Thursday, March 15, 2012

Noble intentions or Ironic Trickery? In dialogue with Naudé

I'm often astounded by the confusion of knowledge that people display in public as the gospel truth. It either shows a genuine ignorance with noble intentions, or a conscious attempt at trying to fool us, with interesting consequences. I seriously don't know which one it is. The most recent example is today's column in Die Beeld, by Charl-Pierre Naudé on Postcolonial Studies.

Like I said, perhaps I don't know what is happening here. After-all, Naudé is an award-winning Afrikaans poet, and he is suppose to be amongst the cream of the crop. It is of course possible that I simply don't get him, given my dismal history with Afrikaans in school. Whilst I loved my teachers (most of them), my brew of coloured Afrikaans was obviously not the 'taal' of the 'Regte Afrikaners' and so, Afrikaans poetry and poets have never captured my imagination. Bob Marley, Adam Small and GrandMaster Funk did. So, yes, I am disadvantaged and please feel sorry for my loss. Funny thing is through, I don't feel any sense of loss yet. Perhaps this is why I don't understand the lot of liberal Afrikaners, who do poetry, throw profanities at their NG Calvinism and by that feels themselves liberated from the shackles of the past. (I have to admit though, I was/am a big fan of Andre P Brink, but that's beside the point).

For me, Naude misses the point about postcolonial theory. He seemingly confuse postcolonial theory with the kind of politics and rhetoric of the ANC. That's is why he only quotes, Jeff Radebe in his reference to 'transformation'. Further, the kind of images that he invokes in relation to postcolonial theory are Robin Hood, Andries Treurnicht and the Ajatola Khomeini. For Naude, postcolonial theory is about attributing certain cultural traits to particular nations (Europe) and absolving other nations (Africa) from guilt. Being colonised are, for him, only ascribed to 'Third World' countries. (Yes, the Third World still exist in his world). And then his counter argument to this postcolonial fallacy, with his insights into world history, is that India and China (buddies of the ANC) actually colonised themselves and... wait for this one: the USA is currently being colonised, by... Mexico and South America. Seriously. The USA is currently being colonised by Mexico and South America.

Like I said, perhaps this is poetic language or maybe there was something else 'in die pyp'. Perhaps Naudé should help his reader towards his sources on postcolonial theory, apart from Jeff Radebe and the Afrikaans braaivleis vure. If Fanon is correct, in "Wretched of the Earth", then the ANC government should rather be understood as a "nationalist bourgeoisie", who simply don't have the imagination to transcend the colonial script. They (and Mr Jeff Rabebe) are not the proponents of postcolonial theory. If Said is correct, in "Orientalism", then our constructions of reality, like Africanness or Western-ness are just that: constructions that need to be read historically, and which can be changed. That is why postcolonial theory is deconstructing essentialisms and outdated binaries in the process of re-imaging hybridity and liberating syncretisms. This kind of thinking has nothing to do with ideological fundamentalism or with the continuation of victim or guilty binaries, so entrenched in the ANC's (actually Mbeki's) form of nativism (X Mangcnu). Unless Naudé work/struggle with this framework, he is either ignorant or simply misleading in his understanding of postcolonial theory, but also in his analysis of the current elite transition being executed, in front of our eyes. What's happening under the ANC is another form of trickery, according to postcolonial theorist, and author or "On the Postcolony", Achille Mbembe. It should not astound us that the most fruitful postcolonial work up to date, has been done through poetry and prose, where words, images, experiences are experimented within the fluidity of culture in the postcolony. This artistry does play with holy boundaries and expose outdated dogmas, but most importantly, it does so, in order to exposing the way, literary products have been used as weapons to numb, to silence.... One can only hope that this was not (again) the intention of Naudé, (again) in service of the old dogmas.... We wouldn't know. Perhaps it was just an old trick, again. How ironic would that be?
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