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This chapter is a philosophical discussion detailing how the alienation we feel as Black scholars, and the assimilation we have to negotiate as aspiring Black women scholars in academia, reveals a crisis in social science. We see this crisis best displayed through the figure of the native informant. This chapter is about the affective and actual role that we as native informants play daily within an unchallenged white academia. Franco Barchiesi's chapter (this volume) narrates the positionality of Drum magazine journalist Nat Nakasa as participant in the ‘fringe’ or ‘No Man's Land’ in Johannesburg during apartheid, a place where both black and white could interact without directly confronting the dehumanisation of black people. In a similar vein, South African universities inhabit a similar ‘fringe’ positionality. In this sphere, friendship between white and black becomes a space of ‘complicities and intimacies’ tied to the historical matrix of roles that place the native informant as a cultural interpreter before she can be seen as a consumer or creator of knowledge. The social sciences are in a condition of instability that has socially, politically, and economically alienated Black scholars.
Our chapter draws on Windsor S. Leroke's paper ‘“Koze Kube Nini?” The Violence of Representation and the Politics of Social Research in South Africa.’ This article, published in 1994, has been forgotten as it does not fit neatly into the status quo, though it has been cited by a few scholars. Leroke's paper was a critical intervention in a longer history of Black scholars in South Africa contesting and participating in academia. Twenty years after the paper was presented at the Wits History Workshop, the questions it posed have yet to be answered by the social science community in South Africa. The difference this time is that we are directing our questions to Black scholars, including ourselves — as native informants. We use native informant as defined by Shahnaz Khan (2005), as both the research object who is represented, and/or has to learn the skills to represent herself within the framework of white academia.
What does friendship have to do with racial difference, settler colonialism and post-apartheid South Africa? While histories of apartheid and colonialism in South Africa have often focused on the ideologies of segregation and white supremacy, Ties that Bind explores how the intimacies of friendship create vital spaces for practices of power and resistance. Combining interviews, history, poetry, visual arts, memoir and academic essay, the collection keeps alive the promise of friendship and its possibilities while investigating how affective relations are essential to the social reproduction of power. From the intimacy of personal relationships to the organising ideology of liberal colonial governance, the contributors explore the intersection of race and friendship from a kaleidoscope of viewpoints and scales. Insisting on a timeline that originates in settler colonialism, Ties that Bind uncovers the implication of anti-blackness within nonracialism, and powerfully challenges a simple reading of the Mandela moment and the rainbow nation. In the wake of countrywide student protests calling for decolonisation of the university, and reignited debates around racial inequality, this timely volume insists that the history of South African politics has always already been about friendship. Written in an accessible and engaging style, Ties that Bind will interest a wide audience of scholars, students and activists, as well as general readers curious about contemporary South African debates around race and intimacy.