P142 – Post-apartheid Generations. Subjectivities and Engagements
8 July, 16:00 – 17:30

Hayem Judith / Clersé, CNRS, Université Lille 1


The apartheid system has informed ways of thinking and representations of all so-called classes and racial groups in South Africa, in a strong though differentiated manner, while opposing it or/and suffering from it. What about nowadays? Are young generations informed by that legacy or do they conceive of themselves and the surrounding world in a different perspective, now that South Africa is a multiracial democracy? How do young people born after the end of apartheid or by the end of it conceive of themselves and the society they are in? What are their views and aspirations on the future of South Africa, Africa and their own? Do they refer to the political past of their country and the struggle their parents fought or are their choices and rationales informed by radically different perspectives? How do we investigate and conceptualize the emergence of new political subjectivities and mobilizations or persistence of past ones? To answer those questions, the panelists look at two types of materials: 1) current artistic productions by young South Africans (theater, exhibition, photography) and 2) studies of their political orientations and the subjective links between present, past and future they reveal.

Générations post-apartheid. Subjectivités et engagements
La référence à l’apartheid a marqué les formes de pensée et les représentations de toutes les classes sociales et de tous les groupes dits raciaux en Afrique du Sud ; et ce, de manière différente selon qu’ils en ont subi l’oppression et/ou qu’ils l’ont combattue. Que reste-t-il de ces représentations aujourd’hui ? Les jeunes générations se réfèrent-elles à cet héritage ou bien ont-elles une autre conception d’elles-mêmes et du monde qui les entoure maintenant que l’Afrique du Sud est devenue une démocratie multiraciale ? Comment les jeunes gens nés après l’apartheid ou vers la fin de ce régime se représentent-ils la société à laquelle ils appartiennent ? Quelles sont leurs aspirations pour le futur de l’Afrique du Sud et plus généralement du continent africain et le leur ? Se réfèrent-ils au passé politique de leur pays et à la lutte de leurs parents ou bien leurs choix et leurs rationalités sont-ils nourris de perspectives radicalement différentes ? Comment enquêter sur des subjectivités politiques qui articulent l’émergence de nouvelles formes et la persistance d’anciennes ? Pour répondre à ces questions les participants au panel mobilisent deux types de matériaux : des productions artistiques contemporaines produites par de jeunes Sud-africains (théâtre, exposition, photographie) et des enquêtes sur leurs orientations politiques. Ils y examinent les articulations subjectives entre présent, passé et futur.

Paper 1

Alhourani Ala / University of the Western Cape

Intimacy and Resistance in Artistic Performances of Muslim-ness

The paper explores emergent Muslim urbanities and politics of aesthetics in public performances of Muslim-ness in post-apartheid Cape Town. It focuses on an art exhibition titled “Three Abdullah: A Genealogy of Resistance”, that shows Muslim trajectory of resistance to colonialism, to apartheid, and to present religious authority of Islam conventions in post-apartheid. The exhibition’s visual representations reflect the history of Muslim resistance to colonialism through religious education of Abdullah Kadi Abdu Salaam, and their political resistance to apartheid through activism of Imam Abdullah Haron and Abdullah Ibrahim’s jazz music. The exhibition brought this iconic heritage of the Muslim community in conversation with performative art for young Capetonian artists Ighsaan Adams, Weaam Williams, and Haroon Gunn-Salie, each of whom embody cultural resistance and employ innovative sentimental aesthetic strategies in provoking new public imaginations of Islam in Cap! e Town. The paper then focuses on Ighsaan Adams, his life story and his socially engaged performative artworks, which often involves spectators in sensory experiences of Ighsaan’s identity formations. The main block of the ethnography explores Ighsaan’s ritualistic performance at Three Abdullah exhibition “Please Remember Me” that strategically evokes religious sentiment by enacting a symbolic embodiment of Ighsaan’s death and resistance to everyday uncertainty .

