Home page > Catalogue > Humanities & Social Sciences > History > #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South (...)
| More

#RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa

Tuesday 26 April 2016, author(s)-editor(s) Francis B. Nyamnjoh

This book on rights, entitlements and citizenship in post-apartheid South Africa shows how the playing field has not been as levelled as presumed by some and how racism and its benefits persist. Through everyday interactions and experiences of university students and professors, it explores the question of race in a context still plagued by remnants of apartheid, inequality and perceptions of inferiority and inadequacy among the majority black population.

In education, black voices and concerns go largely unheard, as circles of privilege are continually regenerated and added onto a layered and deep history of cultivation of black pain. These issues are examined against the backdrop of organised student protests sweeping through the country’s universities with a renewed clamour for transformation around a rallying cry of ’Black Lives Matter’.

The nuanced complexity of this insightful analysis of the Rhodes Must Fall movement elicits compelling questions about the attractions and dangers of exclusionary articulations of belonging. What could a grand imperialist like the stripling Uitlander or foreigner of yesteryear, Sir Cecil John Rhodes, possibly have in common with the present-day nimble-footed makwerekwere from Africa north of the Limpopo? The answer, Nyamnjoh suggests, is to be found in how human mobility relentlessly tests the boundaries of citizenship.

Check-out the Kindle Edition of the book.

Purchase on African Books Collective

Purchase AMAZON

Check-out the Kindle Edition of the book.

ISBN 9789956763160
Pages 310
Dimensions 229 x 152mm
Published 2016
Publisher Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon
Format Paperback

Check-out the Kindle Edition of the book.

7 Book Reviews

  • #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa 26 April 2016 12:10, author(s)-editor(s) Michael Rowlands

    “Cobbling identities may be our way of preserving ourselves in new conditions of modernity. And this is the crux of the argument that Francis Nyamnjoh presents to us here”

    Michael Rowlands, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University College London

  • #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa 26 April 2016 12:11, author(s)-editor(s) Sanya Osha

    “Francis Nyamnjoh’s book couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time; it has the prerequisite levels of urgency, immediacy and directness. But it is also imbued with a deep knowledge of the histories of decolonization in Africa… A tour de force that seamlessly blends activist scholarship, theory and memoir in one long arresting breath and significantly raises the bar on contemporary African thought and writing”

    Sanya Osha, author of Postethnophilosophy

  • #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa 26 April 2016 12:11, author(s)-editor(s) Moshumee Teena Dewoo

    “However detached I am (or think that I am) with regard to the South African ‘Rhodes issue’, even if my vantage point is unique and (seemingly) unconnected to South Africa, Nyamnjoh’s broad, fluid, and yet systematic and structured exposé on Rhodes as a makwerekwere, the #RhodesMustFall movement, and the shaping of identities in Africa is an ingenious reminder that our fields of reference are constantly rewriting themselves, expanding.”

    Moshumee Teena Dewoo, Indo-Mauritian, Doctoral Student in African Studies, University of Cape Town

  • #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa 1 September 2016 12:28, author(s)-editor(s) Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography

    With his valuable book #RhodesMustFall, Francis Nyamnjoh mobilizes many years of work on identity, mobility and epistemological transformation in situating Rhodes as a makwerekwere (“stranger”) and subsequently seeking to understand the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement in the context of resilient colonialism as well as the long and enduring presence of amakwerekwere (“strangers”) such as Nyamnjoh himself who make up the contested space that is South Africa, where people respond to one another according to whether or not “the other belongs” (Geschiere and Nyamnjoh 2000). For more, see https://radicalantipode.files.wordp...

  • #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa 9 September 2016 11:28, author(s)-editor(s) Simukai Chigudu, DPhil (PhD) candidate in International Development at the (...)

    Book Review: #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa by Francis B Nyamnjoh

    Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to Press This! (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)

    #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa is timely, balanced and informative, but aspects of the book will leave the reader craving more says Simukai Chigudu.

    In 2015, a wave of student protests erupted across South African universities. They overwhelmingly expressed discontent at the failure to ‘decolonise’ tertiary education 21 years after the dawn of the democratic era. Beginning at the University of Cape Town (UCT) under the moniker Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) and then succeeded by cognate movements at different universities, these protests ignited some of the most heated and pertinent public debates in the country about history, race, entitlement and citizenship.

    In this account of RMF, Francis B. Nyamnjoh offers an urgent and important analysis of the drivers, logics, historical bases, future prospects and potential pitfalls of student activism premised on the idea of ‘decolonising’ education. As a professor of anthropology at the University of Cape Town and an accomplished writer on the politics of education in Africa, Nyamnjoh is well placed to offer an incisive take on the movement.

