General

Removing Rhodes’ statue would not ‘erase the past’

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” writes George Santayana. In the midst of the argument that the #RhodesMustFall campaign is fuelled by a misguided desire to “erase the past”, it seems to me that it is ironically, but precisely, this argument that is hampered by a deeply short-sighted approach…

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The Rhodes statue, erasing the past and importance of memory

The Czech writer Milan Kundera begins his unforgettable novel, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Perennial Classics, 1999), with the following words: “In February 1948, the Communist leader Klement Gottwald stepped out on the balcony of a Baroque palace in Prague to harangue hundreds of thousands of citizens massed in Old Town Square. That was…

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Rhodes, Rancière and the politics of aesthetics

The events surrounding the protests for the removal of the Rhodes statue located at a focal point on the Upper Campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT) has provided me with an opportunity to revisit Jacques Rancière’s influential contemporary argument on the politics of aesthetics. The focus on a statue obviously lends an explicit…

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Fighting TB with prisoners’ rights

By Annabel Raw Today is World Tuberculosis Day, commemorating the discovery of the cause of the disease in 1882. Tuberculosis (TB) is an ancient disease with traces in human remains being recorded since antiquity. Despite advances in public health and treatment, today TB continues to claim over one and a half million lives every year,…

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Airbrushing history: Debating Rhodes’ legacy

As the debate raged in Cape Town over whether to remove the statue of British imperialist Cecil John Rhodes, I found myself in a grand house named after him some 6 000 miles away. Rhodes House is the quaint Oxford-based headquarters of the Rhodes scholarships. Named for and funded by Rhodes, the scholarships are awarded annually…

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Is there anybody there, beneath the trolling shit?

In 2014 I had a troll who wouldn’t leave me alone. He wrote hundreds of words about me without having ever met me. This troll painted a distorted picture of who I was, while hiding behind the safe anonymity of a non-descript picture and made-up name. He responded to my writing with outrage, and people…

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Why I criticise the government, intombazane and other degrees of equality

As someone recently told me, “it’s very easy to criticise the government”. That is true, but deserves further thought. The reality is that this is exactly what our current political dispensation fought for. The lives lost, families torn apart and the blood shed was all done in the hope of creating the very freedoms that…

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What ‘war’ means today

When picking up Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Multitude – War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (Penguin, 2006), again, in the light of recent developments across the globe involving Syria, Isis, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda (to mention only some of the names associated with war), I was struck, anew, by their astute identification…

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Human rights and desire: The need for a clear conscience

We live in the age of the unquestioned assumption of human rights — that is, the assumption that all human beings are entitled to certain “basic human rights”. This is accepted as normal, or setting the norm, and this is unquestionably correct, at least in the sense of being an accepted convention. However, the discipline…

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Doctor who? You can’t fake leadership

Another week has passed and two more prominent South Africans have been accused of faking their academic credentials. This time, however, the ignominy is particularly cringe-worthy: our ambassador in Washington, Mninwa Mahlangu, and his counterpart in Tokyo, Mohau Pheko, have reportedly been caught out for doctoring their CVs. That they remain in their posts is…

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