Decolonising ‘Decolonisation’ With Mphahlele

Es’kia Mphahlele – Ills.: unisa.ac.sa

Es’kia Mphahlele was a writer, activist, organiser and teacher committed to the view that ‘Afrikan humanness’ is the real key to our freedom.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of Es’kia Mphahlele’s death.

Mphahlele (1919-2008) was a writer of fiction, a journalist, a cultural activist, an organiser and, above all, a teacher. The main aim of his fiction and non-fiction work was dealing with what he characterised as the “first exile” – from home culture and ways of understanding the world – from which victims of colonisation suffered. Mphahlele argued that colonised people should begin by overcoming “first exile” if they are to develop decolonising theories and practices. In an era in which the decolonisation of politics and knowledge has captured the imagination of many people, we would do well to recall Mphahlele’s work.

The focus on “first exile” is important because the ultimate aim of colonisation is to separate colonised people from their sources of economic autonomy, ways of understanding the world, and, ultimately, from themselves. The primary “spiritual striving” of victims of colonisation, not just colonialism, is a striving against what the great African-American intellectual WEB du Bois called double consciousness. Similar ideas were developed closer to home. Writing in the 1940s, HIE Dhlomo explained that successfully colonised individuals are ‘neither-nor’ characters who “are neither wholly African nor fully Europeanised”. Dhlomo showed that the double consciousness of these characters was evident in their use of “European measuring rods for success, culture, goodness, greatness”.

In a settler colonial context, the work of colonisation would be achieved when leaders of the colonised people calibrate their demands to Western-style multiparty democracy, civil rights and, therefore, the integration of the elite layer of the colonised people into the historically white world. In such a context, the world and privileges of the settler minority are legitimised and guaranteed, while ‘uncivilised’ people, the majority of the population, continue to exist on the underside of the new society.

When the ‘decolonial’ is fundamentally shaped by the colonial
But not all projects of self-determination take the lived experiences and ideas of this majority seriously. Some are attached to colonialist ideas or obsessed with whiteness, leading to ‘radical’ projects that recenter what they aim to challenge.

In the first case, seemingly decolonial projects repeat colonialist ideas about the inherent differences between black and white; the uniqueness of ‘black culture’ and its supposedly essential traits; and the need to retrieve ‘native’ discourses; forgetting that ‘the native’ comes into being only when the settler arrives and that ‘native’ discourse is constituted by what Congolese philosopher VY Mudimbe calls the “colonial library” – colonial experts of various kinds.

In the second case, the black radical’s ‘colonial mentality’ manifests in projects whose main aim is to shame historical colonisers by constantly repeating anti-black discourses that the black man is not human and cannot coexist with humanity. This trend can be seen in certain strands of Afro-pessimism.

The important point here is that decolonisation often needs to be decolonised itself. In South Africa, no other thinker grappled with this dilemma more than Mphahlele. Read more

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The Life And Times Of Es’kia Mphahlele

A wonderful documentary about one of South Africa’s greatest authors, Es’kia Mphahlele, who was one of the first writers to leave for exile in the 1950s and write about apartheid as it was unfolding in South Africa. His novel “Down Second Avenue” became an international sensation and was based on his personal struggles of being raised in poverty, getting an education and leaving the country. Es’kia eventually returned to South Africa in August 1977, during a tumultuous period one year after the June 16, 1976 Soweto riots and less than a month before the death of Steve Bantu Biko. Despite opposition from the South African government, he was offered a position at the University of Witwatersrand and he became an influential cultural leader, revered for his ideas on education and African Humanism.

Part 2 of a wonderful documentary about one of South Africa’s greatest authors, Es’kia Mphahlele, who was one of the first writers to leave for exile in the 1950s and write about apartheid as it was unfolding in South Africa. His novel “Down Second Avenue” became an international sensation and was based on his personal struggles of being raised in poverty, getting an education and leaving the country. Es’kia eventually returned to South Africa in August 1977, during a tumultuous period one year after the June 16, 1976 Soweto riots and less than a month before the death of Steve Bantu Biko. Despite opposition from the South African government, he was offered a position at the University of Witwatersrand and he became an influential cultural leader, revered for his ideas on education and African Humanism.

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Polycracy As An A-System Of Rule? Displacements And Replacements Of The Political In An Unbounded Dictatorship

Abstract

The concept of polycracy is beset by a number of paradoxes: it designates a form of political rule in the absence of such rule. In such circumstances, a
multiplicity of social formations, economic and financial agencies and operational functions install themselves anomically at local level and extend independently of and beyond policy and legislation. In doing so, they split and supplant frameworks of the state and of political and societal institutions. This article sets out to trace the lineages of the concept of polycracy and its instantiations in a system of rule that involves a process of political de-structuring. More specifically, the question explored here is what takes place in the destroyed political space and what takes its place in the unbounded state of the Nazi dictatorship.

