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University of the Witwatersrand <firstname.lastname@example.org> I am grateful to Sean Jacobs for his review of my book _Senses of Culture_ (1), co-edited with Cheryl Ann Michael (posted on H-SAfrica on 9 September 2002) because it is a substantial engagement with the book and because it gives me the opportunity to respond to what I think are his misreadings. _Senses of Culture_, as we expected, has triggered a diversity of responses. These have fallen into two camps: local reviewers, as well as Dennis Walder from the Open University in the UK, have tended to reiterate what we could broadly refer to as a Marxist critique. The substance of Sean Jacobs' reading falls well within this critique. The most contentious part of a long and theoretically wide ranging introduction to _Senses of Culture_ has been the use of the idea of 'creolization' as a means to undertake new readings of the South African space. Jacobs argues that we 'exaggerate the power of creolization' by a) 'overgeneralizing from the history of the Cape'; b) 'hastily abandon[ing] class and race, domination and resistance in a way that does not gel with the realities of post-apartheid South Africa' and c) 'underplay[ing] the determining impact of material factors and power relations'. As I want to show, I think that a result of Jacobs' position is that we end up precisely where we started: confirming the orthodoxies of current South African thinking about culture, space and race and unable to fully take on the question of how to theorize the _now_, the contemporary, in South African culture and history. Other reviews, largely from elsewhere in the world, have embraced the need to find new perspectives in the wake of entrenched assumptions which may have been strategic during political mobilization against apartheid but which now should be revised - precisely in view of the 'realities of post-apartheid South Africa' that Jacobs is referring to. In particular, critics like Karin Barber, in her extended review essay of the book, have favourably responded to the project to unseal hermetic compartments of race and class in favour of exploring an occluded history of connections in order to offer a fuller recognition of the nature of South Africa's past and its present. (2) Both Jacobs' and Marxist critiques more widely start from the assumption that not much has changed in South Africa since the end of apartheid. Therefore, from a political economy point of view, the old categories that were used to account for the macro-issues of class, race, domination and resistance all still hold in much the same ways as they did before. The position we take in _Senses of Culture_ is different: we argue that 1) South African studies has, for a long time, been overdetermined by the reality of apartheid - as if, in the historical trajectory of this country, apartheid was inevitable, in terms of both its origins and its consequences; as if everything led to it and that everything flows as a consequence of it. We work from the idea that other historical possibilities were out there, and are evolving now, in the aftermath of that dreadful system. Yes, there are continuities between the past and the present, and we acknowledge this fully in the book. But, we contend, there are also enough configurations in various spheres of contemporary South African life to warrant new kinds of explorations, with new tools of analysis, new archives and new ethnographies. Let me take each of Jacobs' three contentions in turn. On creolization I would like to respond to the issue of 'creolization' by recognizing that this has always been a contested term. Marxist critiques have tended to shy away from the term, suspecting it of being a-political and lacking a conflictual edge. The assumption has been that the term is inadequate when it comes to thinking the cultural in relation to social class. More specifically, it has been that processes of creolization are devoid of conflict - in other words, that these processes are not grounded in materialities and therefore that the use of the term as a theoretical tool ends up sidelining important analyses of power relations, social hierarchies and inequalities. I recognize too that in the context of South Africa, theorists have tended to shy away from debates on creolization. One of the major reasons for this was the apartheid state's construction of colouredness as a political buffer between blacks and whites, and the interpellation of 'colouredness' as neither black nor white (according to an ideology of racial purity), a notion that was both racist and suspect. This being said, what many critiques of the concept of 'creolization' tend to overlook is precisely that the notion was born out of the historical experience of slavery and its aftermath. Indeed, taken from a historical perspective, creolization's first soil in modernity is the slave quarter in the plantation system. In his pioneering study _Singing the Master_, Roger Abrahams shows how the emergence of a typically African-American vernacular culture was the result of a dual legacy, itself part of the events that brought together both slave and master in the plantations of the Americas.