Saturday, October 29, 2005

still out of town...

Ok, back from Sweden, but I'm now in the wilds of Mpumalanga province, enjoying the peace and quiet, and frantically working. Again, will post when i get home.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I meant to post this before I left, but things got so out of hand, I simply haven't had time. Anyway, the point is, I am at a conference in Sweden all this week, and so will be out of touch for much of that time. Will post lots when I get back!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays

I have been working with Althusser's notion of ideological state apparatuses to explain the functioning of choirs as sites for the formation of national identity. Well, here is the whole essay, in fact, the whole book, in which he discusses this notion. I am drawing, in particular, on the idea that schools (and by extension, Universities) are ideological state apparatuses that reinforce ideology through rituals in which official university choirs are directly implicated. I am keen to expand on this, however, with the idea that hegemony functions, in part, by facilitating some resistance. Only thing is, I can't remember who said that. Any ideas?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Althusser and the subject

Althusser and the subject

The State and the South African University System under Apartheid by John Davies

I just discovered that this link doesn't work properly due to the firewall on the site in question. Will try to find the article at a better location, but in the mean time, if you access this from a subscribing institution, copy the title of this post, and paste it into the search box on the page that comes up. Tick the box labled "Article title". Once the search results are returned, click on "open whole article". You should get a Pdf version of this article. It is well worth a read. Again, I will search for it in a more permanent, easily accessible location, and will also review it when I have the opportunity.

Guide to Literary and Critical Theory

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa

The Opening of the Apartheid Mind: Options for the New South Africa This is another complete book available online. I get so excited when I find these, because it spells real progress to me. Ordinary people suddenly have access to extraordinary information.

Stephen Biko

Stephen Biko

South African History

Only just begun exploring this, but there's so much! I can't believe what a narrow view I have had on South African political history. I always thought I was quite well read on this topic. Shows you what our education system is like!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

official parlimentary rhetoric

My supervisor and I were discussing earlier whether government still subscribes to the "Rainbow nation" rhetoric about SA, or whether the president's "African Renaissance" perspective has taken over. I thought that looking through parlimentary documents like these might lend some insight, and to some extent they do. The Rainbow nation ideology is mentioned in the first paragraph. But does that really say much about the direction of government? The rhetoric has taken on such a life of its own, that it isn't clear whether references to it indicate any sort of statement of intent, or just yet another passing reference to an entrenced discoursive device that has passed its sell-by date.

Monday, October 03, 2005


I'm dealing with issues around the compatibility/incompatibility of the African Renaissance vision of our president, and the Rainbow Nation ideal of our former Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, and struggling to reconcile them. I get that much collonialism in Africa has been perpetuated by white foreigners, but really, in South Africa, Apartheid was a product of a distinctive sector of a white African race, the Afrikander, and not all of them, at that, and focusing as deeply on a black African vision as the president does in this speech, is exclusionary to people like me, who have no national identity beyond South African, and no ethnic identity beyond practically white (there is just enough middle-eastern blood in my veins that I occasionally get asked whether I am "entirely white", but not enough that I know anything about that part of my herritage. I can't even find out what country my middle-eastern ancestors came from). The Apartheid legacy was erasure of identity. The post-Apartheid legacy is reclamation, and pride, in that identity. But, it seems, only for those with the bodily markers of "African-ness." spiritual marks are too difficult to see...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

a bit from my research report.

wow, a whole week since my last post. It has been a busy one, including, among other things, a trip to the opera with 21 music undergrads, and my GRE exam (at least that's out of the way).

Mostly, though, I've been working on my honours project. so here is a little bit from the beginning of it. Will post more as I get the referencing fixed up....

“If you have a hang-up about it, you can leave!”

It was the last thing I expected to hear from a choir master, hours before a performance. Truth was, I did have a “hang up” over what he was requiring, and I didn’t feel unjustified. The evening before, we had been instructed to “make an African-sounding noise for eight bars” at the end of a piece of music, and aside from my discomfort over the idea of noise having a nationality, I was extremely uncomfortable with something so apparently unmusical in a choir performance. I couldn’t even count eight bars without some sort of structure in that moment of performance, and I certainly couldn’t achieve any co-ordination in my usually fairly instinctual movements. I don’t know whether I actually crossed my arms and legs when the original instruction was given, but I certainly felt like doing so.

Choir rehearsals have always been a safe space for me, somewhere where I was just capable enough to be above average without standing out. I did not like feeling out of control. I wasn’t alone. The young woman sitting beside me pulled a face, and I heard a furtively whispered debate over the sanity of the conductor somewhere to my left. But there were others who stood, as if to attention, expressing solidarity with a conductor they trusted, willing to take whatever chance he considered necessary to the success of the performance. The choir was divided.

