This article sets the itineracy of antiapartheid expressive culture to work in relation to exiled South African jazz singer Miriam Makeba. It revisits accounts of transnational cultural circulation on the part of Rob Nixon, Paul Gilroy, and others to argue that the diffusion of South African cultural formations outward from South Africa offers historiographic traction over other Cold War settings. Throughout the international antiapartheid struggle, South African expressive culture was channeled through local paradigms of reception in the world beyond, in taut negotiation with aesthetic, institutional, linguistic, and political considerations. Instances of cultural translation, catachresis, and slippage resulting from the deterritorialization of South African cultural formations can thus be contextualized, historicized, and turned back reflexively on other conjunctures, to defamiliarize existing scholarship. Makeba’s long exile in Ahmed Sékou Touré’s Guinea between 1969 and 1986 is examined in the light of these claims. Here, Makeba crosses a theater of intense ideological contestation following Touré’s 1968 socialist cultural revolution, illuminating some of its constitutive features. The article concludes with a consideration of Makeba’s agency as performer at the interface between militant cultural nationalism and state prohibition in revolutionary Guinea.
This article charts the itineraries set in motion by a word and an idea, apartheid, whose material purchase shaped the history of South Africa throughout the second half of the twentieth century. To cast apartheid as an idea is to adopt Saul Dubow’s calculated gesture of defamiliarization.1 Apartheid, he observes, “became politically compelling to its adherents in the 1940s, because the word itself condensed a powerful set of fears and hopes; reciprocally, the fact that the system of racial discrimination and exploitation came to be conveniently expressed in a single word helped the antiapartheid movement, in all its many forms, to coalesce.”2 Apartheid comes into being as a catachresis: the radical extension in the semantic as well as the juridical fields of late colonial segregation now grown dense with the imperatives, imaginings, and racial pathologies of Afrikaner nationalism whose importance Dubow highlights.3 The stark Afrikaans signifier precipitated the formation of agonistic constituencies, as Dubow claims. Equally, however, it called these constituencies into proliferating sets of relations that undermined the fixity of the separation that apartheid delineated in advance of its own contingent implementation.
Within South Africa, the apartheid binary that opposed “civilization” to “barbarism” was spatialized as the opposition between the white city and the black homeland.4 Yet the spatial divide was anything but static in the face of the economic rationality of apartheid, as the work of radical historians in South Africa has demonstrated.5 Given its dependence on oscillating black migrant labor, apartheid routinely breached the separation that it named. The “porosity” of the “apartheid project”, in Deborah Posel’s phrasing, certainly resulted in “a mobile and sometimes unruly dialectic of racial proximity and distance”, as she correctly states.6 However, the impact of porosity or mobility extends well beyond the calibration of racialized social geographies. It is a central argument of this article that the “restlessness of apartheid”—a phrase that bears the imprint of sociologist Robin Wagner-Pacifici’s use of the term restlessness—needs to be considered in relation to cultural production.7 The analysis of Miriam Makeba as performer and political activist in the discussion that follows is presaged on the understanding that black South Africans, drawn into coercive and extractive relations of production under apartheid, used the resources of expressive culture to negotiate new social forms at the margins of South Africa’s white cities, enacting in the process aspirational claims to the urbanity which the apartheid state had so spectacularly revoked.8
Over twenty years ago, an influential entry in the emergent field of South African cultural studies, Rob Nixon’s 1994 volume Homelands, Harlem, and Hollywood: South African Culture and the World Beyond, helped to sketch out the consequences for literary and cultural production of apartheid’s volatile juxtaposition of fixity and displacement. The efforts of the apartheid regime “to hold culturally circumscribed races and ethnicities—often at gunpoint—to the most punishingly phantasmagoric standards of authenticity”, Nixon writes, “required and provoked tumultuous upheavals”, including migrancy, forced removals, military invasions, and the creation of “a sprawling diaspora of guerillas, refugees, and exiles who had to piece together the most ironically hybrid identities on foreign shores.”9 Nixon examines the transnational embeddedness of South African culture. His well-known reading of the influence of the Harlem Renaissance together with popular Hollywood cinema on the intellectuals, writers, and performers of Sophiatown, and his discussion of the impact of “the idea of America” on the apartheid state’s ban on television, for example, find their complement in the analysis of American cinematic representations of the antiapartheid struggle or in the treatment of Bessie Head’s exile in Botswana.10
Homelands, Harlem, and Hollywood was published on the very cusp of the transition to democracy in South Africa in 1994. The essays that constitute its last section, “South African Culture and the Aftermath of the Cold War”, offer analyses embedded in that particular moment.11 Nixon’s reading of his present, our past, continues to offer trenchant insights. However, the intervening period has seen two intellectual developments that alter the valence of Nixon’s text: the ascendancy of Paul Gilroy’s “black Atlantic” paradigm, on the one hand, and the consolidation of transnational orientations within Cold War historiography on the other.12 While Nixon shares Gilroy’s interest in charting the translocal movement of works of expressive culture in arenas defined by racialized power relations, he falls short of assigning race a role comparable with the one it plays in Gilroy’s account of transnational modernity. When set against later entries in South African cultural studies that draw explicitly on Gilroy, such as Isabel Hofmeyr’s work on the multidirectional circuits—economic, ideological, and textual—that link India and South Africa, Nixon’s analysis seems to intuit rather than to deliver an adequate account of cultural circulation.13 At the same time, the connection that he makes between decolonization and the globalization of the antiapartheid struggle might profitably be revisited in light of the heightened transnationalism of evolving Cold War historiography.14