Paper 2

Jones Megan / Stellenbosch University

Reading Skin in the comedy of Trevor Noah

In his 2010 show, “Daywalker”, the young comedian Trevor Noah fulminates on misreadings of skin. Although raised in Soweto, Noah’s skin colour is assumed to be the marker of geographical location and a Kaapse culture to which he is in fact an outsider. Against attempts to render him translatable as Coloured and from Cape Town, Noah describes himself as “coloured by colour, not by culture”.
This paper tracks post-apartheid intersections of race and place in “Daywalker” alongside the documentary on Noah, “You Laugh But It’s True” (2012). In both texts, the centrality of the township to the comedian’s self-conception is marked. At thirty years old, he is largely a product of post-apartheid and his shows attempt an undoing of the categories of the past. And yet what surfaces in the documentary is a hardening of race: in a country where he will “never be considered black,” Noah insists upon identification with Soweto as evidence of an authentic blackness. The uneasy collision of essentialism and plurality in Noah’s work and life points to the tensions inhering in the reading and mapping of skin in present-day South Africa, and its lingering effects on the young South Africans who compromise his largest audience.

Paper 3

Jara Nathalie / IMAF-EHESS

Comprendre, Isoler et représenter le monde. L’Afrique du Sud par des photographes sud-africains contemporains

Pour comprendre l’Afrique du Sud contemporaine, des individus qui ont la représentation en travail permettent d’envisager la voie esthétique de la photographie comme un espace de projection et de narrations individuelles. Entre subjectivité et objectivité, entre politique et poétique, les regards apparaissent comme une production de sens sur des réalités sociétales.
Ma communication propose de parcourir l’œuvre de jeunes générations qui ont choisi une inscription, une activité par l’image. A travers une photographie documentaire, sociale ou artistique, de jeunes photographes mettent en lumière des représentations du monde et des critiques sociales plus ou moins appuyées. Par rapport au rôle de la photographie dans ce pays, les jeunes générations semblent avoir une plus grande liberté à explorer des sujets : latitude entre politique et poétique, exploration du soi, de ses « communautés », des conditions de vie, de la résilience. Les variantes de l’engagement s’attache davantage à représenter le contemporain et le proche, résister au stéréotype, tendre vers les possibilités de l’imagination, en étant conscient des réalités globales.
Pour comprendre les représentations du temps contemporain en Afrique du Sud, comme le dit C. J-H. Lee, il faut naviguer entre la « rue » et « le musée » (2006). Dans cette perspective, la photographie représente une expression fondamentale de négociation avec l’histoire, en supportant le poids d’une relation entre l’éthique et le langage.

Paper 4

Sonnleitner Julia / University of Vienna

Many pasts : youth and transmitted memory in South Africa

20 years after the first democratic elections in South Africa, a new generation has grown up. This generation, often referred to as the “born-free” generation, did not experience apartheid or the transition to democracy but knows about this time from films, witnesses, school teachers, textbooks, and the like. Can they even “spell apartheid”, as one schoolteacher put it in an interview? Do they have “only vague (if any) memory of apartheid, and little knowledge of politics or history” (Dolby 1999: 305), like some scholars assume? Discussions about the meaning of the past in the lives of the “born-free” generation often take shape as morally charged discourses about youth in the new South Africa. In this paper, I would like to present orientations towards the past of representatives of the “born-free” generation of different backgrounds. How do they reflect on the often ambivalent stances and messages about the past they receive from their parents, grandparents and schoolteachers? How do they weave various representations of pastness (Tonkin 1992) into their narratives of present, past and future? To answer the question of the transmission of pastness, I draw on concepts of social transmission which place the situatedness of learning and the agency of recipients at the centre.

Paper 5

Bouyat Jeanne / Sciences Po Paris

Prejudice towards foreigners among Youth in South Africa

This paper summarizes a Masters research on political socialization of teenagers (12 to 17 years old) in South Africa and focuses on representations and attitudes towards “foreigners”. It addresses a gap in the literature by exploring the structuration of prejudice and stereotypes among Youth, who is particularly mobilized during xenophobic riots. It compares two neighbourhoods of Johannesburg metropolitan area to analyse to which extent the specific context of mobilizations of a neighboorhood shapes political imaginaries of the “elsewhere” and the perceptions of the “other” among Youth. The cases are Yeoville, a panafrican suburb close to the CBD and Alexandra a historical township north of the city. The study focuses on socialization in various neighborhood schools, using non participant observation in classes, research action workshops and in-depth interviews with learners and teachers. Both of these popular neighbouhoods having very active civil society organisations, the fieldwork has also been conducted among societies, parties and local political organizations.

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