Humanities and Social Sciences
|Routledge (Taylor and Francis)|
Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies
Safundi -- "S" represents "South Africa," "a" stands for "America," and "fundi" comes from the Xhosa verb, "-funda," which translates as "to read/learn."
Deterritorializing American Culture, 23
This collection of articles approaches “America” and “South Africa” as diasporic and translational phenomena.
This introduction summarizes the collective concerns of the essays in this volume and suggests that they are ultimately best captured in the notion of "deterritorialization": a consideration of cultural products as they are exported or interpretively wrested away from their geographic origins and from their "natural" context in any sort of unilinear national narrative. It also describes the origins of this issue. The initial idea was create a counterpart to an earlier issue of Safundi, which featured reflections on the way South African history, culture, and politics is presented at U.S. universities. The editors therefore set out by asking a number of South African scholars, many of them in English departments, to reflect on the way in which U.S. culture was taught in South Africa. It soon emerged, however, that a strictly pedagogical focus was too constricting to generate a rich collection. While several of the articles in this issue do include reflections on pedagogy, the collection as a whole now presents a broader consideration of the nature of U.S.-South African cultural exchange. It leaves one with a sense that that the near-absence of American studies in the formal curriculum in South Africa has produced a need for methodological inventiveness and a desire to examine matters that are often ignored in academia. These include not only popular culture, but also the complicated, intimate, and often undisclosed relationship of the scholar to the subject of his or her research: the personal and political reasons behind his or her intellectual and imaginative engagement. This collection, in sum, approaches "America" and "South Africa" as diasporic and translational phenomena.
Taking stock of recent trends in American studies, Watson uses Malcolm Lowry's neglected novel Lunar Caustic (1968) as an entry point into an exploration of the implications for readers and teachers of movements in American studies in a transnational direction. He argues that Lowry's novel can be read as a precursor and allegory of current attempts to position American studies and culture within a transnational and cosmopolitan network: Lowry re-imagines and re-interprets American literature and popular culture without centralizing and naturalizing their relationship with the cultural and national imaginaries of the American nation-state. Instead, American culture is depicted as a component of a transnational system, which constitutes and determines America as much as it, in turn, is modulated by the globalization of American culture. Lowry's novel maps and foregrounds this transnational terrain, constituted by a series of reciprocal movements between the local and the global, and challenges thereby a pedagogy grounded in the area studies model of literary scholarship.
In this paper Muller asks the question what exactly was "American" about music made in and by Americans distributed globally as "popular" music in the twentieth century by examining the migration of this music in the post-World War II era. In this narrative, "American" music is deterritorialized by commoditization and at times might also be thought of as a diasporic entity. "Diasporic" here refers to the dispersion of musical commodities rather than living musicians into global networks of distribution and consumption. These commodities bear the personal and collective histories of their makers to consumers: to people who often live elsewhere, but share a social position similar to that of those who make the music. In their places of destination these commodities frequently convey feelings of intimacy, immediacy, even personal presesnce through the medium of music recorded in distant centers of cultural production but purchased and broadcast locally. What distinguishes a generalized global circulation of musical commodities from a "diasporic" one is the way in which musical objects are humanized by consumers who felt that the recording or radio broadcast was merely a substitute or surrogate for the real voices and instrumental performances of living musicians not able to travel in person. The media of transmission stands in for, or represents the original musicians in their absence, much as a woman surrogate substitutes her body for the body of another in giving birth to a child. "American music" is thus a transitional or translational phenomenon.
In this article, Marx explores the social and historical roots of her family's attachment to country and western music. Specifically, she examines the influence of American popular culture on her father, born to a large Afrikaans family, and informed by film, musical and pulp fiction stories of the west. These stories have helped to frame the way in which he reads his life story. She suggests that her father's experience offers flexible ways of analyzing the impact of American cultural forms on certain kinds of South Africans while also giving a new perspective on how those forms might be read in contexts beyond the places that gave birth to them.
This is a narrative essay which reflects on a visit to the United States in 2005 to interview Gary Snyder and attend a conference on literature and ecology. The speaker describes teaching Snyder's poetry in South Africa as part of an attempt to develop an approach to reading and writing that conveys a sense of the urgency of environmental issues, and of their implicatedness in social and political ones. Meeting him again serves to confirm and to some extent complicate the committment to these priorities.
This article emerges from the author's work for Oprah.com: the website of Harpo Inc., Oprah Winfrey's vast multinational media corporation. From December 2003 to January 2004, Barnard served as the official "literary guide" to members of Oprah's Book Club as they made their way through Alan Paton's novel Cry, the Beloved Country. The essay meditates on this most recent chapter in this "hypercanonical" book's transnational reception. Barnard agrues that, as mediated by Oprah, Cry, the Beloved Country is no longer the problematic, urbophobic "Jim Goes to Joburg" story that South African readers (including such important figures as Esk'ia Mphahlele, Stephen Watson, Tony Morphet, and J.M. Coetzee) have often subjected to sharp critique. It is transformed into an "Oprah" product: a narrative in which "the glamour of misery," as Eva Illouz has termed Oprah's chief stock-in-trade, generates a highly sentimental and commercialized form of global thinking and feeling. The essay closes with a series of reflections on the general implications of Oprah's Paton for future studies of literary reception. While Barnard is hesitant to entirely reject Oprah Winfrey's form of empathetic globalization (it is clearly preferable to the globalization of greed, revenge, and religious polarization sponsored by the Bush administration), it is nevertheless, in her view, inseparable from voyeurism and profit and is far too closely tied to a therapeutic feel-good mode of consumption to be ethical in any serious sense. Though a singular media event, the "Americanization" of this South African novel under the auspices of Oprah's Book Club tells us much about the instability of cultural products as they make the South-North or North-South passage across the Atlantic.
April 2007, Volume 8, Number 2
January 2007, Volume 8, Number 1
Safundi Issue 22, Issue 22
George Fredrickson's White Supremacy , Issue 21
October 2005, Issue 20
July 2005, Issue 19
April 2005, Issue 18
January 2005, Issue 17
October 2004, Issue 16
July 2004, Issue 15
April 2004, Issue 13-14
October 2003, Issue 12
July 2003, Issue 11
April 2003, Issue 10
May 2002, Issue 09
February 2002, Issue 08
November 2001, Issue 07
July 2001, Issue 06
April 2001, Issue 05
January 2001, Issue 04
October 2000, Issue 03
July 2000, Issue 02