The current debate in Cold War studies recognizes that colonialism and the anticolonial struggles it generates are deeply enmeshed in the consolidation of the post-1945 world order.15 The apartheid state was a powerful catalyst in the anti-imperialist and pan-Africanist ferment that the newly decolonized polities of the early Cold War and their African American allies would eventually cede to the ascendancy in Africa of the postcolonial nation-state.16 Written in the aftermath of this shift, Ryan M. Irwin’s Gordian Knot: Apartheid and the Unmaking of the Liberal World Order renders apartheid pivotal for an argument keyed to decolonization as “one of the twentieth century’s seminal ruptures.”17 The apartheid regime contravened three cardinal principles of the anticolonial struggle in this account: “Racial inequality was intellectually bankrupt, Africans were better equipped than Europeans to deliver economic progress in Africa, and legitimacy was tied directly to political control of a territory and membership in the United Nations.”18 Irwin shows how newly independent African leaders challenged the assumptions and institutions of Washington’s liberal internationalism after the Bandung Asian-African summit of 1955. Although cognizant of points of friction between civil rights in the United States, anticolonialism, radical internationalism, and decolonization, Irwin is aloof to studies that have analyzed public culture at these nodes of intersection.19 He fails to consider what Nixon’s work so powerfully demonstrates—that the global contest over the meaning of apartheid and of resistance to it occurs on the terrain of culture. This omission invites remedy. If we grant that the Cold War is irreducible to diplomacy or international relations, occupying instead “realms of culture and community within and beyond the nation-state” as Christopher J. Lee rightly asserts, then culture must continue to be accorded a salience in the South African instance that is commensurable with the cultural turn in Cold War historiography more generally.20
Equipped with these observations, how might we renegotiate the relation that Nixon allows to hinge upon the conjunction in the subtitle: “South African Culture and the World Beyond”? Nixon’s sequence depends on the logic of chiasmus: South Africa in the world, the world in South Africa. In place of the chiasmus, however, I want to offer a type of metalepsis as the prelude to a properly historiographic estrangement.21 Apartheid moves things. The substitution of remote cause for present effect in this reformulation momentarily unsettles its object, providing for a more radical heuristic wager than the one Nixon entertains. At determinate stops along the grid of their reception elsewhere, South African texts, images, and works of music were channeled through local paradigms of reception in taut negotiation with aesthetic, institutional, linguistic, and political considerations. If apartheid is an apparatus of transnational cultural production, an insight that takes Nixon as its point of departure but that also draws from more recent work on transnational circulation by scholars of South African literature including Stefan Helgesson, Isabel Hofmeyr, Monica Popescu, and Andrew van der Vlies, how might the itineracy of apartheid-era expressive culture during the Cold War shed light on the histories of nation-states other than South Africa?22 How, for that matter, might it impact our understanding of more encompassing transnational formations such as pan-Africanism or tricontinentalism? Nixon references certain “border zones” where, he says, “foreigners have reconceived the idea of apartheid and its overthrow under the transforming pressures of their own dreads and dreams.”23 It easy to concur that this process of refraction (Nixon’s term) is necessarily transformative, giving rise to slippage and distortion.24 Yet there is a corollary here that needs emphasis. It is precisely with respect to such refractions and transformations, I want to argue, that the itineracy of South African expressive cultures of resistance gives rise to historiographic leverage. Instances of cultural translation, catachresis, and slippage resulting from the deterritorialization of South African cultural formations can be contextualized, historicized, and turned back reflexively on the specific configurations within which they occur in order to enable a form of analysis that proceeds “from the outside in”, to appropriate Ryan Irwin’s resonant phrase.25 These dynamics are not adequately addressed in Nixon’s work for all that they constitute a set of possibilities arising from it.26
However, before we bend itineracy reflexively back on itself to examine Miriam Makeba’s long exile in Ahmed Sékou Touré’s Guinea, we need to recognize that itineracy spans time as well as space. The possibility of refraction or reinscription endures beyond the apartheid regime, beyond the coordinates of the Cold War, endures as the subtext of my intervention. Writing in the pages of this journal in 2003, the editors of a special issue titled “Palestine in a Transnational Context”, Timothy Mitchell, Gyan Prakash, and Ella Shohat observe that “the Palestine question now haunts the West, much as the question of apartheid haunted a previous generation. We draw the analogy with apartheid not to make any simplistic historical comparison between Israel and South Africa, but rather to place the Palestine question in a transnational and comparative frame, and to try to understand it in its historical complexity.”27 The apartheid analogy has long channeled opposition to the policies of the Israeli state within and/or beyond the 1967 borders. Over the last decade, it has gained additional purchase in activist communities and at the United Nations through the consolidation of the transnational Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movements. In the academy, comparative scholarship has focused on such issues as land and spatial regimes; forced removals and ethnic cleansing; labor; restrictions on mobility, including restrictions imposed by the separation barrier or “apartheid wall”; and militarization and infringements of human rights.28
