Megan Jones Seminar 2012

Township Textualities 

Abstract: In recent years, South African literary and cultural criticism has increasingly turned to analyses of urban forms and fictions. Johannesburg in particular has provided an optic through which modes of occupation and belonging in urban South Africa have been explored. Studies have paid attention to literatures which navigate the spaces of the inner city, barricaded middle-class suburbia and sites of spectacular consumption and display such as shopping malls and casinos. While the township has been the subject of sociological and anthropological work, Mbembe (2008) notes that investigations of township life in the humanities are relatively scarce. Why then does the township register dimly on the radar of South African cultural studies?

Townships are hugely significant sites through which new and provocative questions concerning race, class and power are negotiated in cityscapes and in South Africa more generally. Neglect of the role that the township plays in the forging of postapartheid subjectivities impoverishes any attempt to engage the politics of identity in twenty first century South Africa. The importance of the research lies in its novel focus on textual representations of the contemporary township and how these contribute to our understanding of what it means to be 'South African'. Accordingly, the paper aims to engage the shifting signification of the township in the South African imaginary. Tracking modes of representation across the field of cultural studies, it follows recent revaluations of township lifeworlds by, among others, Jacob Dlamini (2009) and explores the myriad ways in which the township is repositioned and deployed.

Megan Jones Presenting Her Paper

Bio: Dr. Megan Jones is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa and a Research Associate with the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), Johannesburg, South Africa. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 2009. She has published on the literary and ideological construction of space in Johannesburg, while her current project focuses on the shifting signification of the township in the South African imaginary.

Audio: Listen to Megan's seminar presentation (right click and "save link as" to download).

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