This essay is a study of how fixities of race and tribe were made out of multiple colonialisms and apartheid in South Africa, notwithstanding social fluidity and hybridity. It also examines how modes of racial and ethnic governance were contested, especially through the politics of nonracialism, which was not a politics of racelessness but an attentiveness to the constructedness of race. Nevertheless, some approaches to nonracialism were framed as forms of racial alliance, which tended to reproduce the racial categories of apartheid. While nonracialism (like postracialism) was seemingly co-opted after the end of apartheid as a means of retaining privilege, it is necessary to revisit varied understandings and debates inside the liberation movement on race and nonracialism to counteract this co-option and as a commitment to nonracialism not as state of being but as politics of knowledge.
The Politics of Nonracialism in South Africa
Ciraj Rassool is professor of history at the University of the Western Cape. His research is on political biography, museum transformation, memory politics, and rehumanizing the colonial dead. His latest books are The Politics of Heritage in Africa: Economies, Histories, and Infrastructures (2015), coedited with Derek Peterson and Kodzo Gavua, and Unsettled History: Making South African Public Pasts (2017), cowritten with Leslie Witz and Gary Minkley. He directs the Remaking Societies, Remaking Persons Supranational Forum at UWC, which is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Ciraj Rassool; The Politics of Nonracialism in South Africa. Public Culture 1 May 2019; 31 (2): 343–371. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-7286861
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