The Intellectual and Apartheid


Philosophy and Postcoloniality

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Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: Published: December 2002

Author: Mark Sanders

African Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Complicities explores the complicated—even contradictory—position of the intellectual who takes a stand against political policies and ideologies. Mark Sanders argues that intellectuals cannot avoid some degree of complicity in what they oppose and that responsibility can only be achieved with their acknowledgment of this complicity. He examines the role of South African intellectuals by looking at the work of a number of key figures—both supporters and opponents of apartheid.

Sanders gives detailed analyses of widely divergent thinkers: Afrikaner nationalist poet N. P. van Wyk Louw, Drum writer Bloke Modisane, Xhosa novelist A. C. Jordan, Afrikaner dissident Breyten Breytenbach, and Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko. Drawing on theorists including Derrida, Sartre, and Fanon, and paying particular attention to the linguistic intricacy of the literary and political texts considered, Sanders shows how complicity emerges as a predicament for intellectuals across the ideological and social spectrum. Through discussions of the colonial intellectuals Olive Schreiner and Sol T. Plaatje and of post-apartheid feminist critiques of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Complicities reveals how sexual difference joins with race to further complicate issues of collusion.

Complicities sheds new light on the history and literature of twentieth-century South Africa as it weighs into debates about the role of the intellectual in public life.


"A deeply satisfying book. The range and depth of research is assimilated into a style of writing that is neither tedious nor pompous, and the author shows himself in full command of his sources." — Rustum Kozain , H-SAfrica, H-Net Reviews

"[A]n accessible and very subtle reflection on the responsibility of the intellectual in the face of oppression. . . . [A] stimulating and deeply rewarding read." — Paul Muldoon, Australian Journal of Politics and History

"[C]reative. . . . Complicities raises critically important ethical questions that all intellectuals must face and that are especially relevant and poignant in our troubled times."
— Jackie Vieceli , Perspectives on Political Science

"[T]he richness of informed, detailed analysis on offer here deserves the close attention of anyone trying to understand the history of protest, collusion or submission by some of South Africa's most significant thinkers." — Dennis Walder , Journal of Southern African Studies

"Mark Saunders has written an extraordinarily powerful book. His focus on ‘complicity’ in the context of South African letters serves to breathe air and life into what have become stale modes of enquiry and exegesis in this context. . . . his book is an important beacon in the project of desegregating theory itself in South Africa: the project, that is, of attempting to understand the interconnections that define and inscribe the multi-valencies of South Africa now in ways that open us to potential futures. It is a sterling contribution to the debate." — Sarah Nuttall, Interventions

"This combination of European and African philosophy and literature challenges the role and place of the intellectual and artist in society. South Africans have long seen complicity as contamination and resisted any association either with the word or people to whom it has been applicable. This book offers an alternative perspective whereby we can look at these discourses differently, with less anxiety. It has been one of the most challenging and stimulating books I have read in the past year." — Yvette Hutchison, African Studies Bulletin

Complicities is an invaluable inquiry into the social, political, moral, and philosophical functioning of the intellectual, not just in the context of apartheid, but within every society blighted by racism, sexism, or the myriad of other forms of oppression and intolerance which mark our time.” — André Brink

“Philosophically informed and linguistically sophisticated, Complicities is an important contribution to the intellectual history of modern South Africa.” — J.M. Coetzee


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Mark Sanders is Assistant Professor of English and American Literature at Brandeis University.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Introduction: Complicity, the Intellectual, Apartheid

1. Two Colonial Precursors

2. The Intellectual and Apartheid

3. Apartheid and the Vernacular

4. Prison Writing

5. Black Consciousness

Conclusion: Don’t Forget to Tell Us What Happened to You Yourself . . .”



Sales/Territorial Rights: World exc South Africa

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2998-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3003-5
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