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Rhodes University :: Mail & Guardian Supplement
Newspapers | Education 2011-08-30 09:47:43
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    Thinking Africa Liberation, Race and Higher Education SpeciAl pull-out Supplement to the Reimagining power Was Fanon perhaps right when he said 'everything needs to be started over again'? Siphokazi Magadla & Sally Matthews This July Rhodes University hosted two thoughtprovoking events. The first, organised by the Thinking Africa project team of the Rhodes department of political and international studies, was a colloquium on the work of activist-intellectual Frantz Fanon, whose writings on the colonial and postcolonial condition continue to stimulate much debate 50 years after his untimely death. The second was a round table on race and higher education in South Africa organised by Rhodes philosopher Pedro Alexis Tabensky under the auspices of Rhodes's Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning. Both events raised challenging issues and invited those present to think carefully and deeply about key issues currently defining life in South Africa. During the opening discussion of the "Fanon: 50 Years Later" colloquium challenging questions were raised when a participant asked: "What would have happened if Frantz Fanon had lived to see the demise of colonial rule?" What if Steve Biko - who was deeply influenced by Fanon - had not met an untimely death but, today, as with many former Black Consciousness activists, occupied a position of influence in government, education or civil society? It was suggested that perhaps Biko and Fanon were "lucky" (in some sense, at least) to have died young and so did not have the opportunity to betray their ideals. This comment is related to another concern raised during the colloquium. Is our postliberation situation so disappointing because of who is ruling or would the kinds of compromises and betrayals we lament today also have been made by others, even, perhaps, Fanon or Biko? Reading Fanon 50 years later, one is struck by the way in which parts of The Wretched of the Earth seem to speak to the current South African condition. But, as emphasised by some participants, a number of those who are the architects of this condition were themselves at some point inspired by Fanon. What does this mean for those inspired by Fanon today? The difficult questions continued during the race and higher-education round table when, on the first day, Black Consciousness writer Andile Mngxitama raised some hard questions about the way in which black academics in positions of leadership at former white institutions are used to "police" other black academics and black students. In turn, he was confronted with difficult questions from his audience. In response to his insistence that Sponsored by Rhodes university the black bourgeoisie were not his friends, someone asked: "But who are Andile Mngxitama's friends?" Many in the audience, including Rhodes vice-chancellor Saleem Badat and humanities dean Fred Hendricks, are black academics who are trying to "work in the system": Are they always to be excluded from possible alliances with more stringent critics of "the system" like Mngxitama? A central question at both the Fanon colloquium and the round table was: How do we proceed? If the transformation of former colonial institutions is thus far not successful, is this the time to revisit Fanon's invitation in The Wretched of the Earth that "perhaps everything needs to be started over again"? Is South Africa finding itself in the dilemma Fanon perceived at the dawn of the postcolonial period in that, although "the country finds itself under new management ... in actual fact everything has to be started over from scratch, everything has to be rethought"? Badat insisted that it is not possible to rethink everything. Instead, as Guinea-Bissauan revolutionary Amilcar Cabral argued, we must "proceed with our feet firmly on the ground, from what is, what exists". In the same vein Barney Pityana - a close friend of Biko and one of the founding members of the Black Consciousness Movement - argued that the church and university exist in a dialectical tension between being conservative and allowing space for creative work. Therefore these institutions are neither conservative nor liberal because their agendas continue to be shaped by the individuals within them. Thus the black academics "who work in the system" have a chance of succeeding in the transformational project just as the activists of Black Consciousness managed to reimagine the objective of higher education and the church in the 1970s. As a way to proceed, the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Rozena Maart suggested that Black Consciousness remains a useful tool of engagement in higher education to encourage white students to develop a politics of refusal instead of being perpetual beneficiaries of colonisation. However, some participants insisted that not all black students necessarily identify as black and the use of Black Consciousness language might alienate white students. Some then August 26 to September 1 2011 The coffin of Steve Biko is carried by mourners in 1977. At a Rhodes University round table last month it was asked whether Biko would have had to compromise his ideals had he lived. Photo: Matt Franjola/AP suggested that perhaps this generation of young people must find a new language for themselves in thinking about how to address inequality in their society. As Fanon also insisted, each generation "must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it". Perhaps the answer