Jon Soske and Sean Jacobs’s recent edited volume Apartheid Israel: The Politics of an Analogy, investigates the “thick culture work” performed by these mobilizations, in Keith P. Feldman’s use of the phrase. Their importance derives not least from their capacity to catalyze discursive shifts and epistemic reframings that direct public debate toward “Israel’s colonial origins and the settler project of consolidating a nation-state through the expropriation and expulsion of Palestinians”, as Soske and Jacobs observe.29 A concern with the politics of knowledge production, its ethical freight and consequences, resonates through the collection. In this respect, Soske and Jacobs’s intervention has much in common with Feldman’s acclaimed volume A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America, which examines the “competing grids of intelligibility” that have determined the place of Israel and Palestine in the consolidation or, alternatively, contestation of hegemonic racial formations in the United States.30
Feldman’s focus on translocal entanglements offers additional evidence for the innovatory capacity of transnational methodologies. At its core, his study articulates a “conjuncture (roughly 1960-1985) when struggles over hegemony in the United States became entangled with transformed relations of rule in Israel and Palestine, that is, when U.S. civil rights and antiwar struggles, Zionist settler colonization and Israeli military and administrative occupation, and Palestinian narratives of dispossession, dispersion, and resistance were forged, felt, and thought together.”31 The use of conjunctural analysis and of “relationality” extends the more limited devices of comparative research.32 At the same time, it is worth recalling that Feldman sees analogy itself as a quintessentially relational analytic.33 Relationality is used to precise effect in one of Feldman’s key studies focusing on the role played by transnational intersections between black radicals in the United States and Palestinian scholars affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization in countering liberalism’s disqualification of race as a prism for the analysis of the Israeli state.34 Feldman’s account of the epistemic disruption effected by Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chair Stokely Carmichael and others traverses apartheid South Africa at the point where Feldman finds Carmichael sifting through the consequences of the apartheid regime’s military, economic, and political collusion with Israel.35 These volatile exchanges amplify Carmichael’s capacity to engage in a “contestatory remapping” of American exceptionalism in Feldman’s account, even as they underscore the historical imbrication of apartheid as a referent in black radical discourse in mine.36 The lived itineraries of Miriam Makeba, who would marry Stokely Carmichael not too long after his very public contestation of Zionism, allow us to examine the interface between apartheid and black radicalism from a different perspective.37 If I now term her itineraries restless, it is not to make the exiled Makeba the bearer of a voluntary cosmopolitan rootlessness. Rather, restlessness alludes to the system of political semiosis proposed by Wagner-Pacifici on which I draw in order to adjudicate more precisely the mediation of itinerant South African expressive culture during the Cold War along multiple axes: aesthetic, linguistic, generic, institutional, ideological, and political.38
“Restlessness” emerges from Wagner-Pacifici’s modeling of what she terms the “specifiable event.”39 Events “exist only by virtue of specific inhabitations or informings”, she argues. They are “intrinsically restless” to the extent that “they must take perceptible form, and insofar as these forms are necessarily multiple, reiterated, and situated.”40 For Wagner-Pacifici, restlessness names the interaction between cultural forms or media, on the one hand, and their reiteration and circulation on the other. In this account, performative speech-acts, deictic or demonstrative markers, and cultural representations are tasked with taming volatile historic events, so that Wagner-Pacifici might specify how such events solidify despite their “rampant and generative” capacities.41 Extending restlessness beyond its framing in Wagner-Pacifici, we are now better equipped to see how the idea of apartheid is concretized through multiple informings and iterations in the global cultural arena, whether or not these “congeal” around specific events in the sense that interests Wagner-Pacifici.42 Such informings incise tangible trails within the material networks of circulation that Wagner-Pacifici lays out. The material and, I would add, affective proliferation of these informings offer multiple avenues for cultural analysis. Political signifiers, cultural artifacts, performances, genres of representation, events, and the migration or exile of cultural and political actors all enter into the skein of conveyances, negotiations, condensations, reiterations, and handings off that I derive from Wagner-Pacifici as “restlessness.”
No account of these circuits of transmission can afford to overlook the role of social actors within them. People carry culture. Lives ceaselessly brush up against material circuits and flows in the relay of antiapartheid resistance. In the case of apartheid South Africa, the crossed lines and lives of the exiled and displaced are a source of definite historiographic agency.43 Exile generates new circuits of professional affiliation and new venues for cultural production, although these do not necessarily mitigate the rift that it occasions.44 The give-and-take of a prolonged exile that subtends both heightened professional celebrity and acute personal loss is particularly marked in the case of Zenzile Miriam Makeba, to whom I now turn. How does Makeba personify restlessness, given that she is the product—as person, as performer—of the specific forms of mobility and immobility associated with the formation of urban black subjectivity under apartheid? How does this subjectivity shift, its political attachments vary, as Makeba negotiates the personal and profession imperatives of passage and impasse associated with the exile’s—this particular exiled woman’s—negotiation of the interdict against her returning home? What is Makeba’s role in channeling complex engagements on the part of others with the meaning of the struggle against apartheid?
