Rosalind C. Morris

Critical Studies, 2011


What links the post-Enlightenment humanist discourse on the animal to that on Africa? What traces of being otherwise can be excavated from within the linguistic memory and narrative traditions of those who have, historically, been asked to signify “Africanity”? And when is the possibility of being otherwise that against which purgative violence is organized? Reading back from contemporary South African discourse on the human and the African, as framed by the problem of foreigners, animals and their rights, this chapter revisits Wilhelm Bleek and Lucy Lloyd’s material on /Xam mythology. Reading in light of Derrida’s late work, The Animal That Therefore I Am, it not only seeks the traces of /Xam thought about possible conceptions of human-animal being, but also seeks to bring that thought to bear on Elias Canetti’s rendering of /Xam myth in his monumental work, Crowds and Power. Under the specter of “xenophobic” violence, as it materialized in South Africa in 2008, we conclude here by considering how and why the predicament of being simultaneously modern and African is articulated in contemporary South Africa as a question of the animal as citizen, by figures as diverse as Thabo Mbeki and J.M. Coetzee.

View the article here: Crowds and Powerlessness: Reading //kabbo and Canetti with Derrida in (South) Africa