Keywords: polycracy; National Socialist totalitarianism; Nazi regime; party–state relationship; occupying regime; Weimar Republic; quantitatively total state

Introduction
Even with historical hindsight, the phenomenon termed “totalitarianism” presents a number of conundrums. To start off with, it resists definition. To describe it as a “system of rule” risks contradiction (see Kershaw 1999, 222), because “a-systematicity” is its most pertinent characteristic. As a particular type of modern dictatorship, it has invited comparisons, yet such comparisons remain limited and general (considering e.g. the limited comparability of the National Socialist regime in Germany and the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union—see Kershaw 1999). The process of political disintegration described by it is bound to leave the concept under-theorised (see Kershaw 1991, 98) and possibly even to impress itself on the theorist as incomprehensible (see Arendt [1951] 1994, viii), both conceptually and politically. In this article, we propose to put one of the elements specifying “totalitarianism” to the test: Can “polycracy” provide a specifying criterion for the definition of “totalitarianism”? If so, how would it have to be conceptualised in order to be able to account for the simultaneous diffraction and concentration of structures and agencies that reconfigure governance for conditions of geopolitical expansion, invasion, annexation and occupation; total mobilisation for war; and population relocations, forced labour and genocide?

The term “polycracy”, as Walther Hofer points out, is of recent coinage. It designates social and political processes unlike those described by any of the classical theories of political organisation (Hofer 1986, 249; see also Arendt [1951] 1994, 461; also Schmitt 2000, 66) or system or type of rule.

Writing in the aftermath of war and genocide in the late 1940s, Hannah Arendt ventures this description: “We always suspected, but we now know that the [National Socialist] regime was never ‘monolithic’ but ‘consciously constructed around overlapping, duplicating, and parallel functions’ …” (Arendt [1951] 1994, xxxii–xxxiii; also 404 fn. 8).

What she pinpoints here had, in fact, been articulated by Carl Schmitt even before the Second World War in his prescient analyses of the Nazi dictatorship (1933) and by Ernst Fraenkel and Franz Neumann during the course of the War and in its immediate aftermath. The multi-levelled dynamic functioning of the Nazi regime became the subject of further investigation in the 1960s and 70s, first by Klaus Hildebrand, Karl Bracher and Peter Hüttenberger and later by Ian Kershaw. Even as they differed in the details of their analysis, all of these historians and political theorists either explicitly or implicitly returned to Johannes Popitz’s concept of “polycracy”, coined in the late 1920s to take account of the decline of the German state during the late Weimar period.

“Polycracy”—A conceptual–political history
Popitz held on to a substantive universal idea of the state against its devolution and dissolution into concrete orders and functions. In his positions in the Finance Ministry in the latter half of the 1920s, he was intent on clearing up Weimar’s “administrative confusions” (see Kennedy 2004, 147; also Schmitt 2000, 62 fn. 4) and on restoring the authority of a centralised state.

Carl Schmitt’s conversations with Johannes Popitz (the friendship with whom Schmitt only reluctantly admitted to) trace the decline of the state in the Weimar Republic with its proliferation of special interests, political parties and particularist movements. Popitz views this process as the replacement of “the state as the source of order and the locus of authoritative decisions … by the notion of ‘free competition’ and ‘the self-organisation of society’” (see Kennedy 2004, 33). This defines Popitz’s notion of polycracy. “Pressures from within the private sector and the party politics of the Reichstag had created,” he argued in 1927, “a ‘polycratic’ system that displaced parliamentary democratic will formation” (Kennedy 2004, 147). What these “diverse forms of economic organisations and public/private partnerships” had in common was the “fact that they retained a degree of independence from the state” while assuming responsibility for “important public functions” (Kennedy 2004, 142 fn. 3). Read more

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Philip Roth ~ The Plot Against America