Makeba’s agency derives from the history of jazz as a privileged form of black transnational cultural circulation, but also from its centrality for South Africa. While jazz allowed Africans, generally speaking, to challenge their othering or racialization through inserting themselves into “a coeval global field of cultural action”, as Tsitsi Ella Jaji observes, the contest over coevality in apartheid South Africa’s urban centers was particularly bitter.45 South African jazz researchers have long insisted that the flowering of jazz culture in urban settings such as Sophiatown contains an explicit refutation of apartheid’s temporal and spatial capture of the black South African subject.46 Makeba’s rise to fame in this context is well documented: its milestones include her emergence as vocalist for the influential Manhattan Brothers group and her starring role in the jazz opera King Kong, a collaboration between white and black South Africans that defied the segregation imposed by the apartheid state. In 1959, following a cameo appearance in Lionel Rogosin’s neorealist documentary Come Back Africa, Makeba traveled to Italy to attend its premier at the Venice Film Festival. Rogosin’s film had been shot clandestinely in South Africa. The movie’s success in exposing the suffering of black South Africans under apartheid precipitated Makeba’s exile. After a period in London, she moved to the United States under the patronage of Harry Belafonte, the African American entertainer closely associated with Martin Luther King.47
In America, Makeba’s claims on coevality would be badly compromised. Ruth Feldstein and April Sizemore-Barber have charted the significations that attach to Makeba’s Africanness in the United States.48 They concur that American circuits of reception flattened the expression of Makeba’s sexuality, urban modernity, and translocal identity, obscuring them under the mantle of primitive exoticism. Whereas for Sizemore-Barber the discourse that accreted around Makeba reflects “evolving attitudes of America towards Africa, and [ . . . ] its contradictory relationship to its own African-American citizens”, for Feldstein Makeba highlights the salience of Africa for the civil rights struggle “across divides of liberal, radical, and nationalist politics.”49 It is noteworthy that Feldstein’s account is structured as a rise-and-fall narrative delimited by the coordinates of Makeba’s American sojourn. Makeba would leave the United States for Guinea in 1969 in response to a succession of crises following the suspension of Belafonte’s patronage, as well as state harassment in the wake of her marriage to Carmichael.50 “Despite all that she accomplished professionally and politically”, Feldstein observes, “Miriam Makeba’s years in the United States did not end in triumph.”51 The narrative stands in thrall to its putative ending, intransitively bound to the metropolitan perspective which frames Feldstein’s narrative. Her account is not alone in this. The scholarship on Makeba is conspicuously silent when it comes to Makeba’s prolific career in decolonizing Africa itself.
Seen from one perspective, Makeba’s relocation to Guinea is tantamount to a second exile. Differently framed, it is the culmination of Miriam Makeba’s affiliations with pan-Africanist and internationalist constituencies channeled through the long-standing friendships that she maintained with African exiles, diplomats, and intellectuals.52 Makeba’s pan-Africanist associations continue a longer chain of black radical internationalism that predates apartheid itself. Harry Belafonte’s own mentor, Paul Robeson, is crucial here. Robeson, his wife, Eslanda Goode Robeson, and his associate, actor Canada Lee (who would appear in Zoltan Korda’s 1951 film version of Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country), played a crucial role, together with such figures as W. E. B. Du Bois, Alphaeus Hunton, and Max Yergan, in forging the anticolonial politics of oppositional black constituencies in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s.53 The importance to black internationalists within the United States of the 1946 mineworkers’ strike in South Africa, as well as the later contestations over the treatment of South African Indians and over South West Africa at the United Nations, underscores the extent to which antiapartheid resistance would be embedded in longer histories of pan-Africanist solidarity.54 The decline of these forms of solidarity politics in the face of Cold War anti-communism, Penny M. Von Eschen has argued, was accompanied by a retreat from explanations of racism grounded in political economy and its reframing as “prejudice”, at great cost to the ensuing, more circumscribed, arena of civil rights struggle.55
Read forward beyond her departure for Guinea, Makeba’s continued capacity to inhabit pan-Africanist cultural and political networks helps to shift the historiography back to Africa. How is Makeba signified with respect to Africa by fellow Africans? What is her standing within rival visions of pan-Africanism in decolonizing Africa? How does she shed light on negotiations over the meaning of apartheid, as the latter is juxtaposed with tropes of anti-imperialism and African revolution at this time?
Conakry: Improvising Revolution
Perhaps no country other than Guinea, Jay Straker speculates, “has generated a historiographic record so thin in measured analysis and commentary, and so comparably rich in vituperative condemnation and defensiveness.”56 Guinea’s singular and defiant rejection of the premises of Charles de Gaulle’s Fifth Republic in the referendum on inclusion within the French Community on 28 September 1958 has been dimmed by its retrospective narration through accounts of Ahmed Sekou Toure’s growing authoritarianism.57 For a short period, however, Guinea was a somewhat unexpected partner to the transatlantic dialogue on civil rights. Makeba’s patron Belafonte fostered cultural exchanges with Guinea in a climate of positive diplomatic engagement during the Kennedy era.58 Guinea also consolidated its support for the antiapartheid struggle during the 1960s. Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, the leaders of the African National Congress, received funds from Toure during Mandela’s clandestine circuit of African states, including Algeria, in 1961.59 The exchange between Toure and Mandela’s political rivals, the Pan-Africanist Congress, was nevertheless sufficiently robust for its exiled secretary, Potlako Leballo, to send a message of solidarity to Toure in July 1969 after an alleged assassination attempt on the latter.60 In the international arena, perhaps the most definitive Guinean expressions of support for the antiapartheid struggle emanated from the UN Special Committee on Apartheid, which was chaired by two Guinean diplomats during its founding years: Diallo Telli (1963-64) and Makeba’s close friend Achkar Marof (1964-68).61