to the question of what it means to be inspired by Fanon today lies in Abahlali base- Mjondolo president S'bu Zikode's assertion during the Fanon colloquium that Fanon's writings are "an invitation to reimagine power". This includes an invitation to reimagine the role of the university. As Tabensky asserted, it is often assumed that intellectuals who are embedded within their community's social struggles are doing their community a favour by engaging them. However, he continued, in reimagining higher education we realise that a university that is not engaged is one that is not committed to the defining ethical and epistemic ideals of the academy. Siphokazi Magadla and Sally Matthews lecture in the department of political and international studies, Rhodes University, and are part of the department's Thinking Africa project Taking dignity seriously Page 3 Affirmative action meets white mediocrity Lewis R Gordon Henry Louis Gates Jr, the famed African-American literary scholar and director of the Du Bois Institute at Harvard University, recently reflected in an interview on National Public Radio that if it hadn't been for affirmative action, he would not have been admitted to Yale University, regardless of how high his credentials were, and he would not have had the opportunities to demonstrate his talent over the past four decades. Gates's admission reflects a fundamental problem with affirmative action. It works. I had the opportunity to reflect on that out loud during the race and higher education round table at Rhodes University when I asked: "Are there no mediocre white people in South Africa? Is every white person hired, every white person offered admission to institutions of learning an excellent candidate?" My rhetorical question was premised upon what Gates and many other high-achieving blacks know and this is that the myth of white supremacy is the subtext of the "qualifications" narrative that accompanies debates on affirmative action. When I was tenured at Brown University the process required evaluations of my work from five referees. Expected performance was a published monograph, several articles, satisfactory teaching and service and signs of international recognition. My dossier had the following: three monographs (one of which won a book award for outstanding work on human rights in North America), an edited book, a co-edited book, 40 articles (several of which had been reprinted in international volumes), two teaching awards and service that included heading a committee that recruited 20 scholars of colour to the university. The processes for my promotion and tenure were dragged out because of continued requests for more referees. The number grew to 17. There was a comparable white candidate in the philosophy department. He also supposedly worked in existentialism, one of my areas of expertise. His dossier? A contract for his dissertation and a few articles. His case was successful. To Page 4 "Is every white person hired, every white person offered admission to institutions of learning an excellent candidate? "

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    2 Supplement to the Mail & Guardian August 26 to September 1 2011 Thinking Africa Freeing oppressed minds Where is the Black Consciousness Movement for our time? We need it, argues N Barney Pityana In a recent preface to the latest edition of Steve Biko's I Write What I Like, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu bemoans the fact that the values instilled by ety, and the church can never be the same again. But what about universities? That is perhaps where the greatest challenge lies. It is a challenge owed in Black Consciousness are sadly lack- no small measure to incomplete ing in our new South Africa. He goes transformation in higher education on to say that the movement "has and to the tension within higher not quite completed its task". education between the conserva- Black Consciousness has long tism of traditions and accretions to influenced the direction of South intellectual pseudo-grandeur, but at Africa's liberatory politics from the the same time the character of the moment large numbers of young university as a place of ideas and cadres joined the armed struggle in experimentation. the 1970s. They reshaped the culture The tension between those two of liberatory politics, introduced countervailing forces may well a new discourse and injected an account for the state standstill in urgency and radicalism in the strug- higher education where very little gle both within South Africa and in new and challenging is emerging, and exile. Likewise, Black Theology may student leadership, such as it is, is Thinking Africa Ad Layout 8/4/11 12:04 PM Page 3 appear to have lost its significance immersed in opportunistic politics of in the new era in church and soci- self-enrichment or cultivating careers C M Y CM MY CY CMY K Thinking Africa Research Focus - Department of Political and International Studies The 2012 theme for the Department of Political and International Studies recently launched Research Area is: "Curating the Archive on Ubuntu: Towards a Critical Humanism". Limited competitive Masters and PhD scholarships available. Contact: Prof Leonhard Praeg | e: Further information: The Department also offers the following specialist focus areas for post-graduate studies: * Foreign Policy, International and Regional Organisation; Peacekeeping * African Security and Development * Critical Security Studies and International Political Sociology * False Consciousness, Theory of Ideology, Freedom and Justice * African Philosophy, Violence * Liberalism and Multiculturalism; Politics of the