    RhodesMust Fallcover_previewHe leads with a portrait of Cecil John Rhodes whose dubious legacy is etched in UCT’s history and institutional memory. As he argues, ‘Rhodes took over, ruled, developed and exploited for his personal profit and that of Britain the lands and bodies of those he conquered, turning them into amakwerekwere [a pejorative term for outsiders] on their own native soil, their homeland’ (p28). The comprehensive view Nyamnjoh provides of Rhodes’ imperialism and its attendant history of racialised alienation, exploitation and dispossession offers a powerful context for enduring black pain and trauma that the memorialisation of Rhodes evokes. This is why a statue of Rhodes, at the heart of UCT’s campus, was such a cogent signifier of white privilege and black oppression.

    Nyamnjoh thoughtfully makes the case for a movement to decolonise education noting that education in Africa ‘is still the victim of a resilient colonial and colonising epistemology’ (p69). He points out that tertiary education on the continent tends to dismiss local histories as parochial; local struggles as subordinate to global concerns; and local languages, customs, and knowledge systems as backward and unworthy of serious intellectual inquiry. Such an orientation is antithetical to fostering the conviviality – ‘the spirit of togetherness, interpenetration, interdependence and intersubjectivity’ (p69) – so desperately needed to heal and unify South Africa’s wounded and divided society. It is here that the demands of RMF resonate most powerfully.

    However, Nyamnjoh does not subscribe to a romanticised view of protest. He is at pains to give attention to the personal and political conflicts that occurred within and as a result of the RMF movement. For instance, he offers an even-handed appraisal of the leadership of Chumani Maxwele. He praises Maxwele for his courage and political acumen, especially in using human faeces to desecrate the Rhodes statue and therefore underscore the depth of poverty, injustice and inequality that the statue belies. In Maxwele’s own words: ‘We want white people to know how we live. We live in poo. I am from a poor family; we are using portaloos. Are you happy with that?’ (p77). At the same time, Nyamnjoh brings forth the charges of rape levelled against Maxwele and gives space to discuss the dynamics of patriarchy and transphobia that permeated RMF.

    Importantly, Nyamnjoh argues that movements like RMF risk propagating a zero-sum mentality in which further divisions are created in the battle for decolonisation and in claims to restitution: between black and white, the middle and working classes, South Africans and foreign nationals. The speed and reach of RMF and then Fees Must Fall may have compromised the depth of the movements. For Nyamnjoh this is evident in their relative inattention to a ‘disposition of mutual accommodation’ (p205) for all who inhabit South Africa. Therefore he concludes that ‘for existing colonial statues and monument to signify anything but oppression and dispossession, they would have to be re-articulated, recalibrated and reconfigured into multi-cultural symbols of reconciliation’ (p207). This calls for greater humility and awareness of the sensibilities and concerns of ‘the various shades of the rainbow nation’ (p207).

    Nyamnjoh’s book is written with clarity and panache. His account is timely and informative. In an impressively short time, he has assimilated a vast amount of material on RMF and provided a clear chronology and analysis of its emergence and trajectory. His critique is balanced throughout and his claims are, for the most part, substantiated. Nevertheless, aspects of the book will leave the reader craving more. For a work by an anthropologist, the book is thin where it comes to a more ethnographic account of RMF. One wants an insider’s view: a greater understanding of RMF’s participants, their modes of engagement, practices of agenda setting and reflections on the movement. Furthermore, the theoretical observations made by Nymanjoh could have been even more effective if linked to the writing and perspectives of other scholars who have been documenting the RMF movement. The work of Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni comes to mind. His presentation on RMF at the London School of Economics, for example, placed the movement with a genealogy of student protest in South Africa and went further in theorising the politics of decolonisation. These insights would add richly to Nyamnjoh’s account.

    In summary, this is a compelling first monograph on RMF. It is highly readable and engaging and will easily be of interest to a wide range of observers interested in RMF and the politics of student protest in South Africa. For scholars, this book will be foundational to further work on RMF and it provides a compendious list of references and sources for deeper research. As a participant in the Rhodes Must Fall movement in Oxford and as a scholar researching African history and politics, I recommend this book without hesitation.

    The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and in no way reflect those of the Africa at LSE blog or the London School of Economics and Political Science.

    Simukai Chigudu is a DPhil (PhD) candidate in International Development at the University of Oxford where he is a Hoffman-Weidenfeld scholar. Follow him on Twitter @SimuChigudu.

  • #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa 1 December 2016 12:16, author(s)-editor(s) Sanya Osha

    Francis B. Nyamnjoh’s latest book, #Rhodes Must Fall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa explores and contextualises the notions of makwerekwere, imperialism and the boundaries of citizenship.

    Social and professional mobility by immigrants, as in many other places, is viewed with suspicion and sometimes elicits violent reactions on the part of so-called insiders. However, in South Africa, whiteness and its numerous privileges are often exempt from the stigma and violence that otherness historically attracts. In the popular imagination, (black African) otherness apart from its ontological stigma is also equated with vulgarity.