Makeba’s arrival in Guinea coincided with Toure’s socialist cultural revolution, an intervention that sought to renew the modernizing impetus of the flagging Guinean state a decade after independence.62 Far-reaching changes to Guinea’s educational system, cultural mobilization, particularly of youth constituencies, as well as intensified surveillance of state-controlled media, sought to underscore Guinea’s repudiation of French colonial legacies. At the same time, Touré’s increasingly militant doctrine of authenticité provided the basis for a series of polemics against Senegal’s Léopold Senghor.63 The Guinean president opposed the construct of authenticité to its rival négritude, on the grounds that “the maintenance and transmission of cultural authenticity require a physical and permanent association with the tang of native soil and fellow countrymen.”64 Touré rejected the putative “rediscovery” in Europe of African culture by the intellectuals of négritude, denouncing the movement as “the most tangible sign of the African writer’s depersonalization and betrayal.”65 A missive of greeting from Touré to the Sixth Pan-African Congress held in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1974, would go so far as to declare négritude “the ideological and literary form of the policy of native reserves practiced by the Pretoria Administration.”66
Makeba crossed this theater of intense political and ideological contestation quite literally—as a performer. While still resident in the United States, she was invited to the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar in April 1966. Staged by UNESCO, France, and Senegal, with significant support from the US State Department, the festival provided a unique platform for international engagement with Senghorian négritude.67 Although Makeba canceled her appearance a few weeks before the festival, she was nevertheless included in its official program.68 The festival program depicted her as the incarnation of “the Word made Song.” Her voice, it stated with flourish, “has risen out of a world in which harmony is the result of the fusion of the elements: lava, emanation, trees, stones obeying man’s will to survive.”69 Hyperbole in the négritude idiom could not withstand the rivalry of competing ideologies, however. When Makeba subsequently visited Dakar in her new identity as Touré’s protegée, her association with Guinea outweighed her former prestige. The exiled South African was rebuked by Senegalese officials for singing a Guinean song. Makeba reacted with defiance: “I do not sing the song the officials dislike. Instead, I substitute another Guinean song. I know many, and I can sing a new one each night.”70 In response, Makeba’s remaining concerts were summarily canceled. A year later, the singer would be declared persona non grata in Senegal upon her arrival for a performance there, against the background of long-standing tensions between Guinea and Senegal.71 These contestations suggest the extent to which Makeba was interpellated as a figure of Guinean cultural militancy on both sides of the border. In state-controlled media in Guinea itself, Makeba’s association with the antiapartheid struggle was typically coupled with tropes that linked her to the “African revolution” and to the “anti-i mperialist struggle” more generally.72 By the time of Makeba’s performance at the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in Lagos in 1977, coverage of the festival in the Guinean state-controlled newspaper Horoya would position her alongside the Guinean national ballet, Les Ballets Africains de la République de Guinée, as the pride of the continent. At the same time, her invocation as “personnalité mondiale de la chanson, du patriotisme militant” (global personality of song, of militant patriotism) effectively diffused Makeba’s own patriotism: her nationalist aspirations for the land of her birth not yet constituted to give black South Africans full citizenship within its borders.73
Graeme Counsel has observed that Makeba’s recording output under the Guinean national label Syliphone surpassed that of all other Guinean artists.74 Makeba’s identifications with Guinea were often deeply chosen, as the account of her defiant stance in Dakar suggests. At the same time, Makeba’s tenacious inscription of her agency as performer reflects itineraries that are by no means reducible to the scripts of Touré’s socialist cultural revolution. In 1970, Makeba recorded a praise song to Touré in Malinké, the language of Touré’s ethnic elite, entitled “Touré Barika” (“Blessed Touré”).75 Yair Hashachar argues that Makeba’s version of this song differs noticeably from a parallel rendering by the prominent Guinean band Balla et ses Balladins, thanks to its inclusion of musical elements drawn from African American popular styles. An iconic backbeat groove popularized by soul musicians such as Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye is overlaid with Makeba’s voice, which adds melodic ornamentation in the blues scale.76 Against such syncretic flows of expressive culture, Touré’s socialist cultural revolution proscribed foreign influence, harnessing aggressively desacralized indigenous traditions in the service of nation-building.77 The translocal compositional elements of Makeba’s rendering of “Touré Barika” flaunt Touré’s prohibition on American influences between the lines of the interdict, thus making its homage to the authoritarian national leader unexpectedly polyphonic.
Yet caution is warranted here all the same. That Makeba’s polyphonic reprise is heard rather than articulated as spoken political protest is all to the point: “Across genres and generations, [the songs of Guinean musicians] most often accommodate state power, rather than openly defy it”, Nomi Dave has observed.78 Makeba never herself referenced her practice as oppositional. There is no written testimony to resistance that we can unearth here, no reliable archive of reception, save for those visceral traces—the quickening of the pulse, the quickening of the step on the dance floor—that we might project onto Makeba’s listeners in response to her arrangement. At best, we can allegorize Makeba’s reflections in a different context, using them as oblique commentary on the potential for cultural innovation despite rigid state control.79
In her collaboration with Nomsa Mwamuka, Makeba recounts the deeply personal imprint upon her of apartheid’s displacement of its black subjects:
My mother was a Swazi, her father was Zulu, my father was Xhosa. What does it all mean? I don’t speak Xhosa perfectly, I don’t speak Zulu perfectly and I don’t even speak Sotho perfectly. I try siSwati because my grandmother who brought us up spoke siSwati. Growing up in Pretoria we are speaking every kind of . . . mixed thing, so I understood many languages. I have grown to understand many things. So I say first of all I am a South African, because I was born here. Then I am an African, because this is Africa. After that, I am the world. I say thank you Baba. I say thank you Mama. I am Zenzile Miriam Makeba.80
The critic has recuperated restlessness. But what is its price and who pays? “After that, I am the world”, says Makeba.