About The Plot Against America
Set in Newark, New Jersey, in the early 1940s, The Plot Against America tells the story of what it was like for the Roth family and Jews across the country when the isolationist aviation hero Charles Lindbergh was elected president of the United States. Roth’s richly imagined novel begins in 1940, with the landslide election of Lindbergh, who blamed the Jews for pushing America toward war with Nazi Germany. Lindbergh’s admiration of Hitler and his openly anti-Semitic speeches cause increasing turmoil in the Roth household, and in nine-year-old Philip, as political events at home and abroad overtake their daily lives. Alvin, the orphaned nephew the family has taken in, runs away to Canada to fight the Nazis. Sandy, Philip’s older brother, ascribes his parents’ fears to paranoia and embraces Lindbergh’s Just Folks program, which sends him and other Jewish children to live in the “heartland” for a summer. Philip’s mother, Bess, wants the family to flee to Canada before it is too late to escape. But his fiercely idealistic father, Herman, refuses to abandon the country where he was born and raised as an American. Overwhelmed by the tensions around him, Philip tries to run away. “I wanted nothing to do with history,” he says. “I wanted to be a boy on the smallest scale possible. I wanted to be an orphan.” But history will not let go, and as America is whipped into a deadly frenzy by demagogues, the Roths and Jews everywhere begin to expect the worst. In The Plot Against America Philip Roth writes with a historical sweep and lyrical intimacy that have rarely been so skillfully combined. As the novel explores the convulsive collision of history and family, readers take a chilling look at devastating events that could have occurred in America–and consider the many possible histories existing beneath the one that actually happened.

About Philip Roth
In 1997 Philip Roth won the Pulitzer Prize for American Pastoral. In 1998 he received the National Medal of Arts at the White House, and in 2002 received the highest award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal in Fiction, previously awarded to John Dos Passos, William Faulkner, and Saul Bellow, among others. He has twice won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2005 Philip Roth has become the third living American writer to have his work published in a comprehensive, definitive edition by the Library of America.

Source: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/

The Plot Against America – PDF-format: https://m.reddit.com/theplotagainstamericabyphiliproth/

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Chomsky: COVID-19 Has Exposed The US Under Trump As A “Failed State”

Noam Chomsky

The label “failed state” has started to fit the U.S. like a glove as the COVID-19 national health crisis continues to reveal the structural flaws and weaknesses of the United States, argues worldrenowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky in this exclusive interview for Truthout. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to exact a high price in human lives due to its caricaturish but highly dangerousresponse to the crisis. In the interview that follows, Chomsky also analyzes what’s behind Trump’s encouragement of the “anti-lockdown” protests, discusses the right-wing determination to destroy the U.S.Postal Service, and lays out his views on the electorallesser of two evils” principle.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, it is widely accepted by now that the U.S. coronavirus response not only was delayed, but remains mired in contradictions as Trump battles with scientists over policy. Moreover, the country as a whole was shown to be completely unprepared for a major health crisis. Are we talking here not simply of an incompetent administration but also of a failed state?

Noam Chomsky: Fifteen years ago, I wrote a book called Failed States, a common locution in the day, referring to states that are incapable of meeting the needs of citizens, in the most important case because of deep policy choices, and are a danger not only to their own citizens but the world. The prime example was the United States. Extensive evidence was reviewed. That’s not of course the intended use of the phrase in the doctrinal system, just as “rogue state” means some enemy, not ourselves, the prime example.

I still stand by that judgment, which was not mine alone. A few years later, a Gallup/WIN international poll found that the U.S. is regarded as the greatest threat to world peace, no one else even close. And the severe threats of government policy to the domestic population, already quite apparent when the book appeared, became much clearer a year later when the housing bubble burst and the financial crisis ensued — along with Obama’s response: bail out the perpetrators, who became richer and more powerful than before, and forget about the congressional legislation that called for some help to the many who had lost their homes in corporate scams facilitated by the Clinton-Rubin-Summers deregulation extravaganza, extending the neoliberal assault on the population that took off under Reagan.

That’s a large part of the background for what finally brought us the Trump malignancy — which may, quite literally, doom human society on Earth. We’ve discussed elsewhere why this is no exaggeration. I hope that the basic facts and their dread import are well understood, and won’t review them here.

Trump has indeed hit America with a hammer blow — and much of the world as well, a matter we should not overlook. Just keeping to the current COVID-19 crisis, it is remarkable to see how little attention has been given to his sadistic assault against poor and suffering people around the world in pursuit of his goal of enhancing his electoral prospects.

There has been some attention to his extending his vicious attacks against refugees fleeing from misery and oppression, appealing to a deluded voter base that has been led to believe that refugees are the source of their suffering under the programs to which Trump is passionately committed.

But there is hardly a word about his attack against poor people in Africa, where unknown numbers will die thanks to his defunding of the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been protecting them from a wide range of diseases, now this new plague. Or about Palestinians in the occupied territories, victims of Israel’s racist contempt for their health and other basic needs, amplified by Trump’s defunding of their meager health, educational and support systems generally because — as he explained — they weren’t treating him with enough respect while he’s smashing them in the face.

