Asinamali: University Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa

By Barnes, Teresa | African Studies Review, April 2008 | Go to article overview
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Asinamali: University Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa


Barnes, Teresa, African Studies Review


EDUCATION Richard Pithouse, ed. Asinamali: University Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 2006. xxviii + 170 pp. Notes. List of Contributors. Index. $19.95. Paper.

Dedicated to the memory of a student shot by police during a student protest in 2000, and with an introduction by Dennis Brutus, this collection of critical essays on higher education in contemporary South Africa provides a series of case studies in how the policies of the ANC government are failing in their historic mission of uplifting apartheid's downtrodden. The book was co-sponsored by the well-known Committee on Academic Freedom in Africa. "Asinamali" ("we have no money") has become an anthem of working-class protest against low wages and lack of service delivery in South Africa. As it is used here, the word explicitly links the ivory tower with an articulation of a class-based project of recognition and redress.

For those still enchanted with the idea of a South Africa suffused with rosy "rainbow nationalism," Asinamali will deliver a swift wake-up call. The contributions make it clear that despite their claims of redressing the inequalities of apartheid, the South African state has relentlessly rejected policies that prioritize the needs and perspectives of the poor. For these groups, access to higher education has receded; prospects of decent salaries and benefits for university clerical, cleaning, and grounds staff have vanished; and the production of knowledge has largely remained serenely and stubbornly entrenched in the impoverished disciplinary categories characteristic of the apartheid era, consciously foreclosing spaces for critical engagement with the majority of the population.

The book has a glaring Achilles heel. The last chapter, entitled "Gender and Women's Studies in Post-Apartheid South Africa" and ostensibly written by Sheena Essof, is directly plagiarized from "Gender Studies for Africa's Transformation" written by Amina Mama and published in African Intellectuals: Rethinking Politics, Language, Gender and Development, edited by Thandika Mkandawire (CODESRIA and Zed Books, 2005). The work attributed to Essof exhibits just enough tinkering to suggest knowing falsification rather than an unwitting mistake of authorship attribution; aside from slight bowdlerization, the two essays are virtually identical, down to headings and references.

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