Tag Archives: identity

QA 50! Thoughts at sea

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A funny thing happened at the Philosophy Café last month. I got lost. We all set sail on a conversation about “sadness”, but I didn’t know what they were talking about. My mind was clear and present. I just couldn’t relate, couldn’t get a grip, couldn’t participate. And the good ship “we” sailed on without me. Huh.

It’s been a chance to rediscover that – so long as you’re not in real danger, so long as you don’t panic – being all at sea is philosophy’s home ground. Not knowing what’s happening is a condition of wonder, in every sense of the word. It’s also kind of sad. Continue reading

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QA 49. A motley cruise? (JWTC 2014: Archives of the non-racial)

A motley crew is a cliché for a roughly organized assembly of characters. Typical examples of motley crews are pirates, Western posses, rag-tag mercenary bands, and freedom fighters… characters of conflicting personality, varied backgrounds and, usually to the benefit of the group, a wide array of methods for overcoming adversity. Traditionally, a motley crew [that]… comes into conflict with an organized, uniform group of characters, will prevail. (Wikipedia)

This weekend I’m hooking up with the good folks of the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC). They who definitely dare to go: a two-week mobile workshop on the theme Archives of the Non-Racial, using South African histories to “assess the possibilities and limits of the ‘nonracial’ in terms of the politics of the modern world and its core values: democracy, freedom, dignity, equality, the human, universality, justice”. There will be fifty-odd participants from everywhere, including academics, journalists and public intellectuals working across the humanities, social sciences, arts and medical sciences. We’ll travel by bus from Johannesburg to Swaziland, Durban, King Williams Town, Knysna and Cape Town, on a blazing trail of talks and tours and cultural events. The talks are open to the public: if we’re coming to your town, do check out the programme. You can (of course) follow us on social media.  I’ll be blogging here and posting on Facebook too.

In preparation, I’ve been thinking about what I think about race and identity and the politics thereof. Here are a couple of strands of that. Continue reading

QA 29. The national question, or We we we all the way home?

(This is the original of an opinion piece published as “Identity does not depend on race” in the Cape Times on 11 October 2011)

Who are we? is the question posed in a timely series presented by the Cape Times and the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. Really, it’s incredible. If “I am because we are”, and we are not the “we” we thought we were – then who am I? If “a person is a person through other people”, and we’re not getting through to each other – then what am I?

Rather than reach immediately for an answer to this terribly urgent question, perhaps we should slow down enough to reconsider it. Or, as Njabulo Ndebele beautifully suggested recently, to “wake up and re-dream” ourselves. It does stir us up. Whoever and whatever else we may be, we are the ones in question. We are called to account for ourselves, as if everything depends on this, our moment in history. It’s the new Senzenina. It’s terrifying and exhilarating.

Who are we? It’s an open question. You can walk right in. (Just leave the door open behind you, thanks.) It’s already crowded and noisy here, heated with opinions, ideas, critiques and proposals for “the way going forward”. Continue reading

QA 12. (March 09) In defence of ego

small-letter-i_01.gif“Struggle is ego.”

“All ambition is vanity.”

“I’ve been meeting my ego a lot recently.”

These three comments came my way over the course of a few days. They all seem to express some nervousness, disapproval or dislike of “ego”. Is that fair? Is ego simply a problem? Continue reading