Curating Violence: An Interdisciplinary Reflection on Race and Violence in South African Student Protests

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Federico SETTLER, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
During 2016 South African university campuses experienced two student campaigns, #FeesMustFall and #DecoloniseTheCurriculum when staff and students witnessed, and were subjected to particularly racialized forms of violence and rationalizations of violence (Settler and Haugaa Engh). In the face of securatization of university campuses countrywide, ordinary mediums of teaching and learning, public gathering and commentary proved inadequate because of policing and surveillance. Through reflecting on the production of memorials and performances on our campus, I propose to interrogate the meaning of the aesthetic, as well as the relation to, and commentary on the context within which it is produced (Benjamin, Bourriaud, Lippard).

Drawing on the work of Mbembe, Fanon, Arendt, and Spivak we reflect on the ways that violence, often religiously sanctioned, can be understood and explained in contexts of protest, upheaval and social disruption. In an interdisciplinary effort, I reflect on how a group scholars from religion, drama and visual arts sought to not simply think together about what this meant epistemologically and ideologically, but also explore how curating violence raises pedagogical challenges and opportunities in a context of repression.

Through an interdisciplinary analysis, I propose to interrogate how the black body, violence, the context and the viewer were aligned to produce a public pedagogy on physical and representational violence. In this regard I will reflect on three curatorial moments that enabled a collective reflection on violence, resistance and the racialized self, that opened possibilities for a kind of public classroom where discussion about, as well as the articulation and critique violence is possible, and productive.