Body * Development and NGO work in Africa * Poverty and Inequality * African Political Economy * The Philosophy and Politics of Equality and Freedom Contact: Mrs Odette Cumming e: | t: 046 603 8356 Further information: Closing Date: 16 September 2011 Just as the Black Consciousness Movement found incubation during the worst times of apartheid repression, so too a new movement needs to arise from the current politicial landscape. Photo: AP in the dominant politics. The good news is that it has not always been like that, and it will not remain so. The Black Consciousness Movement found incubation during the worst times of the apartheid repression. The higher education institutions that apartheid ideology had sought to establish as another stage in the total suppression of black aspirations were the very places where subversive ideas took root and where radical action could not be suppressed. This became possible by bringing black students together and for them to share ideas. They found common patterns of endemic inequality and a common purpose and resolve to overcome them. There were two stages to this denouement of the plot. First, the idea popularised by Amilcar Cabral, that revolutionary theory is the weapon of struggle. This meant that hatching, developing, spreading and engaging in challenging ideas was a revolutionary pastime. The second element of this consciousness was the assertion that the oppressed had it within themselves to change their fortunes. The liberation could never be brought on a platter, not least from among the oppressor class, however well meaning. There was to be "a total solution in ideas and action". Biko stated it poignantly in his testimony when he referred to Soweto 1976 as pointing to "boldness, dedication, sense of purpose and clarity of analysis of the situation". He went on to say that "all of these things are definitely a result of Black Consciousness ideas among the young generation in Soweto and elsewhere". What Black Consciousness inculcated in our people, especially the young, was the belief in themselves as their own liberators - "for the power of a movement", wrote Biko, "lies in the fact that it can indeed change the habits of people. This change is not the result of force but of dedication, of moral persuasion." The radical thought in this Black Consciousness package of ideas was that, as he put it, "the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed". The black personality therefore had to assert its total humanity unbeholden to the oppressor in ideas, in material needs, in culture and interpretation of history - in other words, the intellectual tools of analysis must be in the hands of the oppressed-liberator to leverage his own liberatory instincts. What brought about this new thinking among university students at that time was not merely the awareness of the dead-weight of oppression, but also curiosity and puzzlement about the succession of failed liberation projects. We had observed that in many respects there was a psyche of defeat and of resignation, of many who had given up, many imprisoned, even more subjected to torture, and the path to exile did not seem ever to return. It was out of this puzzle that we got to explore the struggles in other contexts, garnered inspiration from the struggles of Algeria, the pan-Africanism of Nkrumah, the intellectual movements of negritude, the various phases of the struggles for civil rights in the United States. Black Consciousness grew out of the very campuses where the racist oppression was most extreme. Even in such environments ideas could not be suppressed, and they found expression in projects of conscientisation beyond the confines of the institutions themselves. They found expression in the political arena and in the workplaces; they gave birth to Black Theology and changed the language of the pulpit. They gave voice to the silent voices of the oppressed in Soweto and elsewhere, and they brought resistance to the doorsteps of rural communities. Above all, they provided analytical tools to address the scourge of racism. The truth, however, is that racism remains prevalent in our society. Where is the Black Consciousness for our times? Addressing a graduation ceremony at Rhodes University in April, Professor Basil S Moore may be pointing the way when he says: "Our task as intellectuals is still to engage with the victims of injustice, to analyse their plight, to give voice to their distress and their hopes. "But it is not to do this standing aloof from their struggle. It needs to be done from the very heart of that struggle. It is to devise and implement strategies that will restore to people their dignity and humanity. Each of you in your chosen field is being called upon to become liberation activists for social justice." Intellectuals in South Africa today, especially those in higher education institutions, are called upon to avoid what Thandika Mkandawire calls the "Faustian Bargain" in being part of the new power elite and silenced by the allure of privilege. Rather, they should be doing what intellectuals ought to be doing, namely "puncturing the myths", demystifying the rhetoric of struggle, deconstructing the politics of liberation, and in that manner taking their place in the forefront of "responsible citizenship". N Barney Pityana is rector of the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown and a former vicechancellor of Unisa. Pityana is one of the founding members of the Black Consciousness Movement and was a close friend of Steve Biko