In accordance with the logic of the pharmakon, Derrida has taught that no cure or antidote is immune from haunting.84 Following Miriam Makeba’s death during a performance in Italy in 2008, her remains were cremated and scattered off Cape Point, in a stark refusal of indigenous South African cosmologies and practices of mourning. Her granddaughter Zenzi Makeba Lee explained: “My grandmother wanted her ashes to be scattered at sea so that the currents could take them to all the places she had been to.”85 The involuntary restlessness of Makeba in life, and her willful restlessness in death imprint the antidote with its cost. Restlessness might marshal the itineracy of apartheid-era expressive culture in the interests of an altered historiographic reckoning, but it does not—cannot—mistake that new reckoning for remedy.
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/European Research Council grant agreement 615564. I am grateful to the European Research Council for its generous support. This article benefited greatly from the anonymous review process. My sincere thanks to all concerned. I am also grateful to Nina Fischer, Omri Grinberg, Noam Leshem, and Sarika Talve-Goodman for their insights. Lastly, I want to acknowledge my profound debt to my researchers Yair Hashachar and Ron Levi, who helped me to listen to the history we are charting.
Dubow cites the first apartheid Prime Minister D. F. Malan’s letter to an American churchman in 1954, to the effect that apartheid represented the “deep-rooted color consciousness” of white South Africans as the “physical manifestation of the contrast between two irreconcilable ways of life, between barbarism and civilization, between heathenism and Christianity.” Ibid., 13.
In an influential essay first published in 1972, the exiled communist and African National Congress activist and academic Harold Wolpe emphasized the role of migrancy, the pass laws, and the system of influx control in the apartheid state’s quest to maintain the provision of cheap labor to the industrialized centers of the white urban economy, despite increasing levels of rural impoverishment in the homelands. Wolpe, “Capitalism and Cheap Labor-Power”, 425-56. For related work emerging from materialist orientations in South African historiography, see Legassick, “Legislation, Ideology, and Economy”, 5-35; and Legassick and Wolpe, “Bantustans and Capital Accumulation in South Africa”, 87-107. For a more comprehensive overview of radical history in South Africa that nevertheless takes Wolpe’s views into account, see Bozzoli and Delius, “Editors’ Introduction”, 13-45.
“The dogged pursuit of rigid racial boundaries also created sites of porosity, producing a mobile and sometimes unruly dialectic of racial proximity and distance.” Posel, “Apartheid Project”, 320.
Wagner-Pacifici, “Theorizing the Restlessness of Events”, 1351-86. See discussion below.
For authoritative work in this regard, see Ballantine, MarabiNights; Coplan, In Township Tonight!; and Erlmann, African Stars. For treatments of the relationship between jazz and urban political aspirations, see Coplan, In Township Tonight!, 164-82; and Ballantine, Marabi Nights, 118-29. Rob Nixon’s reading of Sophiatown literary culture similarly negotiates these aspirations. See Nixon, “Harlem, Hollywood, and the Sophiatown Renaissance”, in Homelands, Harlem, and Hollywood, 11-41, and the discussion below.
Recently, Stéphane Robolin has surveyed a body of scholarship on black South African and African American transnational literary relationships, some of which predates Nixon. Here Robolin reiterates the need for a form of transactional comparison that challenges the privileging of unidirectional American influences, “Black Transnationalism”, 80-94.
Gilroy, Black Atlantic. For an analysis that points to the limitations of Gilroy’s treatment of Africa, see Piot, “Atlantic Aporias”, 155-70. For comparable critiques of Gilroy’s treatment of South Africa, see Chrisman, Postcolonial Contraventions, 89-106; and Masilela, “‘Black Atlantic,’” 88-96.
The notion of apartheid, Nixon writes, “was relentlessly translated into international terms—because it contravened the global impulse toward decolonization, desecrated memories of the Holocaust, and offended the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” (Homelands, Harlem, and Hollywood, 7).
The literature on Cold War studies after the cultural turn is too extensive to survey here, but see Belletto and Grausam, American Literature and Culture. Penny Von Eschen’s account of the jazz tours that promoted US State Department strategies in Africa and in the nonaligned nations during the 1950s and 1960s represents an exemplary articulation of the cultural embeddedness of Cold War rivalries closely allied to my present concerns. See Von Eschen, Satchmo Blows Up the World. For a related discussion of the triangulation between jazz, Africa, and civil rights, see Monson, Freedom Sounds.
For Hofmeyr, see n. 13. See also exemplary interventions by Helgesson, who charts literary modernism at the interface between South Africa, Portugal, Mozambique, and Angola; Popescu, who treats the importance of Russia and Eastern Europe for South African literary culture; and van der Vlies, who delineates features of the “textual Atlantic” within which South African print culture circulates: Helgesson, Transnationalism in Southern African Literature; Popescu, South African Literature beyond the Cold War; Van der Vlies, South African Textual Cultures; and Van der Vlies, “Transnational Print Cultures.”
Nixon writes: “When a cultural issue or product is exported to a new society, it is inevitably subject to refraction. The needs and concerns of the society in which it arrives become a transforming influence, so that the issue takes shape as a compromise between the prevailing history, preoccupations, and ambitions of the society of origin and those of the society with which it intersects.” Ibid., 78. For slippage, see ibid., 3.
Note that I am using deterritorialization to denote the weakening of bonds between works of expressive culture and their location of origin. See Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 18. For Irwin’s phrase, see Gordian Knot, 11.
