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Read an excerpt from Michael Neocosmos's Thinking Freedom in Africa

Thinking Freedom in Africa The Mail & Guardian has shared an excerpt from Thinking Freedom in Africa: Toward a theory of emancipatory politics by Michael Neocosmos.

The book, published by Wits University Press and the recipient of the 2017 Frantz Fanon Outstanding Book Award, explores the politics of emancipation via the study of the global history of African peoples’ struggles for liberation.

The excerpt reads:

How are we to begin to think about emancipation in Africa today after the collapse of the Marxist, the Third World nationalist and the neoliberal visions of freedom?

How are we to conceptualise an emancipatory future governed by a fidelity to the idea of a universal humanity in a context where humanity no longer features in our ambit of thought and when previous ways of thinking emancipation have become obsolete?

In the formulation made famous by Frantz Fanon on the last page of The Wretched of the Earth, how are we to “work out new concepts” for a new humanism?

Thinking Freedom in Africa: Toward a Theory of Emancipatory Politics seeks answers to these questions in the light of what has become apparent, namely the absence of a thought of politics in all three of these conceptions of universal history today.

You can read the coverage of the launch of Thinking Freedom in Africa here.
 
 

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Book launch: Tribing and Untribing the Archive: Volumes 1 and 2

University of KwaZulu-Natal Press and the Public Affairs Research Institute invite you to the launch of Tribing and Untribing the Archive: volumes one and two. Both volumes will be sold as a single set during the launch.

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Thinking Freedom in Africa "acutely in time" says Richard Pithouse at launch of Michael Neocosmos's latest book

Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) hosted the launch of author and academic Michael Neocosmos’s most recent book, Thinking Freedom in Africa on Wednesday the 15th of March.

Political theorist and public intellectual Achille Mbembe and academic Richard Pithouse joined Neocosmos in the discussion on Thinking Freedom in Africa, published by Wits University Press, and the recipient of the 2017 Frantz Fanon Outstanding Book Award.

Neocosmos’s book explores the politics of emancipation via the study of the global history of African peoples’ struggles for liberation; Neocosmos asserted that the “way to emancipation is not achievable via identity theories or the returning of state power.”

He added that it is inexcusable to treat humans as inhumane and that emancipation can only truly occur once we – as a people – recognise this and put it into practice.

“Big words like freedom, justice and equality are necessary when discussing emancipation,” Neocosmos stressed, adding that a capitalist society is to our detriment regarding the pursuit of emancipation, describing the wealth discrepancies in Africa as “obscene.”

Nearing the end of the discussion, Neocosmos echoed this conviction by asking whether it is possible for capitalism to exist within the absence of racism and injustice.

Pithouse commented that Thinking Freedom in Africa is “acutely in time”, as it is necessary to both think about emancipation and to bring struggle into theory. That Neocosmos is “trying to take the lived experiences of Africans seriously” adds to the timeliness of the book.

Mbembe pronounced Thinking Freedom in Africa as “probably the most important book to be published in South Africa over the past 10 years,” as it “forces us to think and to de-exceptionalise the South African experience.

“It stretches far beyond South Africa as such,” Mbembe deliberated.

In addition to this comment, Mbembe questioned the destruction of oppression, asking what we’re going to replace opposition with once we’ve destroyed it.

Mbembe stated that the ‘struggle’ for emancipation causes a conflation of knowledge and experience, asking whether “liberation consists of making my oppressor feel the way I do?”

Unity has not yet been achieved in politics and that unity cannot be achieved until we have asked – and answered – the question of who “we” are, Neocosmos concluded. How we construct and contain that “we” is fundamental in the pursuit of emancipation.

The discussion came to an end when a Wits academic received a note which he humourously proclaimed was “given to me by the politburo” announcing that “more drinks have arrived.”

The audience left in both a cheerful and contemplative mood…

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From Protest to Challenge: Vol VI commemorates 108 years of African activism

From Protest to Challenge profiles over 600 individual activists who played important political roles during the century before the abolition of apartheid in 1990. Among those included are John Dube, Clements Kadalie, Albert Luthuli, Steve Biko, Beyers Naudé and Joe Slovo, as well as Ellen Kuzwayo, Jay Naidoo, Robert McBride, P.K. Leballo and Patricia de Lille. This is the fourth volume in the From Protest to Challenge series.

From Protest to Challenge

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  • From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1990 by Thomas G Karis, Gwendolen Carter
    EAN: 9781770098831
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

SA academics receive local and international recognition for book on the current state of affairs in SA's tertiary sector

Rhodes University academics Sally Matthews and Pedro Tabensky have been shortlisted for an NIHHS award in the Category: Best Non-Fiction edited book for their book Being at Home.

Being at Home creates a dialogue about some of the most pressing issues higher education institutions in South Africa are currently facing – race, transformation and institutional culture. While there are many reasons to be despondent about the current state of affairs in the South African tertiary sector, this collection is intended as an invitation for the reader to see these problems as opportunities for rethinking the very idea of what it is to be a university in contemporary South Africa. It is also, more generally, an invitation for us to think about what it is that the intellectual project should ultimately be about, and to question certain prevalent trends that affect – or, perhaps, infect – the current global academic system. Being at Home will be of interest to all those who are concerned about the state of the contemporary university, both in South Africa and beyond.

This same book also received recognition in the United States; Choice magazine selected it as an “Outstanding Academic Title”. The magazine lists the books that are OATs (Outstanding Academic Titles) in their January edition of CHOICE Magazine. This year Choice selected 494 out of the 5 400 titles they reviewed in 2016.

Being at Home

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Tribing and Untribing the Archive explores the intricate relationship between tribe and tradition

The pernicious combination of tribe and tradition continues to tether modern South Africans to ideas about the region’s remote past as primitive, timeless and unchanging. Any hunger for knowledge or understanding of the past before European colonialism thus remains to a significant degree unsated, even denied, in the face of a narrowly prescribed archive and repugnant, but insidiously resilient, stereotypes.

These volumes track how the domain of the tribal and traditional was marked out and came to be sharply distinguished from modernity, how it was denied a changing history and an archive and was endowed instead with a timeless culture.

The volumes also offer strategies for engaging with the archival materials differently – from the interventions effected in contemporary artworks to the inserting of nameless, timeless objects of material culture into histories of individualised and politicised experience.

The central proposition of the volumes is to make the marooned archive of material culture more visible and more available for consideration as an archival resource than it is currently. They also seek to spring the identity trap, releasing the material from pre-assigned identity positions as tribal into settings that enable them to be used as resources for thinking critically about identity in the long past and in the present.

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