentation with different formats, essay lengths and mediums of reference—an experimentation this issue takes a first step towards. Unbounded by the rules of professional academic publishing, we are free to decide among ourselves when academic peer-review mechanisms can add further quality to a contribution and when a work-in-progress can stand as the final version. We also align ourselves with the “free culture” movement, which means there are no costs involved in reading our publications and readers do not need permission to pass on and share what they encounter on our site.

In this context, the notion of “post-graduatedness” acquires new connotations, beyond the traditional sense of promotion to the next level in the academic hierarchy. More often than not, post-graduation is a liminal, in-between space that is in many ways linked to the notion of transdisciplinarity. Post-graduation represents a first opportunity to look critically at the ways our thinking has been formed through the pursuit of a degree. For us, tracing the theoretical, political and social links between transdisciplinarity, transformation and the humanities within the unique POSTAMBLE format is a way to engage with the possibilities and proscriptions of academic modes of learning and writing (about Africa in particular). We are a “postgraduate” journal in this more figurative sense, too.

DISCIPLINARITY, ANTI-DISCIPLINARITY, TRANSDISCIPLINARITY

As postgraduate scholars, we have come to realise that acquiring the knowledge presented by certain disciplines is not a neutral or even a necessarily noble endeavour. Instead it is one that is interwoven with various layers of cultural and economic capital on the personal and social level. The material and the modes of study, the truths that they present us with, are themselves the outcome of power struggles over the right to determine what exists and what does not exist, what constitutes subjects versus objects of knowledge.

In the course of our studies we have become conscious of the colonial origins of our disciplines, of the Eurocentrism at the core of their epistemology, and of the heavy baggage they carry when they travel and are translated from their European points of origin to where we find ourselves today. Our profound discomfort with the disciplines and the university that perpetuates them is, however, not exclusively a theoretical or learnt one.

For many students at UCT, this discomfort is informed by lived experience. As Andile Mngxitama pointed out in the context of RMF: “For blacks, UCT is a place of humiliation and denial, while presenting itself as a home for all. To be fair, UCT is merely a mini-representation of South Africa.” The letter released by the Student Representative Council (SRC) following the initial shit-throwing incident spoke directly to this sentiment, with SRC President Ramabina Mahapa describing the institutionalised silencing of black voices and black history at the heart of the university’s culture. “Transformation,” Mahapa concluded, “should be felt in all aspects of the university, from the curriculum, to the diversity of students and staff, [to] the symbolism it reflects.” This early letter left no doubt as to the broader goals of the RMF movement.

Importantly, our disenchantment with the disciplines is not exclusively based on their histories or the institutional culture in which they function. It is also based on a profound scepticism about their ability to adequately respond to the central problems of the post-apartheid moment. In this sense there are interesting parallels to be drawn with Stuart Hall’s brand of transdisciplinarity—cultural studies—and the particular political moment that gave rise to it, as David Scott describes it:

[T]he incitement to cultural studies as an institutional programme in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s was antidisciplinary; it arose in part, that is to say, out of a strong doubt about the ability (let alone the will) of the existing academic disciplines in the humanities and social sciences to comprehend and grapple with the transformed social and cultural conditions of postwar Britain.

In our own context, the staggering disconnect between existing theories and concepts and the realities they are supposed to represent has recently been reformulated by Achille Mbembe in his canonical work On the Postcolony:

Returning to the literature of political science and development economics, it becomes clear that these disciplines have undermined the very possibility of understanding African economic and political facts. In spite of the countless critiques made of theories of social evolutionism and ideologies of development and modernization, the academic output in these disciplines continues, almost entirely, in total thrall to these two teleologies.

These theoretical shortcomings have of course led to the implementation of policies with destructive socio-economic effects, a destructiveness nowhere more visible than in the havoc caused by Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) on the continent. In other words, our discomfort with/within the disciplines is just as well informed by the realisation that a certain type of scholarship has been complicit with an oppressive politics.

Our commitment to transdisciplinarity—a moving beyond and through the disciplines—is fuelled by these multivalent concerns. We are curious about the process of disciplinary thinking and practice.

Basarab Nicolescu’s 1994 “Charter of Transdisciplinarity” advocates a direction that is not too far removed from the one we would like to endorse with this issue. It broadly frames its project as a “reaction against 8530 definable fields of knowledge” and asserts that “[s]hared knowledge should lead to a shared understanding based on absolute respect for the collective and individual diversities united by our common life on one and the same Earth.”

