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Title: Ndebele, fanon, agency and irony
Authors: Geertsema, J. 
Issue Date: Dec-2004
Citation: Geertsema, J. (2004-12). Ndebele, fanon, agency and irony. Journal of Southern African Studies 30 (4) : 749-763. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: This article critically considers the place of the figure of irony in the critical work of the prominent South African intellectual Njabulo Ndebele. It argues that irony forms an important but underrated part of Ndebele's critical project of the 'rediscovery of the ordinary', a project aimed at restoring the agency of the oppressed victims of apartheid in order to transcend an apartheid discourse fixated on essentialised categories of blackness and whiteness. Ndebele's deployment of irony should be understood in view of his Black Consciousness roots, in particular in terms of its insistence, via the work of Frantz Fanon, on the complicity of the oppressed in their own oppression. But Fanon's work also appears prone to performing a doubling or repetition of the colonialism that it attacks. Ndebele's writing attempts to move beyond the colonialism of apartheid by insisting on identities - especially those of blackness and victimhood - but only in order to transcend them. This shift, I argue, may be given the name 'irony', and it characterises Ndebele's mistrust of essentialism while, at the same time, recognising its usefulness in the struggle for decolonisation. Ndebele's use of irony, then, may be understood as a way of reading against the discourse of apartheid, which precisely in its lack of reflexivity was unironic. Thus, irony as understood by Ndebele may be an important component in a new, humanising non-racialism that reaches beyond apartheid. © 2004 Journal of Southern African Studies.
Source Title: Journal of Southern African Studies
ISSN: 03057070
DOI: 10.1080/0305707042000313997
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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