Literary (Un/Re)Settling: Decolonial discourse in/and South African literary systems

Journal of Decolonising Disciplines Vol 2(2), 2020 – Issue CfP

Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang (2012) state unambiguously that while decolonisation proper concerns repatriation, it still primarily manifests in and through metaphoric use in Historically White Institutions. This manifestation fails to fully address inequality and injustices – facilitating “a set of evasions, or ‘settler moves to innocence’, that problematically attempt to reconcile settler guilt and complicity, and rescue settler futurity” (Tuck & Yang 2012: 1). Specifically, ‘settler moves to innocence’ are seen as “those strategies or positionings that attempt to relieve the settler of feelings of guilt or responsibility without giving up land or power or privilege, without having to change much at all. In fact, settler scholars may gain professional kudos or a boost in their reputations for being so sensitive or self-aware.” (Ibid: 10)

Arguably, in few contexts has the metaphor-isation of decolonial discourse been more evident than in South African literary studies and literary-critical traditions.

To address this, the JDD invites contributions to a special issue on the ways in which decolonial discourse has manifested in the various South African literary systems i.e. literature written in English, Afrikaans literature, and the literary traditions of isiXhosa and isiZulu. In mining the rich metaphoric intersections of ‘settler/settling’, ‘unsettling’ and ‘resettling’ within literary systems, contributions are invited that consider both the historic (through the Black Archive) and sudden, contemporary uptake of decolonising terminology in literary traditions in South Africa, and how this terminology has served to surface, neutralise or compound systemic, academic, and popular-literary injustices and inequalities.

While specific attention could be given to the ways in which this uptake can/has acted as ‘settler moves to innocence’, contributions that showcase how various literary systems have historically resisted the tokenistic co-optation of decolonial discourse are also encouraged. Submissions on (though not limited to) the following thematic areas, strands, and questions are invited:

  • Historical analyses of decoloniality in/through the works of the Black Archive (constitutive of, for instance, Noni Jabavu, Nontsizi Mqwetho, SEK Mqhayi);
  • Comparative work on how different South African literary systems have co-opted decolonial terminology;
  • The productive tension between the introduction of unsettling paradigms and re-settling literary responses;
  • The functional relation between the postcolonial as literary lens and decolonial discourse;
  • Decolonial feminism(s) in the postcolonial literary tradition;
  • The embrace of literary queer-ness as substitutive proxy for decoloniality; and
  • Oral/Written interfaces in (post)-colonial South Africa

Interested authors are invited to submit paper proposals by September 2019 to

Full papers (5,000 to 8,000 words) are expected by March 2020. Author guidelines on submissions can be accessed through the journal site, here.

Reference    Tuck, E. & Yang, K.W.  2012.  Decolonization is not a metaphor.  Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), p.1-40.