Owing to the very general nature of this definition, however, it is necessary to name our understanding of a “previously unnameable” transdisciplinarity (to borrow Garuba’s phrase) and to set it apart from other approaches to the concept currently in circulation.

A recent publication by Hester du Plessis, Jeffrey Sehume and Leonard Martin of the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) entitled “The Concept and Application of Transdisciplinarity in Intellectual Discourse and Research” (2014) offers an ambitious attempt to chart the potential of transdisciplinary research in South Africa.

The most obvious difference between MISTRA’s approach and ours lies in our emphasis on the academic format or style itself as an aspect worthy of critical assessment. Du Plessis et al. embrace the stylistics, methodologies and paradigms of the different disciplines they engage with to arrive at social-policy recommendations that can be readily implemented. Their version of transdisciplinarity is, understandably, more functional and pragmatic. We are, on the other hand, interested in scrutinising each of these structural components, as a means for exploring something more radically new.

Based on the extremely academic format of this editorial, such a claim might appear ironic.

Be that as it may, we want to point to an interesting (and commonplace) assumption that appears in the MISTRA report, regarding the necessity of transcending academic disciplinary boundaries when working within African contexts. In this specific paper, the assumption is grounded in Dani Nabudere’s concept of African Cosmology, or “Afrikology”, which  he explicitly frames as an expression of transdisciplinarity:

[T]he African traditional and cultural conception of the universe as a four-dimensional reality is transdisciplinary, not in the sense of its methodological correctness, but that this knowledge is nearer to transdisciplinary visions of interconnectedness, which modern quantum physics was able to discover only through the recognition of the crisis of classical Greek physics.

To be clear, the challenge that such an understanding of transdisciplinarity constitutes for traditional modes of scholarship is substantial, as an excerpt from a table published in the Official Journal of the Canadian Society for Clinical Investigation and cited by du Plessis et al. attests. Here the differences in multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary approaches are mapped in the following way:

Table 1: Multidisciplinary, Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Research

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 6.58.53 PM

Importantly, though, neither this table nor the work done by MISTRA makes the relation between transdisciplinary research and an emancipatory politics explicit.Not only do we find that the explanatory section for transdisciplinary research is left curiously blank—an omission that supports the notion of its unnameable character—but the unpredictability of the outcome of the calculation and the radical break in the mathematical logic are also significant. The metaphor of the cake, in comparison with the salad bowl and the melting pot, is therefore fitting: if both the salad bowl and the melting pot remain composites of a certain set of identifiable ingredients, the cake appears as a completely new object.

Described in this tabulated way, transdisciplinarity remains an essentially neutral endeavour. To our minds, for transdisciplinarity to access its revisionary potential, it needs to be placed within a specific political context. In our case, this is the South African debate around Transformation—a concept whose radical possibilities we like to emphasise by spelling it with a capital T, distinguishing it from mainstream technocratic discussions concerned with “demographics” that are based on unproblematised notions of race.

TRANSFORMATION

There were two main reasons we were interested in exploring Transformation over decolonisation in this issue, despite the fact that the latter concept has come to invoke the requisite radicalness of a break with existing academic and social structures in a more immediate sense.

The first reason was that Transformation itself is an essentially open-ended process that carries the optimism we associate with notions of imagination and utopia—notions that have gained intellectual currency in the wake of a growing suspicion that “realistic” models for social change stop short of providing actual alternatives. No one knows what the outcome of Transformation, conceived as a “complete or major change”, will be. If we follow Frantz Fanon’s advice and let go of European models and the idea of an end of history, it is up to us to re-imagine the future with radically new points of reference.

The second reason was our interest in the forms of intellectual engagement, in the radical change of format that the term Transformation suggests. Approached from this angle, Transformation leads directly to questions of how we perceive and describe the world. It holds out a challenge to broaden our understanding of what counts as knowledge and merits being bought and taught as such.

With this in mind, we would like to provoke discussion about the values attached to different genres of writing. We want to interrogate the readily assumed hierarchies among different types of texts, which are commonly associated with either side of the subjective/emotional versus objective/scientific binary that the project of modernity has placed firmly in the way of our conception of “truth”.

