Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Acta Academica]]> vol. 52 num. 2 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Contested identities - critical conceptualisations of the human</b>]]> <![CDATA[<b>Emancipatory politics between identity and disidentification: Rancière and the Black Consciousness Movement</b>]]> This article addresses the contentious issue of the relation between emancipatory politics and identity-based forms of politics, especially in a colonialist context. More specifically, the stance toward identity politics of radical contemporary philosopher Jacques Rancière will be examined in relation to the politics of South Africa's Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), as expounded in the writings of Steve Biko. The article first tracks Rancière's key articulations of his views on identity politics throughout his work, noting a movement from a rather dismissive treatment to a more nuanced and conditional stance. Second, some of the main challenges and trouble spots in conceptualising and appreciating the key components of the BCM within Rancière's theory of emancipatory politics are considered. While being found to be limited in properly acknowledging the BCM's empowering, therapeutic functions and nationalist tendencies, Rancière's conceptual framework is shown to be more productive in accounting for the complex ways in which both the assertion and denial of black identity have played a key role in the BCM's politics. <![CDATA[<b>On the verge of a nervous breakthrough: Neoliberal subjectivities and precarious resistance in the contemporary South African university</b>]]> Academics today labour under conditions of neoli-beralism, and universities increasingly operate like businesses where value is determined almost solely in terms of profitability and productivity. This reduction of the human condition to human capital (Valero, Mölbjerg Jörgensen, & Brunila 2019) is an important aspect of both Judith Butler's (2004, 2015) analysis of precarious life, as well as Isabel Lorey's (2016) understanding of precarity and precarisation as dimensions of neoliberal governmentality. For Butler in particular, precariousness refers to the vulnerability and interrelatedness of bodies. Our bodies are exposed to the possibility of violence, death and pain, and life is not sustainable without security, care and love (Taylor & Underwood 2019). Some bodies, though, are rendered more precarious and vulnerable than others through processes of social hierarchisation. In the neoliberal university context, precarity manifests in managerial regimes, characterised by a paradoxical style of governance: governing the social through material and subjective insecurity (Pérez & Montoya 2018). A work environment characterised by affects of insufficiency, non-relationality, competitiveness, individualism, isolation and very often anxiety, such as found in the contemporary South African university, results in a process of affective subjectivation suitable for neoliberal managerialism to function optimally. The neoliberal machine hence operates with and through precarity (Pérez & Montoya 2018), creating nonrelational subjectivities always on the verge of a collective nervous breakdown. Against this background, we argue that the task of critical theory today is to think beyond diagnostic terms, towards possible forms of resistance that don't only exist outside of the neoliberal context, but that are perhaps made possible by the neoliberal ethos itself. This paper, a performative text, takes the form of a dialogue located in the authors' experiences at two South African university campuses. Thinking with rather than just against precarity, we experiment performatively, exploring the everyday contradictions and fault lines from where resistant forms of subjectivity might emerge, or from where an undoing of neoliberal governmentality might be imagined. Even if just as a slightly nervous breakthrough. <![CDATA[<b>Surveillance capitalism and the derision of the digital denizen</b>]]> This article investigates the notion of the digital denizen and his/her relationship with modern informational and communicational technologies (ICTs) - including social media platforms and global search engines. Particular attention is directed towards how such a relationship has resulted in the emergence of recent phenomena such as big data and surveillance capitalism. This investigation will then aim to elucidate the various strategies that the capitalistic enterprise of the 21st century has implemented via the various ICTs that now underpin extant society in order to both harness and hijack the attentional and cognitive faculties of the digital denizen so as to monetise every ounce of the attentional economy that the individual has to spare. As such, this investigation aims to highlight how this extractive process has resulted in the abject objectification and exploitation of the digital denizen, whilst also managing to result in a situation of attentional/retentional overload (on the part of the individual) which has resulted in the emaciation of the digital denizen's attentional faculties - ultimately placing them in an vulnerable position in which exploitation and manipulation can effectively take place. <![CDATA[<b>A 'people to come': Sense8 as (critical) 'minor cinema'</b>]]> The present paper is an elaboration on the Wachowski sisters' (Lana's and Lilly's) prescient Netflix series, Sense8, with a view to demonstrating its visionary character as far as a 'people to come' is concerned. At the same time it is argued that Sense8 represents what might be called 'critical (minor) cinema', insofar as it functions in a sustained manner to critique extant society in its hierarchical, ideologically compromised, racist, gender-biased, ecologically destructive guise, pointing the way to what society might be if a 'different form of reason' (Boyne) were to obtain at interpersonal, inter-gender and ultimately inter-species levels. The poststructuralist critical theory of Deleuze and Guattari is employed to achieve this end, particularly their notion of 'minor literature/cinema' and 'assemblage', in conjunction with a number of other concepts with which it is interconnected, such as the 'rhizome', 'arboreal', deterritorialisation' and 'line of flight'. Briefly, what this strategy brings to light, is that mainstream society, with its defining 'arboreal' (tree-like, hierarchical) structures, responds negatively to difference of all kinds, particularly if such differences seem to pose a threat to its cratological supremacy. This turns out to be the case with 'sensates' in Sense8, who introduce radical difference into the fabric of society along trajectories of 'lines of flight', in the process 'deterritorialising' (freeing up) conventional territories by means of rhizomatic interconnections that constitute a revolutionary 'assemblage' - that is, an open population of living entities that are interrelated in complex ways: any change in any of the constituents of an assemblage affects all the others, continually. (In the final analysis, all living entities, together, arguably comprise an overarching assemblage insofar as everything is interconnected in the planetary ecosphere.) Not all assemblages (in the more limited sense) are revolutionary, however. Assemblages