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    Thinking Africa Nigel C Gibson In a recent graduation speech, Saleem Badat, the vice-chancellor of Rhodes University, called on graduates to put their knowledge and expertise to work "for the benefit of society at large" through "ethical conduct, impeccable integrity, visionary endeavour, selfless public service and commitment to people and responsibilities". Yet, has it paradoxically become more difficult to be an oppositional critical humanist in the post-apartheid academy? I ask because during the 1980s some quite amazing intellectual spaces opened up in the universities, often related in one way to the social movements, the trade union movements and so on, in the struggles against apartheid. After 1994, the problem seemed one of practice and policy, leading to policy units trumping the development of more reflective units of academic study. Additionally, the logic of the university within neoliberal global processes (as well as the economistic authoritarianism of budget cuts) has furthered a hierarchy where an elite can still afford to study in the humanities with guarantees of future employment while those who can afford a university education are in practical career-oriented preprofessional study, often with humanities as a broad-based but very much a secondrate, often under-resourced "general education" requirement. Questions are reduced to how to fully realise market mechanisms. Entrepreneurship (social, political, economic and psychological), we are told, is the most rational and equitable model. Yet, at the same time, South Africa is becoming a society where increasingly, Badat added, "crass materialism, corruption, tenderpreneurship and unbridled accumulation, often of the most primitive kinds, run rampant". South Africa remains an intensely political society marked by constant rebellions and revolts that quickly take on political discourses related to the shortcoming of the society as a whole. But what has happened to the fundamental questions and discussions about creating a new society? Away from the noise of what might be considered policy talk or the election discourse of improving service delivery, questions continue to be asked in exactly the places that Frantz Fanon would expect. At a meeting last month in Pietermaritzburg, Ntombifuthi Shandu from the Rural Network remarked that life has become more difficult since the end of apartheid. Reflecting on the brutality of some of those who rule, she wondered whether "we are led by people who were damaged by the struggle during apartheid". The remark immediately reminded me of Fanon's case notes in The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon understood that the struggle for "true liberation" also bred pathologies and psychological disorders, as well as traumas and stresses created by extreme situations, that would have to be addressed through sociotherapy. But Shandu's comments also reminded me of Fanon writing with "pain in his heart" about a politics based on resentment that simply takes the place and attitudes of the coloniser. Rather than building a cul- ture of discussion (and demo-cracy) there exists in the nationalist party, he argues, a "sclerosis" that leads to a "brutality of thought". Of course, today it would not be hard to read Fanon's essay "Pitfalls of National Consciousness" as a critique of postapartheid South Africa, but Shandu's point also insightfully expressed Fanon's concern that hatred, resentment and revenge, feelings often encouraged during the struggle for short-term ends, cannot sustain liberation nor create liberated beings. What is absolutely essential, Fanon concludes, is the force of the intellect, the creation of new dimensions for men and women. And just as the colonised understand the "thinking" of the colonial regime, the formerly colonised are quick to understand postcolonial political reality. For Fanon, the problem for universitytrained intellectuals is the lack of appreciation of the thinking that takes place among those excluded from the new dispensation - the poor, the landless, the unemployed - but who have never given up on the idea of freedom. This speaks to Badat's concern about the relevance of humanities to university education, which must help, as far as possible, to keep alive and encourage public debate of intellectual and theoretical questions and, at the same time, remain free of narrow political or policy paradigms, whether they be state or global, including a critical distance from such discourses as "development" and "human rights". Fanon argues that violence is unending as long as the brutality of colonialism, with all its dehumanising practices, continues in the independence phase. Violence, Fanon argues, is structural and takes place at many levels; it enters the individual's pores and follows them home; it is internalised and constantly reproducing dehumanisation. Fanon's concern about continued brutality is connected to his notion of decolonisation as a restructuring of consciousness. This is where a discussion of the role of critical humanities, or perhaps better, a decolonial humanities, must begin and must be connected to a larger project of a decolonial education. Fanon insists that such a change in consciousness will not be completed quickly and certainly cannot be completed through a few slogans and marketing campaigns. It has a material basis but also takes patience and time to recentre the psyches fragmented by colonialism and oppression and to instil into people that they and not some demiurge will fashion the new Supplement to the Mail & Guardian August 26 to September 1 2011 3 taking dignity and democracy seriously Fanon's arguments about decolonising the humanities have resonance in academia