RMF AND TRANSFORMATION WITH A CAPITAL T: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PRESENT

A fierce debate around this type of Transformation was sparked by the emergence of the RMF movement in March of this year. In the weeks following the initial event, something remarkable happened. The chronic pessimism within the critical humanities was replaced by something else. There was suddenly a sense that things could, in fact, radically change for the better.

For a moment, the critique and theory developed in spaces such as CAS and the African Gender Institute confronted head-on the compromise that is at the heart of the democratic transition of 1994. Terminology that has historically been confined to small postgraduate seminars suddenly became front-cover material and the object of national discourse.

Historically speaking, Julius Malema—first via the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) and then via the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF)—might be credited for creating the discursive space for a complete turn-around, a Fanonian decolonisation that would topple the lingering colonial politico-economic structure, a structure that relies on a Manichean hierarchy between people who are, in Michel Foucault’s terms, “let to die and made to live” in the modern nation-state.

From 2011 onwards, Malema repeatedly foregrounded the truism at the heart of the post-apartheid predicament: “We can’t have the minority owning 90% of the wealth and of the country and 80% of the population owning 10%.” These kinds of statements were made in conjunction with the realisation that the land-reform process was proceeding too slowly and that the average life expectancy of white South Africans is more than 30 years higher than that of their black counterparts.

Malema and his party introduced and endorsed a vocabulary of disobedience, a rejection of colonial symbols, an aesthetics of the poor and excluded, and, not least, the practice of throwing shit as a form of protest that “makes the private shame a public shame”, all of which provided a context within which RMF could emerge.

LEARNING FROM RMF

Although the meaning and relevance of the RMF movement is hotly contested, its very emergence and the physical removal of the statue are categorical, and historic, successes.

For us, there is little doubt that the movement and the way it articulated its struggle performed a radical opening for new discussions to emerge. Certainly it has helped define the discursive space that POSTAMBLE sees itself working within. To be sure, RMF is writing its own history. But making sense of the RMF moment is important for us, since the potential of this journal relies on its ability to become a site where critical thinking, dreaming and the imagination of a decolonised university can have a permanent place.

This kind of editorial work has become particularly urgent in light of managerial manoeuvres on UCT’s part to effectively contain and channel the struggle into neatly packaged task forces, special advisories and committees.

FIVE LESSONS LEARNED

Carrying the struggle further, as students of this university and as editors of this journal, it might be instructive to draw several lessons from the RMF debate:

1. The university must be placed in relation to its most immediate contexts and not divorced from geography and the greater political structure in which it operates—a tendency to which a university on a mountain is particularly prone. In the RMF debate, this point was perhaps raised most directly by Andile Mngxitama’s question: “Is it possible to have an anti-racist university in a racist society?

2. In economic terms, the protests re-emphasised the need to take the global structures governing the rationality of universities and their business into consideration. Critics have argued that the protest was mainly staged by middle-class students from within an institution that confers upon them particular privileges that were not questioned during the protest. In other words, without being aware of it, protesters may have been complicit with the greater neoliberal project underpinning the university. In line with this, the function of the university, as a site for the reproduction of the elite and of the capitalist system, is precisely the point where a delinking could produce visions of a utopian society that measures its successes no longer according to Euro-American ideals of progress.

3. Academics who engaged with RMF during the occupation of Azania House stressed the need to connect the struggle for the transformation and decolonisation of education across different universities and institutions. For many universities in the country, let alone on the continent, questions of decolonisation and Transformation are as old as the universities, and the countries, themselves. With its elevated self-image, UCT aims at isolating itself as a “world-class university” among “global bush colleges”. Decolonising the university would in very practical terms mean breaking down this separation and divisiveness.

4. Speaking directly to the previous point, several commentators reminded us that we are in the fortunate position of not having to start from scratch when thinking about decolonising the university. We can learn from the work that has been done elsewhere on the continent. Garuba points to the struggle led by Ngugi wa Thiong’o in the late sixties to place Africa “at the centre of whatever historic continuity Kenyan students were to study”. Being aware of this historic continuity means, at the most basic level, taking on a different historical perspective to the narrow 1994-2015 timeframe that we are pedagogised into. It also challenges the exceptionalisms at play about Cape Town in South Africa, and South Africa in Africa—exceptionalisms that became particularly apparent in the recent Afrophobic attacks and the legislative changes implemented in their aftermath.

