Forthcoming Featured Books
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What is to be Thought? The Dialectics of Emancipation and Africa: political theory and political practice
Beginning from the understanding that it is imperative today to develop new concepts for the thinking of an emancipatory politics on the African continent (Fanon), this book proposes to focus on dialectical thought as the core subjective feature of all emancipatory political experiments on the African continent in particular. It traces a dialectical thinking to its origins in Ancient Egypt that arguably influenced Plato, and notes its opposition to the idea of representation in state politics during various historical sequences right up to the present. Starting from the fundamental conception that all people are capable of universal thought, and that an idea of universal humanity is central to popular thought during experiences of collective emancipatory struggle, the argument traces and analyses a number of emancipatory historical political sequences and their attendant contemporary narratives. Currently it is proposed to include
1) the Ancient World: Ancient Egypt (The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant – 4000 BCE) and Plato (as read by Alain Badiou);
2) Pre-colonial Africa and resistance to slavery: the Donsolu Kalikan (in the Manden/Mali, 1222), the Antonian Movement (in Kongo, 1684-1706) and its continuation in the Lemba Movement, and the Haitian Revolution (undertaken by slaves from Africa),
3) The National Liberation Struggles of the 1960s as thought by Fanon and Cabral, and
4) The mass popular struggles in South Africa during the 1980s.
The core of the political dialectic in each case differs and creates, during a limited sequence, what can be called a subjective political singularity that always combines dialectically a particular thought of resistance emanating from its specific social location with one of universal humanity during what is a process exceptional to hegemonic social relations.
It is further argued that whereas the political dialectic is not a given feature of African cultures as such, the latency of universalistic conceptions of humanity is identifiable within many African cultures. This means that rather than having to be invented ex nihilo, conceptions of the human universal in Africa have the potential to be (re-)activated in practice. Ato Sekyi-Otu and Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba are discussed as major contemporary African dialectical thinkers.
Coming to the present period, the book elaborates a theory of neo-colonial state politics through unpacking the core idea of representation and the absence of popular sovereignty. It is argued that the neo-colonial character of the state must be understood beyond binaries but rather, following Gramsci, as structured by objective dialectical relations characterising fundamentally distinct modes of rule. This objective dialectic is assessed, in addition to Gramsci, through a discussion of a number of well-known contemporary thinkers of the dialectic (Lenin, Mao, Dunayevskaya, CLR James, Carchedi, Anderson, etc).
These modes of rule enable the neo-colonial state to reproduce itself and social relations in conjunction with popular responses to such rule. Differing modes of state rule are identified and the formation of distinct domains of politics corresponding to them and founded on different forms of representation are elucidated. These domains amount to three types:
1) civil society (where the state rules through a relation of citizenship and the right to rights),
2) uncivil society (where the right to rights is inexistent and thus state violence is dominant), and
3) traditional society (where the state rules through custom and tradition itself the object of struggle).Using various cases from Africa, contradictions and struggles within each of these domains are analysed and the potential to draw on latent cultural conceptions of universality (when in existence) is discussed.In this manner both the dialectic of emancipation and the character of state power are thought conjointly and dialectical thinking is opposed to the idea of representation in politics as well as in social science. The concepts and categories used are explained in a simple manner understandable by all.
Finally and as a kind of concluding argument, it is proposed to rethink the idea of representation through a critical engagement with the political practices of what could be called the “heroic figures of liberation”. This will be undertaken via an assessment of the politics of Toussaint Louverture and Nelson Mandela in particular regarding the “colonial question” as identified by Aimé Césaire.
People Resisting Xenophobic Violence: Understanding popular political responses to the South African identitarian crisis
The book is concerned with popular responses to the crisis of xenophobic violence in South Africa. It argues, that xenophobia itself is not primarily a reaction to poverty, inequality, or any other set of social conditions. Rather, xenophobia must be considered to be a collective political discourse which has arisen in post-apartheid South Africa from an exclusionary conception of state nationalism. Where this work may be distinguished from the majority of research on xenophobia in South Africa is in the fact that its particular focus is on instances where ‘ordinary’ South Africans have challenged and resisted xenophobic violence in their communities through collective political mobilisation. I suggest that these sites of resistance deserve careful consideration in their own right. I argue that they may demonstrate a subjective break with the oppressive politics of state nationalism through the affirmation of alternative political conceptions. Drawing on the political theory of Sylvain Lazarus, and his principal thesis that people are capable of thinking politics in ways which can subjectively think beyond the social and the extant (underscored by his political and methodological axiom, people think), the book will argue that these sites of resistance show that people – and especially those who are considered to be marginalised from the domain of legitimate politics – can and do think politically, and it is in the thought of people that new and potentially emancipatory visions of politics may emerge.
The first chapter of the book sets out empirically the rise of xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa, with a focus on the ways in which state politics and practices have produced a hegemonic xenophobic discourse in the country. Chapter Two situates this discussion within a review of the academic literature, arguing that sociological explanations are by themselves unable to account for the phenomenon.