today Rhodes University vice-chancellor Saleem Badat (above) has spoken out against 'crass materialism and unbridled accumulation' in much the same way that philosopher Frantz Fanon (left) did. Photo: Sophie Smith society. ject or refashioned as a market or A decolonial humanities takes the Africanised notion of humanities in people's questions about freedom, service to the entrepreneurial fields democracy and dignity seriously as (such as providing an ethics for busi- it relates to Fanon's insistence that ness students). It must be socially everything needs to be rethought, engaged and critical (in the sense of and that all should be involved in not being frightened of its conclu- imagining the future. Liberation and sions), seeking to get to the root of invention, not reduced to human any problem. output and balance sheets, need both Committed to overcoming aliena- commitment and autonomy. tion and oppression, in Fanon's Developing PHD Ad Layout a decolonial 8/3/11 8:53 humani- AM Page sense, 3 a decolonial humanities must ties cannot therefore be under- include discussions about the nature stood as a return to elite liberal pro- of society and thus help to unlock C M Y CM MY CY CMY K Andrew W. Mellon Prestigious Doctoral Scholarships in the Humanties Ten (10) PhD Scholarships Available Applications are invited from suitably qualified students to study full-time at Rhodes University in 2012. These awards are offered subject to the following criteria. The overriding criterion for the award of the Scholarship is academic merit, although other factors such as community service, could be taken into account. Applicants must pursue postgraduate studies in the Humanities Faculty. The scholarships are renewable for three years and open to all citizens, but preference will be given to designated groups. Potential candidates may apply if they are already currently registered for a Doctoral degree except if they are in their third year of a PhD programme. Please submit the following documents electronically: * A covering letter indicating intended degree and subject; * Detailed Curriculum Vitae; * Contact details of three academic referees (including email addresses); * Full academic transcript; and a * Certified copy of your ID. Closing Date: 16 September 2011 Humanities contact: Ms Karen Kouari human capacities and powers to consciously remake the world. It requires a democratic inclusiveness, accountability and equality as well as an atmosphere of questioning, criticism (freedom in terms of a liberated perspective) and openness where all are encouraged to participate in thinking. Fanon's notion of rethinking everything, in other words, cannot be subject to any external evaluation or funding agency. Serious research is an open-ended and democratic project. Outcomes cannot be anticipated in advance nor measured against some or other technocratic schema. This new era of rethinking must begin with a thorough accounting of the past 17 years - the postapartheid period - and must begin with a rejection of the mindset that reduces intellectual work to a study, even if critical, of policy outcomes. Theory must be taken seriously as something to be engaged with and produced as well as used in South Africa. In other words, Fanon's demand at the conclusion of The Wretched of the Earth that independence really means working out "new concepts" in the very geographic spaces of independence must be taken very seriously. Nigel C Gibson is based at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. His most recent book is Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo e: | t: 046 603 8362

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    4 Supplement to the Mail & Guardian August 26 to September 1 2011 Thinking Africa Affirmative action meets white mediocrity From Page 1 His contracted dissertation was published several years later. He has not since published a second book. He is now a full professor at that institution. Over the years I have met only one person in his field who knew and spoke well of his work. That person was a classmate of his in graduate school. The Faculty of Humanities has instituted a comprehensive Research Development Programme intended to promote research and post-graduate development. To this end, established scholars with proven research and postgrad supervision expertise have been selected to lead research - Critical Sexual and Reproductive Health Studies; Media and Citizenship: Between Marginalisation and Participation; Southern African Literature in Focus; and Visual and Performing Arts of Africa. Postgrad candidates are invited to apply for Masters, Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowship study programme tenable from January 2012. The scholarships, generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, are valued at R60 000 for Masters, R80 000 for PhD, and R130 000 for Postdoctoral Fellowship, per candidate, per annum. Humanities contact: Ms Karen Kouari e: t: 046 603 8362 Application forms: postgraduates/funding/internal Closing date: 16 September 2011 Was affirmative action necessary for my promotion and tenure? Yes. But as should be evident in this example, and no doubt in Gates's and many others, there is another truth. Was investment in white supremacy necessary for less than stellar whites to be promoted? Yes. Affirmative action, which brought people of colour to the table to learn first-hand about the level of performance of their white predecessors and contemporaries, stimulated a reflection on standards in many institutions. As more people of colour began to meet inflated standards, what was being concealed were the low