An invitation to a younger generation to engage with early decolonialising thought

25 October 2019 - 11:18
A timely republication of a seminal text.
A timely republication of a seminal text.
Image: Wits Press

Being-Black-in-the-World, one of N. Chabani Manganyi’s first publications, was written in 1973, at a time of global sociopolitical change and renewed resistance to the brutality of apartheid rule and the emergence of Black Consciousness in the mid-1960s.

Manganyi is one of SA’s most eminent intellectuals and an astute social and political observer. He has written widely on subjects relating to ethno-psychiatry, autobiography, black artists and race.

In 2018, Manganyi’s memoir, Apartheid and the Making of a Black Psychologist, was awarded the prestigious ASSAf (Academy of Science of SA) Humanities Book Award.

Publication of Being-Black-in-the-World was delayed until the young Manganyi had left the country to study at Yale University. His publishers feared that the apartheid censorship board and security forces would prohibit him from leaving SA and perhaps even incarcerate him for being a “radical revolutionary”. The book found a limited public circulation in SA due to this censorship and original copies were hard to come by.

This new edition is an invitation to a younger generation of citizens to engage with early decolonialising thought by an eminent SA intellectual.

While the essays in this book are clearly situated in the material and social conditions of that time, they also have a timelessness that speaks to our contemporary concerns regarding black subjectivity, affectivity and corporeality, the persistence of a racial (and racist) order and the possibilities of a renewed decolonial project.

Each of them can be read as self-contained reflections on what it meant to be black during the apartheid years. Manganyi is a master of understatement, yet this does not stop him from making incisive political criticisms of black subjugation under apartheid.

The essays will reward close study for anyone trying to make sense of black subjectivity and the persistence of white insensitivity to black suffering. Ahead of its time, the ideas in this book are an exemplary demonstration of what a thorough and rigorous de-colonial critique should entail.

The re-republication this classic text is enriched by the inclusion of a foreword and annotation by respected scholars Garth Stevens and Grahame Hayes, respectively, and an afterword by public intellectual Njabulo S. Ndebele.