Pretoria University Law Press (PULP)

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What is Africanness? Contesting nativism in race, culture and sexualities
by Charles Ngwena
2018
ISBN: 978-1-920538-82-8
Pages: 306
Print version: Available
Electronic version: Free PDF available

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About the publication

What is Africanness: Contesting nativism in culture, race and sexualities, by Charles Ngwena, Professor of Law at the Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria, is a peer-reviewed monograph aiming to contribute to the ongoing scholarly conversation in and beyond South Africa about who is African and what is African. It aims to implicate a reductive sameness in the naming of Africans (‘nativism’) by showing its teleology and effects; and offers an alternative understanding of how Africans can be named or can name themselves.

The book develops an epistemology for constructing the hermeneutics of Africanness today, long after the primal colonial moment and its debasing racialising ideology. It interrogates the making of Africa in colonial discourses and the making of an African race and African culture(s) and sexuality(ies) in ways that are not just historically conscious but also have a heuristic capacity to contest nativism from the outside as well as from within. The arguments in this book go beyond problematising African identity by addressing an existential gap in theory for explicating African social identity. The book develops an interpretive method – a hermeneutics – for locating and deciphering African identifications in ways that are historically conscious and conjunctural. The hermeneutics look to the present and the future in addition to the past, so that African identifications are not nailed to a mast but remain invested with mobility and the capacity to mutate radically and make new and unexpected beginnings.

Comments

Charles Ngwena’s timely and original book is a wonderful read, rich in theory and insight, and an essential companion for those interested in exploring the ‘multiplicity of histories, cultures and subjectivities’ that constitute the diversity of ‘Africanness’ and African identities.
– Professor Cathi Albertyn, School of Law, University of the Witwatersrand, Editor, South African Journal on Human Rights

This is a brilliant exploration of liberating and affirming ways to speak of African identities and sexualities, reminding us there can be creative beauty where pain and dispossession have resided.
– Rudo Chigudu, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria

This is a masterpiece! Not only does the author capture the discourse and debates on “Africanness”, he aptly examines them before offering his views on “decentring the race of Africanness” with the important recognition of “Africa as land of diverse identifications”.
– Prof Serges Djoyou Kamga, Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute, UNISA


Table of Contents

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
PREFACE
DEDICATION

PART 1: BACKGROUND TO THE HERMENEUTICS OF HETEROGENOUS AFRICANNESS

1. INTRODUCING THE ‘MANYNESS’ OF AFRICANNESS
1 Introduction
2 Nativism
2.1 Theocratic vision
2.2 Logic of identity
3 Reformulating African identity: Overcoming status subordination and achieving inclusive equality
4 Scope and structure of the book: A broad triangulation of race, culture and sexualities
4.1 Part 1: Background to the hermeneutics of heterogeneous Africanness
4.2 Part 2: Africanness, race and culture
4.3 Part 3: Heterogeneous sexualities


2. HERMENEUTICS OF AFRICANNESS: BUILDING ON STUART HALL’S CULTURAL THEORY OF IDENTIFICATIONS 
1 Introduction
2 Connecting inclusive equality with a deconstructive hermeneutics of Africanness
3 Who/what is African?: A central discursive question
4 Hall’s cultural theory of identity as enunciation
4.1 Identity as becoming and being
4.2 Implications of a Hallian approach for conceptualising Africanness
4.2.1 Transposing Hall’s theory to Africanness as broad cultural and racial identifications
4.2.2 Transposing Hall’s theory onto African sexuality identifications
5 Positionality

PART 2: AFRICANNESS, RACE AND CULTURE

3. WHAT’S IN A NAME? THE NAMING OF AFRICA AND AFRICANS, AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF RADICAL CULTURAL ALTERITY 