standards available to the whites who preceded them (and no doubt many who continue Humanities: A New Research and Post-Graduate Focus Visual and Performing Arts of Africa - Department of Fine Art Applicants will contribute to the research theme - The Audacity of Place: Geopolitics and the Arts of Africa - and assist in developing a high-profile research topic that informs public debate in the art world and in academia. Focusing on transformation, Africanisation, and sociopolitical relevance, the research is framed by three key components: * A critique of the placelessness of 'Global Africa' as developed in theoretical texts and exhibitions; Media and Citizenship: Between Marginalisation and Participation - School of Journalism & Media Studies This research focus area aims to make a significant contribution to major debates around journalism, media, and democracy both in South Africa and the continent. The research will focus on ways in which the South African media realises its potential to contribute to the (re)construction and (re)negotiation of citizenship. It will investigate the extent to which the South African media serve as a public sphere where meanings of democratic citizenship are debated, and the ways in which media Critical Sexual and Reproductive Health Studies - Departments of Psychology & Political Studies This research focus area aims to produce nuanced, gender-aware and reflective approaches to sexualities, sexuality education and reproductive health service provision. Within these broad aims, candidates should have an interest in pursuing research in the following areas: sexuality education; antenatal and postnatal service delivery; abortion counseling; constructions of sexuality and teenage pregnancy. * An analysis of specific 'local' projects that demonstrate the political importance of place; and * A reconsideration of place in terms of Africa's relationship to the Global South. Contact: Prof Ruth Simbao e: | t: 046 603 8677 Further information: are being used by audiences to make sense of their roles, responsibilities and legal and political rights. Contact: Prof Herman Wasserman e: | t: 046 603 7141 Prof Anthea Garman e: | t: 046 603 7125. Further information: Contact: Prof Catriona Macleod e: | t: 046 603 7377 Prof Louise Vincent e: | t: 046 603 8355. Further information: bursariesandfunding Southern African Literature in Focus - Department of English This research focus area will engage in a thorough reevaluation of the scope and complexity of Southern African literature, covering literature produced from the pre-colonial to the post-apartheid periods. Participants will adopt a variety of interlocking literary-critical approaches to this literature, including historical, genealogical, ecological and transnational. Applicants should have an interest in literary-cultural to join them as presumed agents of excellence). So, what is the truth about the qualifications narrative, the claim about having to lower standards for the admission of people of colour? It masks racial hegemonic mediocrity. There is another truth. There are few systems that depend on excellence to function. Most of the ser- interpretation and in preparing themselves for the professions of literary scholarship, language teaching, book publishing, cultural journalism and imaginative writing. Contact: Prof Dirk Klopper e: | t: 046 603 7396 Further information: vices we rely on to get through our lives depend on average levels of performance. And that's pretty much it. The rewards lavished on many whites in the modern world have not been based on merit. What many people of colour discovered upon entering those previously closed corridors was not white superiority but, for the most part, white mediocrity. This is not to say that there is no excellence among rewarded whites. It is to say that, as with every group, high performance is by definition a virtue of those who are devoted and talented. But as Anna Julia Cooper had shown, far too much is invested in those who fail to meet such traits in white supremacist society. Very little is put towards those who, with few incentives, produce more. Could one imagine what proper social investments in the people who are resourceful enough to survive in the shacks of South Africa, the favelas of Brazil, the slums of India and the ghettos of the United States could mean for the future of humankind? To make some headway on these matters demands, then, bringing to the fore the truth about affirmative action and the so-called post-apartheid world in which we now live. It requires admitting the onus of past victories is the next stage of struggle, a reality that, unfortunately, never fails to come but whose battle must be waged, however weary our souls may be, because, as many of us in higher education know and those who sacrificed their lives to make access to it possible knew, what is at stake is no less than humanity's most precious resource, which speaks, in the end, to the future of all. Lewis R Gordon is the Laura H Carnell professor of philosophy and Jewish studies and director of the Centre for Afro-Jewish Studies at Temple University, Philadelphia, United States. He was formerly professor of Africana studies, modern culture and media and contemporary religious thought at Brown University, where he was also the founding chairperson of Africana studies. His most recent books include An Introduction to Africana Philosophy (Cambridge UP, 2008) and, with Jane Anna Gordon, Of Divine Warning: Reading Disaster in the Modern Age (Paradigm Publishers, 2009). A longer version of this article can be found at

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