Whereas the analysis of mass-market Hollywood depictions of the South African liberation struggle, “Cry White Season: Anti-apartheid Heroism and the American Screen”, in Homelands, Harlem, and Hollywood, 77-97, is the best suited of Nixon’s case studies for the purpose of calibrating the “dreads and dreams” of a foreign audience, the chapter directs its attention elsewhere. It amplifies the distortions, relative to South African understandings, of radical political imaginaries as a consequence of their mediation through hegemonic liberal tropes in the United States. But Nixon is silent concerning the consequences that the very rendering of radicalism as liberalism holds for various constituencies within America. He thus misses the extent to which the mediation of antiapartheid expressive culture affords a perspective capable of revealing contradictions within British and American constructions of liberalism in the Cold War era, to take two of his preferred terrains of engagement. This optic is an important component of the corrective I am proposing in the larger research project, Apartheid-Stops, funded by the European Research Council, from which this article arose. My historiographic wager intersects the established postcolonial critique of liberalism that shows liberalism’s claims to political universality to be vitiated by strategies of exclusion. See Mehta, “Liberal Strategies of Exclusion”, 59-86.
Mitchell, Prakash, and Shohat, “Introduction”, 1-2. I address the apartheid analogy as a South African-born academic located in Israel in a short piece in the Johannesburg Salon, an online publication of the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism, in dialogue with an essay by Saree Makdisi in the same venue: Bethlehem, “Apartheid—A Double-Crossing”; Makdisi, “Apartheid/apartheid/[ ].”
I cannot survey this corpus in full here, but notable entries include Davis, Israel: An Apartheid State, and its sequel, Davis, Apartheid Israel; Greenstein, Genealogies of Conflict; Marshall, “Rethinking the Palestine Question”; Peteet, “Work of Comparison”; Yiftachel, Ethnocracy; and Zreik, “Palestine, Apartheid, and the Rights Discourse,” as well as various contributions to Jeenah, Pretending Democracy. Within the framework of Apartheid-Stops, my researchers have traced the involvement of Jewish South African actors and the apartheid-inflected schemas they mediate in helping to determine Israel’s responses to the debates over apartheid at the United Nations and, indeed, in shaping its spatial regime during the early years of the state. See Giladi, “Negotiating Identity”; and Levin, “South African ‘Know-How’ and Israeli ‘Facts of Life.’” Apartheid as an analytic term has also shaped discussions of Israel as occupant of the Palestinian territories in light of the 1973 United Nations “Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid”, with a report by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?) constituting a significant intervention in this regard.
Feldman’s argument draws on the work of Stuart Hall for its conjunctural dimensions and on that of David Theo Goldberg for an exposition of relationality as opposed to comparison. Feldman, Shadow over Palestine, 2, 10.
“An analogy”, writes Feldman, “can never be ‘perfect’ in any simple sense, to be sure. With an analogy, one cannot escape difference, even as, in the queer studies scholar Jasbir Puar’s words, analogies ‘appear to compare objects when in actuality they compare relations.’ . . . The ‘likeness’ or ‘parallel’ of Zionism and PanAfricanism, Warsaw and Watts, the ghetto and the prison, the Holocaust and racial slavery, the wandering Jew and the Black diaspora: these analogies juxtapose unique historical formations which are then linked together by the radically unstable ‘like’ or ‘as’” (Shadow over Palestine, 70). See Puar, Terrorist Assemblages, 117.
“Black Power’s Palestine”, in Feldman, Shadow over Palestine, 59-101. Although Feldman’s study focuses on the period between 1960 and 1985, his methodology may be applied to the arguably conjunctural analysis that Andy Clarno offers in relation to the Israeli occupation and the neoliberal determinants of economic inequality in postapartheid South Africa. Clarno deviates from most presentday uses of the “apartheid Israel” analogy that juxtapose “apartheid-era South Africa and contemporary Palestine/Israel” (“Neoliberal Apartheid”, 68). Instead he argues that recognizing the shared enmeshment of regime change in South Africa and of the Oslo Accords in the global consolidation of neoliberal capitalism potentially contributes “to the constitution of broader movements against global, neoliberal apartheid” (72). Clarno’s reframing extends rather than abrogates the salience of the apartheid analogy for the present moment, offering compelling reasons to consider continuities between the transnational analytics straddling South Africa and Palestine that characterized the black internationalism of Stokely Carmichael and his cohort in the late 1960s and movements like “Ferguson to Palestine” in our own day.
The narrative centered on Makeba’s sojourn in Guinea that I am about to tell crosses Feldman’s analysis to the extent that it has the contestation of Israel in public discourse as one of its proximate causes. See n. 50.
Wagner-Pacifici, “Theorizing the Restlessness of Events.” Wagner-Pacifici’s use of restlessness should be distinguished from that of South African literary critic Meg Samuelson. Working in a thematic rather than semiotic register, Samuelson invokes the “restless mobility” (“(Un)Settled States”, 279) of postapartheid South African Indian writers who “[maintain] a tension rather than closing the gap between national and transnational affiliations” (281). In the context of a discussion of the “implicated subject” that arcs between the works of W. G. Sebald, Dan Jacobson, and William Kentridge, Michael Rothberg uses the phrase “restless transnationalism” to define what he terms “the multidirectional sublime” in Sebald’s Austerlitz (“Multidirectional Memory and the Implicated Subject”, 46). A fuller discussion of Rothberg’s important paradigm of “multidirectionality” with respect to the transnational circulation of memory is beyond the scope of this paper. See Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory.
Ibid., 1356, 1366.
Makeba’s life story is retold in two jointly authored autobiographical collaborations: Makeba and Hall, Makeba: My Story, and Makeba and Mwamuka, Miriam Makeba Story. She figures prominently in the memoirs and biographies of other performers and political activists whose lives she crossed, including those of her husbands, Hugh Masekela and Stokely Carmichael, and that of her mentor, Belafonte.
