Babel Unbound

Rage, reason and rethinking public life
Editor(s): ,
Contributor(s): , , , , , , ,
  • Publication Date: May 2020
  • Dimensions and Pages: 234 x 156; 272pp
  • Paperback EAN: 9781776145898
  • PDF EAN: 9781776145904
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 420.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): 35.00

This finger-on-the-pulse collection offers a new theory of the public sphere. Through news
media, photography, archives, hashtags, ‘art-rage’, Muslim manuscripts, and much more,
this incisive book illuminates the underlying dynamics of public engagement.
Isabel Hofmeyr, Global Distinguished Professor, New York University, Professor of
African Literature, University of the Witwatersrand, and author of Gandhi’s Printing Press:
Experiments in Slow Reading (2013)

…an exciting book that brings the South African experience into the centre of debate over
today’s deep crisis of public life and democracy. The interest is not just local. It is deeply
relevant for understanding populism and protests around the world.
— Craig Calhoun, University Professor of Social Sciences, Arizona State University (USA) and
Centennial Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science (UK)

This is a timely, original and sophisticated collection that thinks the idea of the public sphere
from a southern location. The essays attempt, in creative ways, to move out of the impasse of
quibbles over how ‘public’ the public sphere is, stressing its pluralities, capillary nature and
dispersed sites of discussion.
— Dilip Menon, Mellon Chair in Indian Studies and Director of the Centre for Indian Studies
in Africa, University of Witwatersrand, and editor of Capitalisms: Towards a Global History
(2020)

The notion that societies mediate issues through certain kinds of engagement is at the heart of the democratic project and often centres on an imagined public sphere where this takes place. But this imagined foundation of how we live collectively appears to have suffered a dramatic collapse across the world in the digital age, with many democracies apparently unable to solve problems through talk – or even to
agree on who speaks, in what ways and where.

In this timely and erudite collection, writers from southern Africa combine theoretical analysis with the examination of historical cases and contemporary events to demonstrate that forms of publicness are multiple, mobile and varied. Drawing primarily on insights and materials from Africa for their capacity to speak to global developments, the authors in this volume propose new concepts and methodologies to
analyse how public engagements work in society.

The contributions examine charged examples from the Global South, such as the centuries old Timbuktu archive, Nelson Mandela’s powerful absent presence in 1960s public life, and the contemporary debates around the 2015/2016 student activism of #rhodesmustfall and #feesmustfall. These cases show how issues of public discussion circulate in unpredictable ways.

Babel Unbound will be of interest to anyone looking to find alternative ways of thinking about publicness in contemporary society in order to make better sense of the cacophony of conversations in circulation.

Acknowledgements
Introduction Lesley Cowling and Carolyn Hamilton
1 Rethinking Public Engagement
Carolyn Hamilton and Lesley Cowling
2 Tracing Public Engagements in Visual Forms
Carolyn Hamilton, Litheko Modisane and Rory Bester
3 Media Orchestration in the Production of Public Debate
Lesley Cowling and Pascal Newbourne Mwale
4 Fluid Publics: The Public-Making Power of Hashtags in Digital Public Spaces
Indra de Lanerolle
5 ‘Now we see him, now we don’t’: The Media and the ‘Black Pimpernel’
Litheko Modisane
6 Archive and Public Life
Carolyn Hamilton
7 Iconic Archive: Timbuktu and Its Manuscripts in Public Discourse
Susana Molins Lliteras
8 The Politics of Representation in Marikana: A Tale of Competing Ideologies
Camalita Naicker
9 Art-Rage and the Politics of Reconciliation
Nomusa Makhubu
10 Anger, Pain and the Body in the Public Sphere
Anthea Garman

About the Editors

Lesley Cowling is Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and an associate researcher at the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative at the University of Cape Town.

Carolyn Hamilton is the South African Research Chair in Archive and Public Culture at the University of Cape Town and leader of the research projects on the nature of public discourse.

 

About the Contributors

Rory Bester is Associate Professor of Art History and Deputy Head of the Wits School of Arts at the University of the
Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Anthea Garman is a Professor in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University.

Indra de Lanerolle is the Director of the Journalism and Media Lab at the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct,
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

Susana Molins Lliteras is a Post-Doctoral Fellow based at the Archive and Public Culture Research Initiative and the
Historical Studies Department at the University of Cape Town and an African Studies Association (ASA) Presidential Fellow for 2019.

Nomusa Makhubu is a Senior Lecturer of Art History at the University of Cape Town and a practising artist.

Litheko Modisane teaches in the Centre for Film and Media Studies at the University of Cape Town.

Camalita Naicker is a lecturer in the Historical Studies Department at the University of Cape Town.

Pascal Newbourne Mwale is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Chancellor College at the University
of Malawi.

This finger-on-the-pulse collection offers a new theory of the public sphere. Through news
media, photography, archives, hashtags, ‘art-rage’, Muslim manuscripts, and much more,
this incisive book illuminates the underlying dynamics of public engagement.
Isabel Hofmeyr, Global Distinguished Professor, New York University, Professor of
African Literature, University of the Witwatersrand, and author of Gandhi’s Printing Press:
Experiments in Slow Reading (2013)

…an exciting book that brings the South African experience into the centre of debate over
today’s deep crisis of public life and democracy. The interest is not just local. It is deeply
relevant for understanding populism and protests around the world.
— Craig Calhoun, University Professor of Social Sciences, Arizona State University (USA) and
Centennial Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science (UK)

This is a timely, original and sophisticated collection that thinks the idea of the public sphere
from a southern location. The essays attempt, in creative ways, to move out of the impasse of
quibbles over how ‘public’ the public sphere is, stressing its pluralities, capillary nature and
dispersed sites of discussion.
— Dilip Menon, Mellon Chair in Indian Studies and Director of the Centre for Indian Studies
in Africa, University of Witwatersrand, and editor of Capitalisms: Towards a Global History
(2020)

Related titles

Leave a Reply