In the end, we all made the required noise, the conductor was satisfied, and the adrenaline we were feeling after an hour and a half on stage masked any lingering discomfort. Watching a video recording of the concert several weeks later, I had to concede that it was an impressive conclusion to the program. The music that preceded it built dramatically up to an explosion of sound and energy, which was followed by a spontaneous, high-energy, immensely satisfying rendition of Tshosholoza that brought the audience to their feet, and propelled us off stage in impressive fashion. The performance had been a success.

But my discomfort lingered. Whether I wanted to accept it or not, this relatively innocuous incident brought into question all my deeply felt, and unquestioned perceptions about why I sing what I sing, and even, what music is, and more specifically, what African or South African music is.

South African identity politics
The reasons individual choristers give for singing in choirs are diverse, and often revolve around issues of personal satisfaction, group interaction and creative expression. In a previous study I conducted amongst choristers of the choir of the University of the Witwatersrand, the impact of a desire for nationalized identity on choristers’ decision to participate in a particular type of racially integrated choir became apparent. This study revealed that, while choristers derive some satisfaction from the group dynamic characterized by the choir, many white and coloured choristers specifically seek out an inclusive, racially integrated, culturally mixed South African identity when choosing to sing in a choir of this nature (Hammond, 2004).

Jacklyn Cock and Alison Bernstein have cited as an explanation for the rise in “The explosion of fundamentalist movements and particularistic identities” (Cock and Bernstein, 2002) Eric Hobsbawm’s observation that we "are living through a gigantic 'cultural revolution,' an extraordinary dissolution of traditional social norms, textures and values. In this context men and women look for groups to which they can belong, certainly and forever, in a world in which all else is moving and shifting, in which nothing else is certain. And they find it in an identity group" (Hobsbawm, 1994, quoted in Cock and Bernstein, 2002, conclusion). While such ‘identity groups’ are frequently constructed around racial, ethnic and cultural identities, such constructions can, as Cock and Bernstein point out, be mobilized in order to divide, rather than reconcile people (Cock and Bernstein, 2002, chapter 3).

The non-racial identity projected by the ruling political party in South Africa, the ANC, is heavily invested in the “Rainbow nation” ideology, but there is an inherent tension between the government sponsored notions of South Africa as a “Rainbow Nation,” and the mainly foreign-policy motivated conception of the “African Renaissance,” primarily because of the contrasting perceptions, in each case, of South African identity. While the rainbow nation ideology, as Cock and Bernstein point out, is predicated around the notion of non-racism, or multi-racialism (Cock and Bernstein, 2002), the African renaissance is conceptualized as a “counterbalance” to Eurocentric international relations (Kornegay, Landsberg and McDonald, 2001), and hence can be interpreted as antagonistic to South African identities with historical and cultural connections to Europe.

While a simple reading of the situation would suggest, therefore, that embracing the rainbow nation conception, and abandoning African renaissance notions should be enough to stabilize notions of an inclusive South African identity group, the reality is that South Africa’s position in the international political and economic arena may be dependent on the construction of an African identity that is, if not antagonistic to Euro-American identities, at least clearly distinct from them. Cock and Bernstein point out that one of the greatest shortcomings of much contemporary social theory and activism is not its failure to recognize difference, but rather its uncritical universal application of established (and often hegemonized) structures (Cock and Bernstein, 2002). The effect of such “globalization” is potentially a degree of homogenization that may not be recognized because of the extent to which such structures are considered universal. If you believe that a structure has a universal applicability, you may not notice the changes that happen in order to make a particular body function within that structure. And no matter how effective such changes may make the functioning of the whole, the reality is that they dilute identities. In order for Africa, as a whole, and South Africa, in particular, to function at optimum efficiency on the global stage, therefore, it is necessary for us, as Cock and Bernstein suggest, to not simply fit in with the Eurocentric structures that dominate international relations, but rethink, and potentially reconfigure these structures (Cock and Bernstein, 2002). Global structures need to be developed around the needs of all participants in order to be effective. Exactly what these needs are, however, cannot be determined until clear notions of the identities of all these participants have been formulated.

What is Identity?
While the term “identity” is frequently associated with the individual, and notions of “self”, it is difficult, or even impossible, to consider the concept without reference to the collective. While post-structuralist, postcolonial theory discourages the dichotomization of complex concepts, it is fairly standard practice to conceptualize identity in terms of a “self”/ “other” dichotomy.[1] One reason for this could be that it is seldom necessary for the individual to define a personal identity unless their self-concept is challenged, and such a challenge usually exists in the form of an “other” or different identity
[1] See, for example: Sartre (1948), Sartre (1956), Fanon (1967), Born and Hesmondhalgh (2000)