(3). It goes without saying that this coming together happens in a context of a deep loss: loss of a home, loss of rights and political status, and overall terror.(4) When considered historically, then, creolization relates to the worst that we are capable of, the maintenance of human beings in the shadow of life and death. Yet, even within this most violent of systems, as recent studies are showing, cultural traffic occurs - mutual mimicries, border crossings, mutabilities. The notion itself, therefore, does not foreclose possibilities of 'resistance' or 'accommodation'. It signals a register of actions and performances that may be embodied in a multiplicity of repertoires. In this sense, creolization is first and foremost a _practice_. If slavery is the first context for the emergence of creolization, the second is diasporic formation. The articulation of race to space and motion is integral even to recent Marxist readings which are focusing on the intercultural and transnational formations of the Atlantic world in early modernity (5). This Atlantic world is peopled by workers: sailors, pirates, commoners, prostitutes, strikers, insurrectionists. Here, the sea is not a frontier that one crosses. It is a shifting space in between fixed places which it connects. This is indeed a different geography of worldliness that is opposed to the geographies of particularism and nationalism. It is worth noting here the extent to which we have hardly even begun such a project in the worlds of the African Indian Ocean. My understanding of creolization, then, falls within these paradigms of violence and mobility, spatiality and circulation. We made both clear in the introduction to _Senses of Culture_. We characterize South Africa as a country made fundamentally from processes of mobility and dislocation, and war and violence, whose boundaries have constantly been reinvented over time, through historical and political processes (the Mfecane, European colonialism, the Great Trek, labour migrancy). As a result, a multiplicity of forms of subjugation constitute the history of South Africa, and embedded in this history are processes of violent dispersal. Thus we refer to the Mfecane as a series of violent encounters between people leading to lines of exchange and fusion; we also refer to long term lines of connection between workers from South Africa and elsewhere on the continent and beyond, a trans-continental mixing which shaped worker identities and ideologies in South Africa in ways that have yet to be written about. Creolization, we took care to emphasize in _Senses of Culture_, can be an extremely violent process. It is not a happy process. If anything, deploying the term in a South African context can help us to see this in new kinds of ways. But why use the term creolization at all? The key trope underlying the introduction to _Senses of Culture_ is a spatial one: it re-reads South Africa's relationship to other spaces, aiming to open South Africa's readings of itself to new boundaries. Jacobs himself acknowledges the importance of this spatial underpinning of the argument. We draw on creolite as an anthropological term in the largest sense - in order to help us to rethink the parameters of a place called 'South Africa' - both violent and intimately connected to its many 'elsewheres'. We do so by linking it to migration and diaspora (given that old Manichean ways of thinking about oppression and resistance, black versus white now seem so insufficient) in order to argue for, amongst other things, intra-African creolization, an imaginary that derives from diversity, cross-over, a lissomeness that helps us understand the mutability of spaces here and elsewhere. We are well aware of the fact that part of our argument is 'programmatic' in the sense that it re-reads earlier empirical work while at the same time calling for new ethnographies. In this context, the new anthropology would engage with the decoding of the infinite complexities of creolization. Creolization is a useful term because of its unsteadiness, but also because of the particular inflection we want to give to it, revisiting it from a South African context: its violence. We talk in the introduction of new readings of the intimacies that are part of South African history. By this we mean the often unexpected points of connection wrought from a common, though often mutually violent and confrontational, experience. As is clear from almost any history of intimacy, but which the South African case gives particularly powerful content to, is that intimacy does not necessarily exclude relations of deep violence and violation. Intimacy, too, is not a happy process. In fact, it very often comprises a dimension that is tyrannical. All of this reveals the limits of Jacobs' view that we 'rely on historical insights gained from work elsewhere…without showing more sensitivity for the history and specific context of South Africa'. In fact it is precisely the violence of South Africa that gives creolisation its particular force in this context - while usefully bringing into