AA 2014 Volume 46 Issue 4

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  • ItemOpen Access
    Ubuntu between tradition and modernity: on A report on Ubuntu by Leonard Praeg
    (University of the Free State, 2014) Rossouw, Johann
    In Part 1, I overview Praeg’s points of departure, namely critical humanism, the openness of the norms of justice, the importance of potential, his conception of modernity, a violent ontology, and the state as locus of politics. The remainder of Part 1 concerns the main arguments of his five chapters. These are the shifting meaning of Ubuntu in precolonial, colonial and postcolonial Africa; Nyerere’s ujamaa experiment in Tanzania as a case study of the dangers inherent in ignoring the colonial disruption Ubuntu; the myth of the complete break with the past allegedly represented by post-apartheid South Africa, and how the latter is haunted by Ubuntu, and Praeg’s concluding link between text worker or construction worker and Ubuntu. In part 2, I critically discuss Praeg’s account of modernity and his dualistic distinction between South African Africans and Afrikaners that need to be set aside to decolonise South Africa.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Refugees and social theory: from the politics of “bare life” to refugees as political subjects
    (University of the Free State, 2014) Williams, Christian
    This article explores theoretical literature on refugees, noting a significant distinction between an abstract body of work critiquing the politics of humanitarianism and an ethnographic literature focused on refugee subjects. As I argue, refugees should be seen not simply as “bare life” which has been removed from political life, but rather as political subjects whose subjectivities are shaped by the social environments in which they live. To illustrate this point, I draw on Liisa Malkki’s Purity and exile and my own work on exile camps administered by the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) during Namibia’s liberation struggle. Collectively, this and other ethnographic literature highlight limits to social theory which works with highly abstract notions of “the refugee” and suggests that more significant scholarly interventions are now to be made through carefully contextualised work, tracing political subjectivities, in particular refugee communities, and how these subjectivities have been abstracted.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Liberating human rights? Insights from Abdullahi An-Na’im for present day South Africa
    (University of the Free State, 2014) Palm, Selina
    This article highlights the ‘paradox’ of human rights discourse in our contemporary world, showing that it is increasingly framed as both a liberating tool and an oppressive hegemonic ideology of the West. It draws on the South African context to suggest that this country’s own ambiguous experiences, successes and challenges with human rights require a deeper acknowledgement of this paradox in our current times as a starting point. The Sudanese legal scholar Abdullahi An-Na’im offers a mediating way beyond these binary idolisations or denunciations of human rights with three specific strategies recommended in the practical pursuit of a grassroots human rights culture. His call for the active engagement of religious and cultural resources as essential assets for more effective contemporary practice of human rights offer a unique contribution that can help human rights concretise their ‘liberating promise’. These strategies are then appropriated for South Africa in its unfinished and urgent task of developing a human rights culture from below.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Refractions: social theory, human rights and philosophy
    (University of the Free State, 2014) Keet, André
    This speculative article endeavours to highlight the polemics and disputations of knowledge transformation, while simultaneously demonstrating the productive possibilities of such disputations via three examples of refractions. The latter are generated within the crises and critiques of the discourses within which Social Theory, Human Rights and Philosophy are located. They are further cultivated and sharpened by the interplays between these discourses, suggesting the possibility of self-transforming knowledge constellations. The article concludes that the political import of refractions allows the prospects of just social practices to come sharper into view.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Philosophy born of massacres. Marikana, the theatre of cruelty: The killing of the ‘kaffir’
    (University of the Free State, 2014) Maart, Rozena
    This article probes the possibility of the reasons of reason by interrogating the deconstruction of the subject – the Black man subject as policeman, and the Black man subject as miner – upon the grounds set out by the killing of miners at Marikana. The South African press referred to the events of 16 August 2012 as “The Marikana massacre” and reported that not since the Sharpeville massacre of 1960 had such force and brutality been witnessed. Guided by the murder tactics handed over by White policemen, the Black policemen shot Black men,2 one after the other, for no reas on other than to assert the authority of the right to kill when wearing a South African police uniform. I call the resulting massacre a theatre of cruelty, which informs my point of departure for a philosophy born of massacres. This article addresses the salient features of what marks this relationship between the Black man who considers himself a product of postmodernity and post-apartheid, and the Black man who considers himself the miner.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Human rights discourse: friend or foe of African women’s sexual freedoms?
    (University of the Free State, 2014) Du Toit, Louise
    From an overview of the current state of the global debate on human rights, the need to strike a balance between the transcendent and immanent dimensions of such rights claims is distilled as an important guideline. The implications of such a balance are spelled out in a list of seven principles that should guide the activation of human rights claims in any context. In the second section of the article this general framework is brought to bear on the serious issue of sexual violence against women in the South African postcolony. I argue that at least one of the reasons for the fundamental un-freedom of women in contemporary South Africa is the clash between two dominant, but opposing frameworks that tend to quash the radical potential that a claim to the fundamental right to bodily integrity holds for women. Strategically, it is vitally important that human rights activism be used to bolster this cause in the South African context. This should, however, be done very consciously and explicitly with the various dangers for perversion and co-optation, as spelled out in this article, firmly in mind. Ideally, feminist thinkers and activists should forge solidarity around a critical, transcendent claim to bodily bolstered integrity as strongly as possible by indigenous traditions of women’s resistance to oppression and exploitation. Such a claim should be mobilised for an internal critique of the master narrative of South African liberation. Such a stance will resist and refuse both dominant frameworks that collaborate – despite their overt mutual opposition – to portray African tradition and identity as irredeemably patriarchal.
  • ItemOpen Access
    A critical engagement with the social and political consequences of human rights: the contribution of the affective turn and posthumanism
    (University of the Free State, 2014) Zembylas, Michalinos; Bozalek, Vivienne
    Responding to human rights critiques, this article draws on some of the literature in the affective turn and posthumanism to critique the liberal framework as well as the moral superiority of humanism on which the human rights regime has been built. Both the affective turn and posthumanism – although not monolithic – are based on two important premises that favour an agonistic account of rights: the first is that human beings are regarded in social and relational rather than in atomistic terms or as individuals without connections. Secondly, a reading of human rights through perspectives of the affective turn and posthumanism highlights a critical posthumanist engagement with human rights, conducted in the name of an unfinished and ambiguous humanity connected to other sentient beings and the environment, rather than a singular or absolute political identity of humanity. This reading recognises the social, economic and political consequences of human rights and thus their potential to upset the dominant social, economic and political order, rather than accepting human rights as universal norms of social life while ignoring the ideological frame in which they are exercised.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Social theory, human rights and philosophy
    (University of the Free State, 2014)
    Abstract not available