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Tom Penfold on Black Consciousness in South Africa


The LUCAS Seminar with Tom Penfold (University of Johannesburg) speaking on ‘Black Consciousness in South Africa’ was filmed through 'lecture capture' and Tom has kindly given us permission to make it available online. The seminar took place on Thursday 15 October, 4pm-5.30pm, Michael Sadler Building, LG10 and is online to view here:

The rise of Black Consciousness in South Africa during the 1970s was initially met with approval from some quarters of the Afrikaner establishment and fierce rejection from the ANC liberation effort. It was, they said, a political ideology that solidified racial divisions and did the work of the apartheid government of them. This paper rejects this view and offers a revision account of Black Consciousness history by arguing that Black Consciousness sought to counter the dominant apartheid ideology at its core: It consistently manipulated and complicated the black/white binary. Furthermore, by briefly drawing on Afrikaner nationalism’s cultural and linguistic foundations, I argue that Black Consciousness was born from an act of cultural misrepresentation and was a cultural organisation. It was through poetry, literature and art that the Black Consciousness message was promoted and made to continually evolve. Consequently, the rise of Black Consciousness succeeded in the closer integration of politics and culture in South Africa and implicitly challenged the suitability of such a division.