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The Salon

Volume 3, 2010

Inequality, the disavowal of mutuality
Lara Allen
What do The Salon's contributors propose are the reasons-for-being of public intellectual thought and creativity? To defamiliarise received realities and expose what the powerful wish to hide; to make disavowal difficult; to name social dis-ease and shame comfortable ignorance; to conceptualise, acknowledge, and facilitate mutuality. Inevitably, suggests Lara Allen, such projects entail blurring of the lines between art, criticism and political activism.
Bangalore, India. Flikr, David
Apartheid: A Double-Crossing
Louise Bethlehem
Examining the mobilization of the term 'apartheid' in Israel, Louise Bethlehem discusses the ways in which dissident Israeli intellectuals, artists and activists contest the erasure of the Palestinian past and present; how they speak otherwise' to elaborate a differently inflected Israeli identity.
Used with permission. For the full intervention, see the Zochrot web-site
Israel/Palestine: Apartheid of a Special Type?
Ran Greenstein
One approach to challenging the 'apartheid of a special type' in Israel/Palestine would be to foster bi-nationalism. This, argues Ran Greenstein, would accommodate members of both national groups as equals, and would facilitate negotiation underpinned by the discourse and values of democracy, justice, equality and human rights, rather than those of diplomacy and statehood.
Confrontation - Jabalia Camp, Gaza Strip, Palestine. Flickr: cromacom
Reading Levinas in Africa
Helen Douglas
Violence, justice, peace. The challenge faced by post-apartheid South Africans to reconstruct and reconcile rather than give in to fear, hate and despair is underpinned, suggests Helen Douglas, by the challenge of finding the courage to understand what we know and draw conclusions. Extending Levinas beyond Levinas, Douglas reveals a Moebius loop between his call to find the basic goodness at the beginning of every social relation and the South African concept of ubuntu.
Dance 1. Flikr: John Curley
Postcolonial Technopolitics: Reflections on the Indian experience
Kavita Philip
When, how, why, and in whose interests did western representations of the Third World, and particularly India, morph into postmodern technoscience? Taking on Lyotard, subaltern studies, and champions of the brand-saturated techno-capitalism of post-liberalization India, Kavita Philip embarks on a project to read technoscience as text, political practice and geopolitical strategy, rather than simplistically as technocratic code.
The Uses of 'Ex-centricity': Cool Reflections from Hot Places
Jean Comaroff
Inspired by District 9, a sci-fi movie set in South Africa, Jean Comaroff argues for the analytical power of estrangement and defamiliarisation, and the importance of ex-centric perspectives in any quest for critical self-understanding.
Poster for the film District 9
Making the Invisible Visible: a Story of the Central Methodist Church
Christa Kuljian
By opening the doors of the Central Methodist Church to the homeless and destitute of inner Johannesburg, Bishop Paul Verryn forced recognition of their plight into the consciousness of the powerful. The result, reveals Christa Kuljian, is disarray in the halls of power equivalent only to the mess on the street. Battles rage amongst clergy, between politicians, within the civil service, and in the courts - with the police, civil society, individual citizens and the media backing all sides. But ultimately neither responsibility nor positive action is taken. Nothing meaningful is done to assist the people symptomatic of the problem. And the root problem itself, inequality and poverty, remains largely unacknowledged.
Top of the fence between the Smal Street Mall and the church. Photo credit: Siven Maslamoney
The Black Asylum
James Sey
What do the inmates of apartheid's infamous black mental asylums have in common with today's refugees in camps all over the world, and slum dwellers in contemporary third-world mega cities? They all, argues James Sey, result from the operation of a 'state of exception' instituted by a powerful few; they live a 'bare life'; they are the 'living dead'.
Still from the short film The Black Asylum 1 by James Sey. Courtesy James Sey.
New Coal
Tegan Bristow
Morphing investigative journalism with art-making, Tegan Bristow challenges browsers to interact with her intentionally disruptive comparison of the fate of two world heritage sites, both valleys cursed with coal.
Photo courtesy Tegan Bristow
David Goldblatt: Returns and Elisions
M. Neelika Jayawardane
David Goldblatts's photographs are uncanny in their capacity to highlight South African un-ease, suggests Neelika Jayawardane. Reflecting on a re-visitation of his early oeuvre, Jayawarane and Goldblatt discuss the photographs' visual elaboration of the unspeakable: racial intimacy and fear, suppressed sexuality, the face of power,and - most taboo of all - a tension between responsibility and disavowal engendered in contemporary viewers.
"In Martjie Marais's kitchen in Gamkaskloof", 1967.
Design in Motion? Urban design and the post-apartheid city
Sarah Calburn and Achille Mbembe
Sarah Calburn, an architect in private practice in Johannesburg, and Achille Mbembe a research professor in history and politics, discuss the tensions and possibilities of urban design and the post-apartheid city.
Johannesburg, courtesy Sarah Calburn.
On writing Entanglement
Sarah Nuttall
Reflecting on a seven year quest to write a history of the South African present from Johannesburg (to write the now, from here), Sarah Nuttall ventures beyond the safety of difference, the easy control of the academic voice, and the comfortable negative subject position of much intellectual critique. She finds herself engaging entanglement and elusivity through creative non-fiction.
"Earth Book" Photo: courtesy Paul Marais