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Archives of empire, South Africa

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ABSTRACT

South Africa has, in recent years, been witnessing the unraveling of narratives of collective being and becoming that are hinged around Apartheid as the singular institution of power to be overcome. In this paper I argue that while Apartheid has provided one of the enduring examples of racial exclusion in the twentieth century we need to think more carefully about histories of empire and their endurance in the present. I trace the archival grain of empire in the various projects of gentrification that have marked the landscape of South Africa’s major cities in recent years. I argue that the transformation of these spaces contains the palimpsestic traces of South Africa’s imperial histories and as such should compel us to take serious how what I call archives of empire continue to mark post-Apartheid spatiality and subjectivity. The #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall student movements began some important archaeological work around reading how we make sense of our contemporary struggles and predicaments and as such should be taken seriously as having staged theoretical interventions in our contemporary social and political landscape.

KEYWORDS: South Africa(post)Apartheidempiregentrificationfinance capital

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