Cultural villages in post-apartheid South Africa: a decolonial perspective

2017-02-22T02:55:10Z (GMT) by Ndlovu, Morgan
The thesis provides a decolonial interpretation of the cultural village phenomenon in South Africa. By cultural villages, I mean purpose-built complexes that feature staged simulations of what are supposedly the cultural aspects of indigenous communities in South Africa, mainly for the purpose of attracting tourism but also reproducing colonially rooted, stereotyped images of indigenous people. The thesis explains the meanings of this phenomenon for a subject whose locus of enunciation within the structure of the colonial power differences is that of a colonial subaltern. This interpretation is constructed around the theoretical idea of the structure-agency dialectic. This is a suitable theoretical frame for examining the cultural villages because the project of modernity/coloniality tends to constrain the potential of the social agency of the indigenous subjects of the village in developing alternative imaginations about their culture and identity. In order to effectively explain the meaning of the cultural village phenomenon from a decolonial perspective, the thesis draws on case studies of the cultural village of PheZulu Safari Park in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and on the quotidian experience of the traditional healer MaDlamini, in the locality of Diesploot, Gauteng province. In the former, what is represented as Zulu culture is predominantly a product of the structure of modernity/coloniality. In the latter, imaginations of Zuluness are products of indigenous agency. The two case studies provide contrasting contexts for examining the question of the tension between the influence of the structure of modernity/coloniality and indigenous agency in their respective imaginations of identity and culture in post-apartheid South Africa. The thesis demonstrates that in the cultural village of PheZulu Safari Park, the influence of the structural system of modernity/coloniality takes precedence over the agency of the indigenous people, while in the quotidian experience of the traditional healer MaDlamini in the community of Diepsloot, located outside the business of cultural village tourism, the agency of the healer plays a prominent role in determining the nature of cultural identity. The thesis reveals the cultural villages through a decolonial interpretation of the role of structure and agency in their establishment and operation. This interpretation enables the analysis to avoid the pitfall of projecting the oppressed indigenous subject as complicit in its oppression, while exonerating modernity/coloniality of its crimes against the oppressed subjects of the non-Western category. The decolonial epistemic standpoint empowers the analysis to visualize the influence of modernity/coloniality in the making of the cultural identities of the oppressed non-Western subjects without reducing these oppressed subjects into feeble and complying objects of coloniality. Thus, for instance, the cultural village experience of PheZulu Safari Park exposes the cruelty of the structural system of modernity/coloniality and yet the case of the quotidian experience of the traditional healer MaDlamini exemplifies the capability of the oppressed subject in outmanoeuvring the trapping of a colonial situation. This is an important lesson for post-apartheid South Africa, where the efforts of the subjects on the dominated side of the colonial differential require recognition against the background of a coloniality that restricts anti-system activities capable of producing a better present and future.