Chapter Three discusses three sites in which xenophobia has been effectively contested through collective political mobilisation: by Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) in Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Merafong Demarcation Forum (MDF) in Guateng in 2008, and in the Unemployed people’s Movement (UPM) in Grahamstown (now Makhanda) in 2015 (where I conducted fieldwork over a year). It is argued that the presence of collective political organisation before the outbreak of xenophobic violence provided the conditions for an effective challenge to xenophobic politics to occur.
Chapter Four is largely theoretical, drawing primarily on the work of Sylvain Lazarus, as well as Alain Badiou and Jacques Rancière. The chapter argues that it is essential to insist on politics as subjective, as it is only in the thought of people that emancipatory modes of politics which exceed socially located interests may emerge and be constituted through collective mobilisation into political praxis.
Chapter Five sets out the methodological approach to my own research with members of the Unemployed People’s Movement in Grahamstown. The aim of the approach is to aid in the investigation of what Sylvain Lazarus has called ‘subjective singularities’, or specific forms of thinking which characterize a political sequence. Put simply, the approach endeavours to try to understand people’s thinking on its own terms, through the categories and idioms which are specific to that subjective singularity, and which cannot be sociologically reduced to external explanatory referents such as class, race, power, or identity. The aim is to be able to identify and elucidate the specific prescriptive thought which may emerge as people think and articulate their own struggles.
Chapter Six sets out my discussions with 18 UPM activists. Based on the methodological approach indicated above, the purpose of this empirical chapter was not to provide any form of ethnography or sociology of the movement, but to try and elucidate, through the activists’ own categories, the subjective singularity which underpinned the movement’s anti-xenophobic politics during a particular sequence. The aim is not to extrapolate from the activists’ statements concepts, cases or types which might have broader application for the study of xenophobia generally, but only to try to understand and elucidate the forms of thinking which characterised this particular sequence in its subjective singularity. These forms of thinking, I argue, are notable and important in their own right.
[Note: Additional material from the interviews with the UPM members, which I was not able to include in the MA thesis, will be incorporated into the book manuscript to extend and develop the investigation into the political thinking of UPM members and to delineate the character of the political sequence].
This was Tariq Mehmood’s first novel, published by Penguin Books in 1983, charting the experience of the second generation migrants to the UK. Set in the declining textile industry of the North of England, it is a raw story of pain and anger at the relentlessness of British racism, from the street to the state – a story of an unquenchable desire for justice, and reclaiming human dignity. A dignity that is wrapped around new questions of Identity, a crossroad between religion, language, history and resistance. It is a little big story, that talks to the extremities of social, political and literary issues today? Can stories of a generation be appropriated? How important is religion in identity? If all you have is a story to tell, who should you tell it? Are the issues of today, just the issues of today or can we learn something from the past? In these stories, friendship is not defined by religion or colour, but by humanity. And racism is much more than skin deep.
An exhilarating read that bears witness to the urgent 80’s battles against state and popular racism. As important now as then.— Peter Kalu, novelist
The new edition has an introductory essay by Tariq Mehmood.
“Post capitalist philanthropy is a paradox in terms. A paradox is the appropriate starting place for the complex, entangled, messy context we find ourselves in as a species.” This is how long-time activists, political strategists, and “accidental philanthropy advisors” Alnoor Ladha and Lynn Murphy start their forthcoming book on Post Capitalist Philanthropy.
The authors take us on a journey from the history of wealth accumulation to the current logic of late-stage capitalism – and ultimately to the lived possibilities of other ways of knowing, sensing and being that can usher in life-centric models. This “ontological shift”, as they call it, into new possibilities is at the heart of their work. Creating new-ancient-emerging realities is not simply about how we redistribute wealth or “fight power”, but rather, how we perceive and embody our actions in relationship to a dynamic, animistic world and cosmos.
Their book is a result of decades of deep personal inquiry and practice, as well as lifelong engagement with activists, philanthropists, philosophers, social scientists, cosmologists and wisdom keepers. Alnoor Ladha comes from a Sufi lineage and writes about the crossroads of politics and spirituality in troubled times. His work focuses on the intersection of political organizing, systems thinking, structural change and narrative work. He was the co-founder and Executive Director of The Rules, a global network of activists, organizers, designers, coders, researchers, writers and others focused on changing the rules that create inequality, poverty and climate change. TR started in 2012 as a time-bound project and an experiment in temporary organizational design, exploring new ways of how to work, play, and make trouble together.
His work has been published in Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Truthout, Fast Company, Kosmos Journal, New Internationalist, and the Huffington Post among others. He is a board member of Culture Hack Labs, a co-operatively run advisory for social movements and progressive organizations. He holds an MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics.
Lynn Murphy is a strategic advisor for foundations and NGOs working in the geopolitical South. She was a senior fellow and program officer at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation where she focused on international education and global development. She resigned as a “conscientious objector” to neocolonial philanthropy. She holds an MA and PhD in international comparative education from Stanford University. She is also a certified Laban/Bartenieff movement analyst.