are encountered every day, in the guise of a group of schoolchildren in a classroom, for example, or a swarm of bees. Even a human subject is an assemblage of sorts, insofar as she or he is always subject to processes of desiring-becoming, implying that different subject-positions are occupied in succession, and even simultaneously. The cluster of eight sensates that is the main focus of this (minor-) cinematic series exemplifies the most dynamic assemblage conceivable, and as such instantiates a processual unity-and-equality-in-difference, which radically deterritorialises extant society, in the adumbration of a 'people to come', beyond hierarchy. <![CDATA[<b>Critical theory and praxis in post-apartheid South Africa: The case for a critical criminology</b>]]> The obsession with empirical work in South African criminology has led to a neglect of 'context' in the form of skimming over structural oppressions, such as racism, inequality, poverty and unemployment, as if they were not potently criminogenic societal factors. With regard to analysing so-called conventional crime, the aforementioned 'context' is an extremely important consideration in a country teeming with these structural oppressions. Contributions from both Critical Theory and Marxist-inspired criminology could correct this imbalance. Following the backdrop of such a discussion, this paper will examine the phenomenon of the prison-industrial complex, both in the US and, more particularly, in the local setting. The argument will then conclude-with a three-pronged assessment, namely 1) an evaluation of the debt which Marxist-inspired criminologists (Jeffery Reiman, Angela Davis and Richard Quinney) owe to the Frankfurt School, 2) an overview of the relevant ideas from Critical Theory, and, 3) the application of conflict criminology supplemented by scholarly work in the tradition of the Frankfurt School (represented by Habermas and Zizek) to South African conditions. <![CDATA[<b>Metaphysical guilt: Jaspers, Honneth, and the problem of dehumanisation</b>]]> This paper addresses the conditions that need to be met for a human being to feel or, conversely, not to feel guilty of a wrongdoing against another human being. It does this in the light of Jaspers' understanding of metaphysical guilt as arising from inter-human solidarity. My claim is twofold. First, I claim that, while metaphysical guilt is not impossible, Jaspers does not offer an explanation of how it arises either in the Question of German guilt (Jaspers 2000) or in his other work on guilt in general. Secondly, despite metaphysical guilt's existence, it is, nevertheless, common for humans not to experience it, a phenomenon which Jaspers implicitly acknowledges but does not explain explicitly. I apply Axel Honneth's concept of recognition in order to supply the social component and the theory of dehumanisation to explain why, under some circumstances, metaphysical guilt does not arise. <![CDATA[<b>"These violent delights have violent ends": Good subjects of everyday South African violence</b>]]> While the deaths of Mlungisi Nxumalo and Lucky Sefali barely registered in the media and public consciousness, they can be read as an exemplar of South African violence. The more closely we examine this incident, the more difficult it becomes to distinguish between those fighting for justice, and those undermining it. The imagined boundaries between law-abiding citizen and criminal become unclear, as does the distinction between the use of force to protect citizens, and the use of violence to damage the social fabric. This leads to a critique of the conventional attributions of criminality and ideas about effective criminal justice, and instead reframes the problem of violence as one of the constructions of certain kinds of subjects, persons for whom the normalised exercise of various forms of unrecognised or legitimated violence is part of the texture of everyday life. <![CDATA[<b>Being Black in South African higher education: An intersectional insight</b>]]> South African higher education continues to struggle to make sense of the post 2015-2016 student movements in calling for institutional transformation and decolonisation of the academy (Heleta 2016; Mbembe 2016; Naicker 2015). In this article, I contribute to the emerging body of work that looks at transformation and decolonisation in South African higher education. I draw from the American feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw's theoretical tools of intersectionality and Nat Nakasa's and, more recently, Siseko Kumalo's (2018) conceptual notion of the "natives of nowhere" to do two things. I firstly use the theoretical tools to map the fragmented and differentiated nature of South African higher education, and the implications this has for decoloniality to emerge. Secondly, I trace the intersectional struggles that Black students and progressive Black academics continue to face in the South African academy, and the discursive struggles operating at different levels, ranging from alienation; marginality; epistemic violence in the academy; institutional culture(s); an alienating and marginalising curricula; and others, that all intersectionally align to produce the postcolonial "natives of nowhere" in the South African academy. <![CDATA[<b>A critical reflection on digital disruption in journalism and journalism education</b>]]> In this essay, we critically reflect on digital disruption in journalism and journalism education with specific focus on the South African context. After contextualising the problematics in terms of what Castells terms the "information technology revolution", we define data visualisation and survey the existing literature on the subject. The history of journalism education in South Africa is briefly revisited before assessing the current state of the profession in the country. The dangers posed by digital visualisation to the core ethos and function of journalism as a vehicle in the service of contributing to a resilient democracy is thrown into relief by utilising critical concepts from the work of Foucault, Habermas and Fuchs. We subsequently cite a few examples of the undisclosed bias inherent in data visualisation. In conclusion, we consider the feasibility and potential effects of the necessity to adopt data visualisation techniques on journalism in South Africa. <![CDATA[<b>Alienation, reification and the banking model of education: Paulo Freire's critical theory of education</b>]]> I argue in this paper that Paulo Freire's work Pedagogy of the oppressed should be reconsidered as a contribution to critical theory, given its proximity to first-generation critical theory concerning both theory and praxis. Pedagogy of the oppressed, I argue, is well suited to provide a viable praxis for the social critique provided by first-generation critical theory. While Freire's critique in Pedagogy of the oppressed can be viewed typically as pedagogical in character, if we consider Freire's classroom as a microcosm of society, it mirrors the dialectical relations of both the oppressor and oppressed. Pedagogy of the oppressed offers a means of overcoming the state of social oppression through a total social liberating praxis. Consequently, I argue that Pedagogy of the oppressed should be reconsidered as a contribution to first-generation critical theory.