sharp focus ways to deploy the term elsewhere. At the same time, an anthropology of creolite has a deeply ethical dimension to it, since it is a theorizing which looks for connections as well as differences, cross-racial exchanges as well as racism and violation, and more than this, an investigation of such formations are the only way to write South Africa out of a past and into a future, while always mindful of what is actually happening. The work of critical theory is after all not just a ritual repetition of the past but also a way of speaking to a future. Regional variations Secondly, I would like to address the notion that in exploring the theoretical resources of the term 'creolization' in relation to South Africa, we have been overly reliant on the history of the Cape. Let me again begin by recognizing that indeed, creolization might be most evident in the history of the Cape. South Africa is a country characterized by regional variations. But what is important here is less how the history of the Cape figures in the argument per se than a way of thinking, a method of reading. What we aimed at was a different cartography with a new kind of emphasis. My contention is that this method of reading is one that can be usefully applied elsewhere in the country. As we point out in _Senses of Culture_, the sheer movements of workers through urban sites of production in Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal and Southern, Central and Eastern Africa over many years must at the very least cause us to ask: Do we yet fully know what the cultures of the mines really were and what they produced? Do we believe that there was no cross-cultural interaction, that South Africans took nothing from other Africans in inventing a vernacular culture they name as their own? Or that the Indian presence in Natal had no influence on ways of being black, or white? Creolization used here, is a way of unpacking 'blackness' and 'whiteness' beyond the ossified forms they usually take on. How, moreover, are we going to begin to understand the political culture of the bantustans without mapping the imitations by local potentates of their white masters' culture of power? How can we understand the practice of apartheid tyrants without paying attention to the various ways in which they subtly mimicked, in selective ways, their very victims, while at the same time denying their common humanity? Jon Hyslop's research on the history of Johannesburg, in particular its multiracial slums, contributes substantially to overturning the argument that creolization is the preserve of the Cape. (6) While much post-colonial work from literary studies to anthropology to history has long used the terms 'appropriation' and 'hybridity' to talk about issues of cultural transfer and exchange, creolization pushes each of these terms beyond their usual limits, that limit being a theoretical weddedness to 'resistance'. Creolization is about mutual entanglements, some of them conscious but most of them unconscious, which occur between people who most of the time try to define themselves as different. The more they try to do the latter, the more the critic has to be suspicious of their talk of uniqueness and difference. Such claims, we might well suggest, at least at times repress precisely what draws together, what links, the oppressor and the oppressed, black and white. Race and class Once we take on board a way of reading which is based around these creolizing entanglements, we are obliged to think of race, class and power differently - bringing me to the third contention that Jacobs makes in his review, which is that we 'underplay' each of these factors. Rather, what we argue is that we have to confront what it is that older paradigms are not able to show us. Let me start with race. The South African academy and beyond has produced many examples of carefully argued work on race and power in this country. Moreover, there is a self-awareness, from within these very traditions, of the limits of dominant approaches. (7) In asking how to locate the 'now', the contemporary in South Africa, we have to ask the question when and how does race matter? Here we might reflect on the fact that race appears to be hardening in the political realm precisely as legalized racism has been abolished. This hardening is taking place at the same time as more choices are becoming available in terms of racial identification, especially in the sphere of culture. Clearly, post-1994, what used to be called 'non-racialism' is no longer much heard in political discourse for a number of reasons (under apartheid, race was crucial to the twin issues of work and wealth and in the post-apartheid period the politics of black empowerment play a crucial role in shifting institutional power politics). The pragmatics of 'non-racialism' are now expressed through other vehicles, and in particular through powerful new media cultures and the market . There is as yet only the beginning of new work and theorization of these cross-over or post-racial configurations which reinvigorate the political utopias of these terms, extraordinary ethnographies emerging by