    Francis B. Nyamnjoh considers the term makwerekwere and explains that it connotes difference as explicit threat and is therefore sometimes deserving of counteractive violence and invites a xenophobic reaction. In this context, homogeneity and “tradition” become crucial markers of racial, ethnic and political belonging.

    The writer inserts himself into this account of Cecil Rhodes as a makwerekwere to broaden the South African understanding of freedom, to question its more contestable limits so as to underscore that the fight for freedom is far from over.

    Nyamnjoh’s categorisation of the British Rhodes as amakwerekwere is intriguing and baffling. It probably stems from the very real anxieties of being an amakwerekwere in present-day South Africa. To be labeled as one is to be plagued with challenges and violence. For many, it has meant death, or a vegetative existence in the criminalised shadows of South African society.

    The condition of the amakwerekwere is marked by chronic anxiety, psychological unease and physical menace. Rhodes, on the other hand, was an incorrigible territorial predator who dreamed of colonising the African continent. But even more than that, he had fantasised about total world domination by the British Empire.

    He had absolutely no respect for the indigenes of the territories he subdued and assailed their dignity and humanity at every turn. So even if we grant that Rhodes was an amakwerekwere, he was one with a profound difference, a difference defined by unbridled power, excessive material acquisitiveness, utter disdain for local hosts and elemental forms of violence and dispossession.

    When the first Dutch arrived in the Cape in 1652 labeling the locals “Hottentots”, meaning “stutterers” and speakers of a barbaric dialect, it was the beginning of a history of relations characterised by greed, capitalism, violence and hyper-exploitation. By Rhodes’s era, this unequal order of relations had culminated in the systemic seizure and plunder of indigenous lands. Such was the case that after the quelling of the Matabele rebellion by Rhodes, the chief of the natives in the area was distressed to find out that he and his people had been dispossessed of their land and would be forced to exist henceforth at the mercy of the colonial overlord on minutely parceled out tracts of land. The effects of this systematic dispossession are still felt all across South Africa in discourses, social movements and grassroots protests calling for the equitable re-distribution of land at national, provincial and municipal levels. These calls are part of ongoing collective exercises pertaining to decolonisation and are also a contestation of the native/settler divide as established by the colonial/apartheid scheme of things.
    It is doubtful if the black amakwerekwere could ever transform the South African physical space or its natural character with the same predatory intent of Rhodes because his presence in the country reduces him/her to outsider status, one marked by an almost permanent sense of transition. In other words, he/she is not necessarily in a position to demarcate physical space with the same air of authority, menace or permanence that Rhodes displayed and has to relate to the terrain in fluctuating states of withdrawal and agitated movement.

    Nyamnjoh’s conceptual prankishness serves to underscore the absurdity as well as theorerical/existential impossibility of xenophobia in a context of hyperglobalisation. In such a context, xenophobia would undoubtedly be a sign of regression, a terminal malaise of insularity, a collapse into an anti-culture enclave, an anti-cosmopolitan retreat stamped by the death of language itself.

    What the constant reference to amakwerekwere also achieves is to re-cast the Rhodesian era within the South African present while at the same time drawing attention to a violent South African past that is continually being re-enacted in the present. Thus a violent dialectic links the past to the present and vice versa.

    Embedded in Rhodes quest for the total subjugation of Southern African natives was a concomitant drive to entrench the racial and cultural order of whiteness; a quest most evident in the elaborate effort to re-populate the region with white folk. And by this concerted effort at re-population based on white supremacy, Rhodes had intended to overturn the original native/settler equation through inordinate force. The native would in turn become a settler on his/her own land while the settler became native.

    Ultimately, Nyamnjoh unearths the oddities lodged in the meaning(s) of amakwerekwere which through the onslaught of capitalism create divisions in South African society; divisions that are largely informed by the native/settler dichotomy or the insider/outsider distinction. Perhaps more importantly, these societal schisms are meditated by shifting technologies of power, which could all of a sudden alter what it means to be native or settler in really drastic and often confusing ways.

    It also means as long as the notion of amakwerekwere continues to be politically active, the democratic project remains at risk and the discourse on human rights faces severe ethical and practical challenges.

    More than just an analysis of the student movement within UCT and beyond, Nyamnjoh’s narrative includes an interrogation of the ways in which conceptions of “outsider” and “insider” are never fixed categories but instead are subject to power, positionality, capital and contingency.

    By Sanya Osha

  • #RhodesMustFall: Nibbling at Resilient Colonialism in South Africa 1 January 19:20, author(s)-editor(s) Quraysha Ismail Sooliman

    Nyamnjoh’s #RhodesMustFall is a timely release that unapologetically incorporates through a critical discourse analysis, the nuances and debates buried in the mainstream analysis of the various Fallist Movements. Nyamnjoh follows pertinent narratives about the #RhodesMustFall protests and of the need to re-evaluate transformation beyond the obsession of symbols (pp 84-85).

    For more information, click here