The Radical Refusal of the Colonial Gaze: A Reading of Post-Apartheid Social Reality Through the Recent Student Protests by Safiyya Goga
This short paper adds a complimentary angle to Sizwe-Mpofu Walsh’s perspective of race in South African life not being a problem of “a collection of racists” (see ASRI Short Paper 2 March 2016). I demonstrate that the problem of race is that we are unable to see ourselves and others outside of the colonial gaze that structures all social interactions and exchanges. The ways in which we relate to ourselves and others, is shaped by this invisible gaze.
In this way, the race problem is not just a black-white problem, but as I try to demonstrate, it is a problem for instance in how African and Indian communities in Durban see each other, as well as in how the (African) state sees its own poor/black citizens. The complexity of the race problem then is in how all social relations are structured by the enduring colonial gaze (which inscribes for instance the violability of poor/black bodies).
Student protests may indeed be seen as a rupture in that they aim to bring a new social reality into being. The refusal to adopt a pragmatic politics and contain issues for instance to ‘achievable’ goals such as #feesmustfall, is an indication of what is at stake in this struggle – a radical rupture with the past that the state has failed to deliver on (and in fact actively seeks to resist). Calling the state anti-black and placing themselves on the other side, the students are radically refusing the colonial gaze through which the state (and other actors) ask them to see themselves. Hyperlinks in the text provide further readings.
“[…] Africans and Indians have only been able to properly see and recognise each other through the mediation of a white colonial gaze, a master that distributed violence, care, desire, and partial recognition […]” (Hansen 2012: 136)
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