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Walking Stories

Cover 'Walking Stories'Lisa, a fragile Indonesian woman, walked along the paths of Saint Anthony’s park. Saint Anthony is a mental hospital. Lisa was dressed in red, yellow and blue; I was looking at a painting of Mondriaan, of which the colours could cheer someone up on a grey Dutch day. She had put on all her clothes and she carried the rest of her belongings in a grey garbagebag. She looked like she was being hunted, mumbling formulas to avert the evil or the devils. I could not understand her words, but she repeated them with the rustling of her garbage bag on the pebbles of the path.

When she arrived at an intersection of two paths where low rose hips were blossoming, she stopped and went into the bushes. She lifted all her skirts and urinated; standing as a colourful flower amidst the green of the bushes and staring into the sky. A passer-by from the village where Saint Anthony’s has its headquarters would probably have pretended not to see her, knowing that Lisa was one of the ‘chronic mental patients’ of the wards. Or, urinating so openly in the park may be experienced as a ‘situational improperty’, but as many villagers told me: ‘They do odd things, but they cannot help it.’ The passer-by would not have known that Lisa was a ‘walking story’, that she had ritualised her walks in order to control the powers that lie beyond her control. Lisa was diagnosed with ‘schizophrenia’ and she suffered from delusions. When she had an acute psychosis, she needed medication to relieve her anxiety. Her personal story was considered as a symptom of her illness. That was, in a nutshell, the story of the psychiatrists of the mental hospital. Her own story was different. Lisa was the queen of the Indies and she had to have offspring to ensure that her dynasty would be preserved. She believed at that day that she was pregnant and that the magicians would come and would take away her unborn baby with a needle. To prevent the abortion, she had to take refuge in the park and carry all her belongings with her.

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Analysis Of Logical Fallacies In Debates Regarding Gender Issues In The 16th Lok Sabha

Abstract
The 543 members of the Lok Sabha are supposed to replicate the voice of 133 crore Indians. The unparalleled importance of the Lok Sabha makes it important for us to scrutinize the nature and form of arguments presented in it. This paper uses the concept of logical fallacies to do the same. It picks up the debates on four different bills, spread across five days of Lok Sabha sittings. The debates on the chosen bills – the Maternity benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2018, the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2018 and the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill 2014, mark out the most important Lok Sabha discussions on gender and gender related issues in the first five years of Sri Narendra Modi’s Prime Ministership. The paper points out the logical fallacies committed in them, tries to understand why they were committed and explores what those fallacious arguments indicate with regard to the beliefs and ideologies of the parliamentarians. It shows how the chains of logic in the representatives’ arguments break down as a result of their preconceived notions and biases, lack of information and most importantly- deep seated patriarchy.

Key Words: logical fallacy, gender, parliament, debate, women, transgenders, society

Introduction
During discussions on bills, members speak for a bill, against a bill, or a take a position which is somewhere in between the two. Whichever the case, the members attempt to justify their positions using arguments. These arguments mostly contain valid reasonings or follow a proper logical chain where the premises lead to the conclusions. Sometimes however, the arguments are invalid- the premises in them might not logically lead to the conclusions, they might involve improper assumptions, or they might try to divert the attention from the point of concern. When there are such problems in the reasoning in an argument, the argument is called logically fallacious. Work in the field of pointing of out logically fallacious arguments and classifying them started with Aristotle [i] , and the field has expanded and developed since. “A fallacious argument, as almost every account from Aristotle onwards tells you, is one that seems to be valid but is not so” (Hamblin 1970: 12). In these arguments, the premises don’t lead to the conclusions and there is a mistake in reasoning (Copi, et. al. 2014: 109-110). These arguments have been classified into types considering their individual natures and scopes [ii]. A most common type for example, often found in political arguments is the Ad Hominem fallacy . Here the argument is aimed against the people holding the differing opinion and not the opinion in itself, although “the character of an adversary is logically irrelevant to the truth or falsity of what that person asserts, or to the correctness of the reasoning employed” (Cohen and Nagel 1998: 107).

