Using Intellectual Ancestries to Rethink the Black Archive in South Africa and Beyond

 Our next network meeting will take place on Friday, January 29, 2021 and will feature guest speaker PhD candidate Siseko Kumalo, who will give a talk entitled “Using Intellectual Ancestries to Rethink the Black Archive in South Africa and Beyond.” You can find the abstract and speaker bio below. The meeting will take place 9-10:30 AM Pacific/12-1:30 PM Eastern (US/Canada)/5-6:30PM UK/7-8:30PM SAST. The meeting can be joined via Zoom: 

Using Intellectual Ancestries to Rethink the Black Archive in South Africa and Beyond”: Showcasing the historical agitation for Black liberation in South Africa using u-Goba’s (1888) work, I analyse the Black thinker who is lauded as the first to systematically consider Black liberation, i.e. Steve Biko. With Biko trumping other intellectuals, I reveal a fundamental problematique in the South African academe. The principal challenge to which I address myself is language. With Gqoba’s work developed in isiXhosa, and with the racist logics of knowledge production privileging English and Afrikaans in our context, I demonstrate how this move – that denies the existence of substantive thought developed by Indigenous peoples – is itself rooted in the arrogance of whiteness, that styles itself as the inventor of decolonisation. My claim, while strong, is substantiated by the reality that would have us believe that decolonisation—and its definition—is unknown and unknowable. Resultantly, I set myself a two-pronged task in this talk. The first, is to demonstrate how Biko was not the first person to consider the question of Black liberation and write about it. I do this through a comparative reading of Biko’s I Write What I Like against Gqoba’s epic poem (Ingxoxo Enkulu Ngemfundo), in order to showcase the ancestry of Biko’s intellectual thought. Secondarily, I reveal the racist foundations that substantiate the claim that decolonisation is unknowable. My contention thus, lies in showcasing how this claim plays directly into the metaphorization of decolonisation, in order to secure white settler futurity through the appropriation of intellectual traditions such as decoloniality. Such a project demonstrates the contribution made by the Black Archive, when analysed systematically, not only to the South African academe — but internationally.  This suggests the capacity to reimagine disciplinary constitutions from the vantage point of Indigenous peoples, delivering on the aims of decolonisation. Biography for Siseko Kumalo: Siseko is the editor of the forthcoming volume entitled Decolonisation as Democratisation: Global Insights into the South African Experience (HSRC Press) and co-editor of Decolonising Curricula and Pedagogy in Higher Education:  Bringing Decolonial Theory into Contact with Teaching Practice, a book that will be published by Routledge and comes from the recently co-guest edited special issue of Third World Thematics entitled ‘Decolonising Curricula and Pedagogy in Higher Education’. His most recent publications include Justice through Higher Education: Revisiting the White Paper 3 of 1997, published with Higher Education Quarterly, and Resurrecting the Black Archive through the Decolonisation of Philosophy in South Africa, published with Third World Thematics and Curriculating from the Black Archive — Marginality as Novelty that appears with Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning. He serves on the Editorial Collective of Stilet, the Tydskrif vir Letterkunde Association as well as the Literary Association of South Africa’s Executive Committee. Siseko is a Mandela Rhodes Scholar (2017).

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