African Visions: Literary Images, Political Change, and Social Struggle in Contemporary Africa

By Cheryl B. Mwaria; Silvia Federici et al. | Go to book overview

14
Developmental Pleasures, Education, Entertainment, and Popular Literacy in South Africa

Loren Kruger

In South Africa today, the clear-cut opposition between the state and its antagonist, the people, which sustained the antiapartheid struggle, has been replaced by many local skirmishes, whose participants largely regard the new people' government, as a remote authority. The unassailable image of people's culture, understood as "cultural weapon" ( Masakela 1989--a normative category for mobilization--has at least in part given way to a patchwork of popular cultures--a variety of forms, practices, and habits of consumption--in contradictory relation to ongoing grassroots struggle, regional, national and international mass media, and the pleasures and pitfalls of modernity. This entails, for the majority of South Africans, as for other denizens of the South, the desired, anticipated, and deferred good life of liberation. This desire may focus directly on immediate needs-- housing, health, employment--but also encompasses a contradictory sense of modernity--the thrill and threat of the city, the aspiration of individual autonomy and the persistence of dependence.

In this context, which contains in uneasy coexistence and friction, First and Third Worlds, north and south, culture for development has to critically negotiate the dialectic of modernity--as an object of desire and aversion--if it is to avoid the twin temptations of naive developmentalism (the West is best and we have to catch up) and a capitulation to capitalism and consumerism, on the one hand, or of demonizing modernity as mere cultural imperialism on the other. This means, in practical terms, that South African cultural for development cannot simply imitate the influential paradigm of theater for development, from Botswana ( Kidd and Byram 1978) and Lesotho ( Mda 1993) to Tanzania ( Mlama 1991), whose constituents have been predominantly rural and whose mode of transmission almost always oral in explicit or implicit resistance to state manipulation of mass media and literacy dissemination.

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