It is mostly manifested in the form of personal attacks, or as it is called in the political arena-‘mudslinging’. Parliamentarian Shri Tathagata Satpathy for example, in the debate on the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2016, dated 9th March 2017 says, “We have been kind of overburdened, bored and sick of this Government just throwing these economy-related Bills on the House and on all of us: the torture of making business easy for a few handful people, who will make money to be paid to political parties, and we are bearing the brunt of passing all those laws which will help a handful of Indians, not the large number of Indians” (130). Regardless of the truth or falsity of his claims, the kind of economic policies pursued by the government has no bearing on the merits/demerits of the bill at hand. The parliamentarian, by saying the above is trying to discredit the character of the supporters of the bill but provides no arguments for or against the bill in itself. Again, during the debate on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill 2018 dated 30 July 2018, Professor Saugata Roy said, “I thought for one day, whether what they were saying is right, whether we are proving ourselves to be blood thirsty, thirsty by asking for death penalty for rapists. Then, my conscience told me, no. Those who rape children of 16 or 12 years, do not deserve any mercy. Let them die, if it is proved. That is why, I support this bill. This is not being blood thirsty. This is being just” (244). There might be good enough reasons for supporting capital punishment for serious crimes but here Prof. Roy relies solely on his feelings and what he thinks his ‘conscience’ told him. Such arguments appeal to the hearer’s emotions more than their reasoning, and commit the fallacy called ‘appeal to emotion’ (Wrisley 2018: 98-101). While emotions might be important parts of arguments, an argument solely resting on the waves of emotions and lacking any concrete base of logical reasoning is deemed to be fallacious.
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Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy

Welcome to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), which as of March 2018, has nearly 1600 entries online. From its inception, the SEP was designed so that each entry is maintained and kept up-to-date by an expert or group of experts in the field. All entries and substantive updates are refereed by the members of a distinguished Editorial Board before they are made public. Consequently, our dynamic reference work maintains academic standards while evolving and adapting in response to new research. You can cite fixed editions that are created on a quarterly basis and stored in our Archives (every entry contains a link to its complete archival history, identifying the fixed edition the reader should cite). The Table of Contents lists entries that are published or assigned. The Projected Table of Contents also lists entries which are currently unassigned but nevertheless projected.

Go to: https://plato.stanford.edu/about.html

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The Abuse Of The Right To Sexual And Reproductive Health In Nigeria: The Way Out

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Somewhere in Osun State, Nifemi, a three-year old baby, has been put under the knife for her clitoris to be cut off. Somewhere in Zamfara, thirteen-year-old Aisha has been betrothed to a 65-year-old Alhaji. Somewhere in Lekki, ten-year-old Ayoola is being sexually abused by his uncle. Somewhere in Zamfara, new mother, Aisha, just drew her last breath after bleeding profusely due to the negligence of the medical practitioners that handled her childbirth. Each of these people are victims of the failed healthcare system which Nigerians are constantly being subjected to. For a long period of time, the issue of the abuse of the right to sexual and reproductive healthcare in Nigeria has been ignored like a slowly growing pimple. However, the previous pimple has now developed into an unavoidable boil ridden with pus and blood. Much to the chagrin of the powers that be, the ripple effects of the poor handling of sexual and reproductive health in Nigeria, can no longer be swept under the carpet.

The World Health Organisation defines reproductive health as: “A complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity in all matters related the reproductive system, its functions and its processes” [1]. The right to sexual and reproductive health has slowly garnered recognition over the past five decades. From the World Population Conferences in Rome and Belgrade held at 1958 and 1965 respectively [2], to the Beijing Conference of 1995 [3]; reproductive and sexual health has constantly been reaffirmed as a sine qua non in the lives of both men and women. In Nigeria, several Acts, and policies alike, have been enacted in order to guarantee this right to every Nigerian. They include, amongst others: The HIV(Anti-Discrimination) Act, 2013; the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, 2015; and the National Strategic Framework for the Elimination of Obstetric Fistula in Nigeria (2019-2023) [4].
However, the Nigerian situation seemingly sings a different tune. In spite of the existing legal framework, there have been numerous cases bordering on the flagrant abuse of the right to reproductive and sexual health in Nigeria- ranging from child marriage to sexual violence.

Currently, Nigeria has the highest number of child brides in Africa [5]. Over 20% of global maternal deaths occur in Nigeria with a staggering 600,000 maternal deaths enumerated from 2005-2015 [6]. In the same vein, over 25 percent of Nigerian women have been circumcised, with Osun State hosting the highest prevalence rate of 77 percent [7]. Each of these violations have negative effects on victims, hence, the global attention which the right to reproductive and sexual health has attracted. For example, there has been no report on the health benefits triggered by Female Genital Mutilation; however, numerous studies and research works have reported the harmful effects of female genital mutilation which could range from immediate complications which include: shock, haemorrhage and genital tissue swelling; to long-term complications which include: pain during sexual intercourse, urinary tract infections and menstrual problems [8].
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