The South African university, particularly the “bush college,” emerges as an apartheid government strategy to render black subjects docile adherents of the apartheid system. In addition to this distinct racist foundation, South African universities succumbed in the 1990s to the global insurgence of neoliberal reason within the university space. The discourse around the 2015–16 student movement became centered on moments of spectacle—violent clashes between students and police, the burning of paintings, and buildings and images of students protesting en masse outside Parliament, at the Union building, and on major highways. Yet, the true rupture presented by the unified activism of students and workers was in the critique they presented of a neoliberalized university, hierarchical bureaucratic structures, institutional culture still defined by whiteness and dominant epistemological paradigms that foreclosed the possibility for indigenous intellectual integration. This essay focuses on the way in which the university’s insistence on the conclusion of the academic program (curriculum-time), the need to balance university financial books (capitalist-time), and the obsession with research output and student throughput (production-time) are all expressions of the dominance of neoliberal time. Further, it describes the ways in which students and workers refused to be keepers of neoliberal time by disrupting their roles as human capital with a focus on issues of racial, sexist, classist, ableist, and epistemic exclusion and exploitation. What is at stake in the claimmaking and articulations of students and workers is an epistemic rupture with neoliberal time and the creation of social imaginaries or emancipatory epistemologies that rely on the complete rethinking of the ways in which black subjects exist within the university space and beyond.

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