5. Two additional sub-points can be noted regarding the practicalities of a decolonised curriculum. In his article, “Decolonising the humanities” (2013), Suren Pillay argues for “the undoing of the devalorisation of intellectuals, of thought, of knowledge and aesthetics outside the Western tradition”. He also cautions us to not ignore traditions of thought from the Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia and Latin America in favour of an Afrocentric syllabus:

It is not about saying: They have their philosophers, so let’s show them  that we have our philosophers too. It is about disrupting the autobiography of how the West tells its story about itself and it is about producing a less imperial, more democratic and inevitably more violent version of how we arrived at our modernity. As scholars, we should lead the critique of the humanities and social sciences we have inherited by pointing to its limitations.

Pillay’s point, that the modes of study themselves have to change, was re-emphasised by Garuba two years later in direct response to the RMF. Garuba contrasted a “content-driven additive approach” (for example, an added university-wide compulsory course), which leaves the foundation of the disciplines untouched, with a radical rethinking of the epistemological biases and ideological positionality underlying the construction of the curriculum. This thought leads us back, of course, to the question of transdisciplinary research.

To be absolutely clear about the institutional setting in which these discussions are taking place, we need to turn to UCT Management’s response to RMF’s call for Transformation. Two statements by the university’s Vice President, Max Price, are particularly illuminating in this regard.

PRICE AND THE CURRICULUM

The first statement appeared shortly after the Rhodes statue was removed on April 9 and formed part of a wider attempt by the university to mask the radical nature of RMF’s demands by incorporating its key arguments into its own rhetoric. A piece in The Atlantic described Price’s position on changes to the curriculum in the following way:

As for calls for an Africanized curriculum, he agreed that the university should be a premier center of knowledge about the continent; after all, that was its “comparative advantage.” In the past 10 years, international faculty members had gone from constituting less than 3 percent of the faculty to more than 20 percent, and many of them were black Africans from elsewhere on the continent. Where Price would draw the line, though, was if demands for an Afrocentric curriculum encompassed the notion that “maths can be Afrocentric, physics can be Afrocentric. [That] would affect our ability to be a world-class university.”

This passage raises a number of concerns. The first is the apparently self-evident aspiration of becoming “premier”: the first or best. Premier by whose standards, one wonders? The term implies a specific Euro-American “standard” of excellence, which UCT, among its African counterparts, can emulate best. It is also deeply embedded in the capitalist logic of a race to the top, with a rigid commitment to the relevance of hierarchies.

Bearing in mind Garuba’s call to move away from the Area Studies paradigm, where knowledge about Africa is produced at an alleged objective distance, we are struck by the stated goal of becoming the “center of knowledge about the continent”. This conceptualisation of knowledge suggests the production of a material good that can be sold, a point emphasised by the second part of the same sentence.

Cynically accustomed though we may be to hearing institutions of higher learning described as businesses, in business-speak, we are nonetheless surprised at the way “comparative advantage” is employed here. The term belongs to the vocabulary of “free trade” doctrine, which effectively (and conveniently) obscures the gross power imbalances of the macroeconomic world system it moves within. (Cf. “Free trade is a win-win proposition because it enables nations to focus on their core competitive advantage(s), thereby maximizing economic output and fostering income growth for their citizens.”)

What follows is a sentence filled with numbers and percentages demonstrating the allegedly large number of “black Africans” joining UCT “from elsewhere on the continent”. The description of this group as “many” attempts to deny the university’s systematic—and highly publicised—reluctance to hire black professors, locally and internationally.

All of this is upsetting enough, and proof that Price’s management is not able to join RMF members at the level of debate they seek. But the last sentence of the quoted passage offers further insight into Management’s point of view. Here Price not only questions the very existence of scientific indigenous thought: he also sets up a denigrating relationship between the transformed curriculum that would it include it and the university’s cherished status as “world-class”. We might wonder what Price’s categorical rejection of the idea of an Afrocentric science says about initiatives like the Science and Indigenous Knowledge Systems project at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Either way, by implying that the humanities can be Africanized as long as the sciences stay the same (European?), Price places the sciences above the humanities, a stratification and valorisation that needs to be problematised at the deepest level.