Lynn and Alnoor are co-directors of The Transition Resource Circle, a group focused on the broader transition from our current meta-crisis to adjacent possible futures. TRC seeks to work with resources and resource holders to alchemize and liberate capital to be in service to Life. They work through circle ways – “e.g. non-hierarchical, embodied cognition approaches, psycho-spiritual practices to move from a culture of entitlement to ways which honor the multiple entanglements of historical precedents, our respective lineages & karmic storylines, and what future beings (including ourselves) require for reconciliation and healing.” TRC focuses on philanthropy as it has the potential to play a critical role in rebalancing wealth, power and historical injustices.
Join us in conversation with these heartful and soulful thinkers and doers.
EXPELLED FROM UGANDA by Idi Amin in 1972, Mahmood Mamdani arrived in a cold and overcast London to join his compatriots in a camp run by the UK government’s resettlement board. As he recounts: ‘On the face of it, life in the camp, with its surface calm and order, presented a sharp and favourable contrast to the open terror of living in Uganda. But it was the Kensington camp, and not Amin’s Uganda, which was my first experience of what it would be like to live in a totalitarian society.’ In one of his first books, republished here with contemporary images, Mamdani begins to explore the theme of political identity – the colonial politicisation of racial identity and its reproduction after independence – which has been the concern of much of his subsequent work, notably the groundbreaking Citizen and Subject.
With a new preface written especially for this edition, Mamadani also touches on his personal and intellectual journey since From Citizen to Refugee was first published.
This gripping and highly readable story of the Asians’ last days in Uganda interweaves the stories of Mamdani’s friends and family with an examination of Uganda’s colonial history and the subsequent evolution of post-independence politics. The British colonial policy of divide and rule ensured that race coincided with class, effectively politicising the category of race.
This vivid autobiographical account is as pertinent now as when the book was first published in 1973 in its telling of a story that will be familiar to refugees and those seeking asylum in Britain today.
Slave King recreates a major slave revolt in Sicily led by a Syrian magus turned leader, circa 140-132 BCE, decades before Spartacus. He forges a coalition of slaves, farmers and herders to defeat Roman armies and establish an egalitarian entity. The novel uses biased ancient sources but challenges them to speak for the oppressed and present alternative cultural-historical perspectives. Among its chapters are scenes of exorcism, ancient marriage customs and a play.
“Think global, act local!” “Be the change you want to see in the world!” “Every little bit counts!” We can all get on board with such sentiments, right? That, of course, is exactly what corporate spin-masters across the world are banking on. By weaponizing such seemingly innocuous yet powerful narratives, change becomes a matter of personal choice, something each of us must slave away at day by day: switching off lightbulbs to save the environment or exercising to shed the weight we’ve gained from consuming junk food. All the while, the corporate welfare tap continues to flow, with over $6 trillion worth of annual subsidies dished out to industries that directly contribute to the deaths of over 5.5 million people each year through diabetes, road deaths, global warming, and other crises. But such framing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the corporate disinformation playbook. This playbook is the dark matter of activist work: the unseeable element shaping harmful spin across all issues. It has never been reverse engineered – until now.
In Dark PR, Grant Ennis – drawing on his decades of experience working in the environmental, philanthropy, and public health sectors – reveals exactly how multinationals go about hoodwinking and manipulating us. In doing so, he lifts the lid on the nine devious frames contained within the cross-industry corporate disinformation playbook: through denialism, normalization, victim-blaming, multifactorialism, and a variety of other tried-and-tested tactics, corporations divert citizens’ attention away from the real causes of global problems, leading them into counter-productive blind-alley “solutions” like ethical consumerism and divestment. Sadly, though, buying Fair Trade chocolate has not and never will save the world. Only by collectively organizing to lobby our governments can we break this destructive cycle of lies and deadly incentives, and reclaim control of our lives.
These poems were largely written during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last poem in the collection was written at the start of the second wave in Africa. Most were circulated through What’s App voice notes, an intimate way of keeping distance while reaching out to touch.
This book traces the little known history and recent contributions of Black anarchism, which aims to move beyond racial capitalism. With roots in the Black Radical Tradition, Black anarchism differs from the anarchisms shaped by white leadership in Europe and the United States. The book opens a crucial path forward during the coming transformation.
Postcolonial critique deconstructs global inequality in its epistemic and material dimensions. This collective comic project illuminates everyday life’s coloniality as well as the decolonising potential of everyday struggles in the spaces, discourses and practices of so-called ‘global development’.
Co-Publishers & Other Partners
- Between the Lines
- Black Godexx Press
- Ch. Links Verlag
- Church Land Programme
- Daraja Press
- Descontrol Editorial
- Jacana Media (Pty)
- Maynooth University
- Monthly Review Essays
- Narrative Landscapes Press
- New Internationalist
- Pandemic Research for the People
- Rosa Luxemburg Foundation
- Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies
- Spiniflex Press
- Transition Resource Circle
- Transnational Institute
- Tulika Books
- Zand Graphics Ltd