scholars such as Dolby (8) and Farber (9). In the book we say that in relation to studies of class, emphasis has been oriented to the working class, while fewer studies have focused on peasant or rural culture, and one might add, on middle class cultures in South Africa. How can we re-imagine its usages? Where is class located? If popular culture replaces church, neighbourhood and family as dominant sites for the making of identity, how class bound is it? As I show in my current work on Y or loxion culture, remarkably similar processes of identity making especially in the realm of popular culture emerge between 'working' and 'lower middle class' school kids in Durban and 'middle class' kids in Johannesburg. (10) What kinds of imperfect meshings occur between myriad individual lives of making do and larger kinds of political categories? How does a maelstrom of technological change, new forms of power, demographic upheavals, urban growth, challenge to stable identities, bureaucratic expansion and deepening market relations affect the making of social lives and the construction and deployment of class identities? What we wanted to mark was that while great strides have been made to recover the lives and experiences of workers and the poor, social and political relations have tended in South Africa to be represented in terms of polar opposites: capitalists and workers, elites and masses, rich and poor, capital and labour, oppressors and oppressed. In this regard it is significant that Jacobs asserts that the collection encompasses 'disparate topics such as beauty contests, football, the Internet, and hair'. In fact, these were carefully chosen archives, hardly yet dealt with by historians and anthropologists in South Africa, not least perhaps because they point to less coherent race class-based readings than we are accustomed to. Moreover, as Barber points out, there is a particularly strong case to be made for casting the net wide, since the inclusiveness and especially the recuperation of popular forms hitherto despised by both left and right is itself part of South Africa's rethinking of itself. In breaking with the prescriptiveness of preceding cultural analysis, space is given to ephemeral, least prestigious, least canonical forms such as graffiti art, and more prestigious forms such as memoirs, autobiographies and history text books. _Senses of Culture_, in conclusion, suggests that recent historical developments in South Africa require reworking basic assumptions about class and race, domination and resistance. The approach we chose to pursue in the book effectively abandons the old notion of the transcendent class struggle or race war. For those still convinced of the over-riding importance of class in contemporary analysis, it calls for other or at least additional kinds of understandings of the historically contingent ways in which economic interests are pursued under the institutionally, politically and culturally restructured circumstances of present-day South Africa. The point we wanted to stress is the need for new ethnographies of race and class, using new archives and posing less familiar theoretical questions to the material. In this sense, the book was an invitation to scholars to undertake work on forms of the contemporary in South Africa. NOTES (1). Nuttall, S and C-A. Michael, _Senses of Culture_, Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 2000[editor's note: see review on H-SAfrica (September 2002) archived at http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=135601034387654 (2). Barber, K. 'Cultural reconstruction in the new South Africa', _African Studies Review_, 44, 2, 2001, 177-85. (3). Abrahams, R.D. _Singing the Master: The Emergence of African American Culture in the Plantation South_. Pantheon, New York, 1992. (4). Hartman, S. _Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America._ Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1997. (5). See Gilroy, P. _The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness_, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1993; and Linebaugh, P and M. Rediker, _The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic_. Beacon Press, Boston, 2000. (6). Hyslop, J. 'Global Imaginations Before Globlization: The Worlds of International Labour Activists on the Witwatersrand, 1886-1914', paper presented at 'The Practices of the Self' international symposium, WISER, Wits, August 2002. (7). See Hamilton, C. 'Historiography and the Politics of Identity in South Africa', paper presented at the conference on 'Problematizing History and Agency: From Nationalism to Subalternity', University of Cape Town, 22-24 October 1997, and Hyslop (2002). (8). Dolby, N. _Constructing Race: Youth, Identity and Popular Culture in South Africa_, State University of New York Press, New York, 2001 (9). Farber, T. 'Loaded with Labels: The Meanings of Clothing Amongst Urban Black Youth in Rosebank, Johannesburg', M.A thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, 2002. (10). Nuttall, S. 'Self Stylizations and Textual Accessories: The Y Generation in Rosebank, Johannesburg', forthcoming in _Public Culture_.