1 Introduction: Representation, truth, knowledge and power
2 Naming of Africa
2.1 Provenance of the naming
3 Naming of Africans: Epochal re-description
3.1 Africa at the edge of time: The founding of alterity in anachronistic space
3.2 Africa as land of cultural otherness: A leaf from Mudimbe’s The invention of Africa
3.2.1 Christianity and the production of African spiritual alterity
3.2.2 Anthropology and the production of African cultural alterity
4 Mudimbe’s contribution to dialogic Africanness

4. AFRICA AS LAND OF RACIAL OTHERNESS
1 Introduction
2 The contribution of philosophy and science to the construction of African racial alterity
2.1 Philosophy
2.2 Science
3 Re-membering Saartjie Baartman: Black embodiment, ascribed identity and fetishisation
3.1 Logic of identity
3.2 Fetishisation
4 Apartheid and the banality of race
4.1 Creating ‘Africans’, ‘Coloureds’, ‘Indians’ and ‘Whites’
4.1.1 ‘Africans’ and ‘Whites’ as extreme polarities
4.1.2 ‘Coloureds’
4.1.3 ‘Indians’
4.2 Racial positioning among inferiorised ‘races’
4.3 Apartheid as not so much about apartness but baasskapism
5 Ode to an open Africanness

5. DECENTRING THE RACE OF AFRICANNESS
1 Introduction: putting race under erasure
2 Recalling Hall’s deconstructive identification template
3 Decentring the race of Africanness
3.1 Appiah’s In my father’s house
3.2 Blyden’s black personality
4 Retaining the political salience of race
4.1 Afropolitanism
5 Africa as space for diverse identifications and recognition of ever-evolving ethnicities

PART 3: HETEROGENEOUS SEXUALITIES

6. REPRESENTING AFRICAN SEXUALITIES: CONTESTING NATIVISM FROM WITHOUT
1 Introduction
2 Said’s discourse of orientalism
2.1 Orientalism and Said’s aporias
2.1.1 Hybridity: Breaking with coloniser/ colonised binary
3 Nativising African peoples
4 Mamdani’s discourse of nativism
5 Nativism and the construction of colonial whiteness
5.1 Compulsory whiteness and regulation of sexualities
6 Nativising black men’s sexuality
6.1 Southern Rhodesia and the phantom of the ‘black peril’
7 Black women’s sexual degeneracy and colonial continuities in Caldwell et al: A performative study of African women

7. ‘TRANSGRESSIVE’ SEXUALITIES: CONTESTING NATIVISM FROM WITHIN AND OVERCOMING STATUS SUBORDINATION
1 Introduction
1.1 Proclaiming heterosexuality and castigating homosexuality
1.2 Democratising sexuality
2 Discursive clarifications
2.1 Transgressive sexualities: the terminological rationale
2.2 Overcoming status subordination
2.3 Avoiding LGBTI essentialism
2.4 Avoiding unproductive LGBTI anti-essentialism
2.5 Remaining conscious of colonising sexuality knowledge
3 Deconstructing sexualities
3.1 Essentialist social construction
3.2 Transformative social construction
3.3 Deconstructing the relationship between sexuality and gender: Drawing on Richardson’s analytic template
3.3.1 Naturalist approach
3.3.2 Prioritising gender over sexuality
3.3.3 Gender as an effect of sexuality
3.3.4 Sex and gender as separate, non-deterministic, historically and culturally situated systems
3.3.5 Sexuality and gender elision
4 Way forward

8. MEDIATING CONFLICTING SEXUALITY IDENTIFICATIONS THROUGH POLITICS AND AN ETHICS OF PLURALISM
1 Introduction
2 Rawls’ overlapping consensus
3 Rescher’s dissensus management approach
4 Young’s critique of the ideal of impartiality and the civic public
5 Arendt’s concept of citizenship in a plural political community
6 Finding an overlapping consensus and asymmetrical reciprocity in African political and constitutional frameworks

EPILOGUE: THEORISING AFRICANNESS
BIBLIOGRAPHY
INDEX


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