Belafonte and Makeba parted acrimoniously over Makeba’s mediation of a request by African delegates at the United Nations in the wake of the 1967 war that Makeba refrain from singing the Israeli folk songs that formed part of the repertoire of both singers. Makeba and Hall, Makeba: My Story, 142-45. The incident, replete with its own “archives of incommensurability” with respect to Israel, as Feldman might have put it, forms an interesting footnote to the intersections between African American and Palestinian activists whose unfolding Feldman charts. After Belafonte dropped Makeba from his tour in response to their disagreement, she traveled to Guinea, where a fateful meeting with Carmichael ensued—the two would marry the following year. For further discussion of the implications of Makeba’s marriage for her musical career in the United States, see Fleming, “Marriage of Inconvenience”, 312-38. For “archives of incommensurability”, see Feldman, Shadow over Palestine, 13, as well as the extended discussion in chap. 2 of that book, “Black Power’s Palestine: Permanent War and the Global Freedom Struggle”, 59-101.
Without seeking to exculpate Toure, it is still possible to observe that the preoccupation with the Guinean leader’s despotism at least partly misrecognizes the political contingencies that shaped his actions. See Carmichael and Thelwell, Ready for Revolution, 683, 686-88; Schmidt, Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea; and Straker, Youth, Nationalism, and the Guinean Revolution, 5-8.
Leballo, “Dar-Es-Salam.” My thanks go to Cynthia Gabbay and Yair Hashachar for their assistance in locating this and other sources from the Guinean press.
For Makeba’s friendship with Rosamond Marof and Achkar Marof, see Makeba and Hall, Makeba: My Story, 161. Makeba herself appeared before the UN General Assembly Special Committee on Apartheid during Telli’s tenure, first on 16 July 1963 and then again on 9 March 1964. Telli served as secretary general of the Organization of African Unity between 1964 and 1972, continuing his association with antiapartheid resistance in the framework of the organization’s mobilizations against the South African regime. Marof, for his part, enjoyed visibility in the United States, where his statements on apartheid were circulated in pamphlet form by George Houser’s highly influential American Committee on Africa. See Marof, Racism in South Africa. Jeanne Martin Cissé, Makeba’s political mentor during the singer’s period as a member of the Guinean delegation to the United Nations in 1975 (Makeba and Hall, Makeba: My Story, 191-93), followed in the footsteps of Telli and Achkar Marof as chair of the special committee between 1975 and 1976. This account would be incomplete without referencing Touré’s execution of Marof and Telli in 1971 and 1977, respectively.
See Dave, “Une Nouvelle Révolution Permanente”, 465. For further scholarship on the cultural revolution, see Counsel, “Music for a Revolution”, 554; Kaba, “Cultural Revolution”, 201-18; McGovern, Unmasking the State; and Straker, Youth, Nationalism, and the Guinean Revolution.
“To the Sixth Pan-African Congress in Dar-Salam [sic].” Le Festival Artistique et Culturel et Le Panafricanisme (Francais-Anglais), Revue du Parti Démocratique de Guinée 86: 53-66 (Conakry: Imprimerie National “Patrice Lumumba”, 1975), 63, housed in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.
Diakhaté, “Miriam Makeba”, 84. The document is housed in the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library.
Ibid., 171-72. These tensions would be further exacerbated in the wake of Touré’s purges following Guinea’s repulsion of the Portuguese incursion from Guinea-Bissau in November 1970, which led additional refugees to flee across the border to Senegal.
For the desacralization of indigenous traditions, see McGovern, Unmasking the State. While Cuban music remained audible in postindependence Guinea, in line with ideological affinities between the two countries, African American genres did not. See Counsel, Mande Popular Music, 91; and Hashachar, “Playing the Backbeat in Conakry”, 262-63.
Dave, “Politics of Silence”, 2. Dave investigates how Guinean musicians navigate contemporary political protest in Guinea against the backdrop of Touré’s era, arguing that legacies of “conspicuous silence” (17) characterize contemporary Guinean musicians as well as their predecessors. Far from marking a simple evacuation of agency, Dave argues that silence balances local cultural aesthetics with the need to preserve “guardedness and discretion” (19) in the face of persistent authoritarianism.
Straker’s account of cultural production in postindependence Guinea is particularly pertinent here. “Revolutionary ideologies and policies changed Guinean biographies and communities, quite often for the worse”, he claims, “but they did not empty the latter of socio-cultural complexity” (Youth, Nationalism, and the Guinean Revolution, 8). Where consensus has cast the agency of the revolutionary state in Guinea as “purely prohibitive”, Straker foregrounds the role that “increasingly aggressive state incursions into communal life simultaneously played in forging historically novel forms and fields of sociopolitical action and thought” (8). Hashachar articulates similar claims. He sees Makeba’s precedent as opening up new sonorities for her musicians, based on African American musical styles. “It is plausible that the mere presence of Makeba as a kind of cultural signifier even just in the title of the song, the album, or the band’s name was sufficient to allow these creations to pass through the net of state ideological control”, he suggests (“Playing the Backbeat in Conakry”, 269).
Titlestad, Making the Changes, 73; see also the longer discussion of errantry and digression in relation to the work of Michel de Certeau, Gilles Deleuze, and Edouard Glissant in ibid., 1-30. For differences between Titlestad’s reading of the tropes of South African jazz history and my own analysis, see Bethlehem, “Miriam’s Place”, 243-58.