Thinking emancipatory politics with Michael Neocosmos

POSTED ON October 25, 2012 BY admin

Block off March 16 now and be sure to join us!

We’re very excited that Prof. Michael Neocosmos has agreed to visit us on the 16th of March. In our view, he’s one of this country’s leading thinkers and writers, and Michael’s work has been hugely important and influential in CLP’s own journey over the past number of years.

Michael Neocosmos is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of South Africa (UNISA) as well as Honorary Professor in Global Movements at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Bradford University and a Master’s degree in Latin American Studies from London University. He has taught at various universities in Britain and in Africa, such as the University of Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, the University of Swaziland, the National University of Lesotho, the University of Botswana and the University of Pretoria, South Africa. During 2010 he was Andrew W. Mellon Senior Research Mentor at the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape. His main fields of research have included Agrarian Questions in Latin America and Africa, Migrant Labour, Ethnicity, Citizenship, State and Civil Society, Political Transition as well as issues of Social Theory concerning Development, Democracy, Human Rights and Political Subjectivities.

Padkos subscribers will remember that, in the build up to our “Fanomenal Festival” last year we shared his paper “The Nation and its Politics: Fanon, emancipatory nationalism and political sequences” on the Padkos list. We also posted a short interview with Michael talking about the relevance of Fanon for us here and now – check that videoout. As CLP’s David Ntseng wrote at the time, Neocosmos’ engagement with Fanon “directs us to the logic of ordinary people, beyond barriers of race, gender, nationality and class as being the right place to help us learn and participate in the project of true freedom”.

But for many of us within CLP, our first encounter with Neocosmos’ work had been an earlier paper titled: “Civil society, citizenship and the politics of the (im)possible: rethinking militancy in Africa today”. It was a long paper. It was not easy reading, and it systematically challenged lazy (un)thinking – but well worth the effort. It’s quite possible that Michael is largely unaware of the excitement, engagement, and clarity the paper stimulated within CLP!

You’re encouraged to attend two events with Michael on the 16th March:

  • from 8:30 till about 12:00, in Room 67, Education building, (Golf Road campus, UKZN) join other Padkos friends for a facilitated conversation with Michael, thinking democracy seriously in our context; and
  • from 1:30pm, in Room 43, Education building, (Golf Road campus, UKZN) Michael will run a seminar at the University of KwaZulu-Natal based on the attached paper: “Transition, human rights and violence: rethinking a liberal political relationship in the African neo-colony”.

For those Padkos subscribers who are keen to attend both, we’ll provide a light lunch at the University Club.

Please RSVP by replying to this email or talking to Cindy at the CLP office (033) 2644 380.

Your Padkos attachment is the extraordinary paper “Transition, human rights and violence: rethinking a liberal political relationship in the African neo-colony”, recently published in Interface Journal, and which will also be the basis for Michael’s University seminar in the afternoon. The Abstract indicates that “[r]ather than seeing the prevalence of systemic political violence in Africa as resulting from a purportedly difficult ‘transition to democracy’, this article insists that accounts of such violence must be sought within the modes of rule of the democratic state itself. In particular, the manifestation of a contradiction between democracy and nationalism in a neo-colonial context, takes many different forms which cannot be resolved consensually given existing modes of rule and the enrichment of the oligarchy at the expense of the nation. Xenophobic violence in South Africa is used to illustrate the argument. It is shown that a distinction between domains of politics (including modes of rule) must be drawn. In particular, this means distinguishing between a domain of ‘civil society’ and one of ‘uncivil society’. It is within the latter that most people relate and respond to state power. Within that domain, the state does not rule people as citizens with legally enforceable rights, but simply as a population with various entitlements. In this domain, violent political practices by the state tend to be the norm rather than the exception, so that violence acquires a certain amount of legitimacy for resolving contradictions among people. The overcoming of systemic violence (itself a political choice) can only begin to be conceived via a different thought of politics as subjective practice”.

Read the attachment – Transition, HR & Violence