State of urgency: The Humanities in South Africa (AHHE 15.1)
Editorial by John Higgins
University of Cape Town, South Africa
and Peter Vale
University of Johannesburg, South Africa
The statue at the University of Cape Town of Cecil Rhodes by Marion Walgate (1934)
William Faulkner’s appalled recognition – ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ – sets the scene for many of the animating concerns of this Special Issue. This is focused on work in and debates around the humanities in South Africa, where many artists and academics appear to be wrestling with a particularly strong version of Faulkner’s dilemma.
For just over 20 years after the formal dismantling of apartheid embodied in the adoption of South Africa’s new Constitution, what we are witnessing is a living on of the past, a startled recognition that the past is not even past. For the structural persistence of forms of racialized inequality at every level of society and of the economy is now becoming increasingly expressed and articulated in and through the deeply polarising debates around higher education which are largely taking place within the humanities…