The scenario that Price paints is that, should RMF succeed in its efforts, UCT alumni and their expertise would no longer be directly transferable or translatable to Oxford, Cambridge, Columbia and Harvard contexts—their horizon would perhaps end at Dakar, Accra, Ibadan and Kampala instead. This, apparently, is where the discussion comes to a halt.

PRICE AND THE ALUMNI

The second document worth investigating is Price’s “Letter to the Alumni”. The letter appeared just days after 240 students were made to sign admission of guilt pleas, in spite of the fact that an amnesty had been previously announced for acts relating to the RMF movement.

What is striking about the letter is its re-assertion of power and the Vice Chancellor’s “back to the books” rhetoric. Eliminating all doubts to the contrary, it made clear Price’s determination to do all he could to short-circuit an unprecedented and historic opportunity to transform a wholly un-transformed post-colonial South African university.

Careful observers of Price’s rhetoric might have noticed that the absence of the Achille Mbembe-inspired slogan of the Afropolitan university. Price missed the chance to take up the energy generated by RMF. Instead, at the height of the crisis, and out of all of the university’s constituencies, Price chose to address the alumni. The letter is written in the tone of a father who has just apprehended his unruly children and is now, somewhat sheepishly, trying to reassure the concerned bystanders, who are perhaps threatening to intervene, that all is in order. Price writes:

I have tried my best to respond to the most critical issues that you raised. I hope it goes some way towards reassuring you that UCT remains as committed as ever to preserving an environment of free speech and rational debate, and that through the way we have handled the protests UCT has emerged stronger, more inclusive, and that there is no reason for concern that any of the events of the last three months compromise our commitment to academic excellence and our global standing.

The mere fact that Price feels the need to reassure the alumni that all is in order recalls the wider function of UCT as a feeder institution to the major businesses and political institutions that uphold the status quo of this country. Again evoking the danger of losing “world-class” status, Price upholds “free speech” and “rationality” in the classic liberal style of the Enlightenment philosophers, who relegated their colonial subjects to the realm of irrationality, barbarity, non-humanity and servitude.

This rhetoric implies that the protesters prevented constructive or “rational” debate from taking place, when the very point of RMF was to create a space in which the voices of the systematically silenced could finally be heard. Few statements capture the culture of institutional racism as completely as the two statements above.

The paternalistic condescension with which Price speaks in this letter about the “unacceptable modalities of protest”—referring to the occupation of Azania House and the throwing of shit at the statue—reveals that he has not heard the voices that spoke up during the protests, and that he prefers to align himself as closely as possible with global norms created elsewhere, even at the cost of effectively excluding the overwhelming majority of this country.

The unquestioned obsession with rankings and standings, communicated here even more forcefully than in the first statement, makes this position explicit.

Still, there are reasons for optimism.

One is the theoretical, conceptual and discursive force with which the issue of institutional racism is now being attacked. The other is the sheer size of the community of protesters and sympathisers, which speaks to the very scale of the problem.

Moreover, and responding to our initial question of whether there is still space for critical thought in the humanities, the fact that RMF emerged out of the humanities gives us hope that it is not impossible to rethink the role of the university from within the university. It is precisely this project of critical self-consciousness that POSTAMBLE—in its annual, transdisciplinary publications—hopes to continue.

IN THIS ISSUE

The first part of the issue, “Poesis”, includes an essay by Hedley Twidle on his experience of the five-day Hoerikwaggo Trail, Spring Ulmer’s visual poem, “What Remains”, about Cameroon, and Moses März’s “Fragments of Glissant”. All three pieces challenge, in different ways, conventional (and conventionally “whole”) academic formats and explore the potentials of transdisciplinary modes of writing.

“Politics”, the second part of the issue, contains Siona O’Connell’s photo essay “With Light and Lens: Performances of Freedom in Cape Town”, Kem Igumbor’s long-form essay on women’s participation and activism in the Eastern Cape, and Nicolas Tanner’s photographs of Colesberg in the Northern Cape. These pieces explore marginal South African spaces, offering new ways of “seeing” them, both visually and epistemologically.

In “Prose”, the final part of the issue, Warren Rourke’s interview with John Higgins about his book Academic Freedom in a Democratic South Africa, Nonhlanhla Dlamini’s essay on Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who Is Not a Man and Miriam Pahl’s book review of Carrol Clarkson’s Drawing the Line investigate in their own ways the troubled relationship between the humanities and the state, art and politics, text and practice, freedom and the body.