“In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.” – Frantz Fanon (1952: 229)
If like Fanon we are constantly creating ourselves as we travel through the world then our potential for self-creation is limited by the world that surrounds us. In this paper a journey through the aesthetics of South Africa’s two National Women’s Monuments will be mapped. These two symbols of the South Africa in which we live will be explored in terms of their possibility for creating us just as we created them. Fanon will be our travel companion and will allow us to see the realities that underpin the world in which we live which are often obscured by the immediate materiality of what we see. With Fanon as our travel guide and companion we will see these monuments for what they really represent, we will see the nationalisms that have underpinned their creation, we will see the way in which women have been implicated in the gender constructions of these nationalism and we will also see what our country could potentially be if these monuments and others were to be transformed or if new ones, more radical ones were erected. Travelling with Fanon means that we will allow him to point out what we may have never seen before and may never have seen without his help, but it also means being critical of him when his own particularity as a black male does not allow him to see the world and its actors in all of its fullness.
By looking at the architectural signifiers of both of these monuments and the visual language that they convey through their intended and unintended subtext, it will be argued that the reading of the monuments through a Fanon lens allows us to see the ways in which women’s issues have been subordinated to serve a specific patriarchal political agenda. Furthermore it will be seen that these monuments reveal the ways in which nationalism is gendered seeing as they speak to the way in which nationalism is invented and consumed in order to create a certain reality. Furthermore, reading these monuments as discourses together with the dialectical mapping that Fanon provides us with will allow for a more complex reading of nationalism is a dynamic force to emerge and will allow us to see the ways in which nationalism (both Afrikaner and black) has had different consequences for women in South Africa. Ultimately it will be argued that by allowing Fanon to serve as “our pathfinder in that ‘conversation of discovery’” (Sekyi-Otu, 2003: 14) we will find that a critical examination of these two monuments necessitates a call for us to “re-examine the question of humanity” (Fanon, 1961: 233) that may ultimately result in a new humanism.
THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S MONUMENT IN BLOEMFONTEIN
A few kilometres outside of Bloemfontein a dirt road leads to the National Women’s Monument (Nasionale Vrouemonument). The main structure of the monument, a tall obelisk that penetrates into the sky, can be seen from kilometres away. For eighty years since it was first unveiled in 1913, the National Women’s Monument was the only monument dedicated to women with national status in the world. But as this discussion will reveal, since its inception the monument has been far more about men’s experiences than women’s. The monument, unveiled three years after the Boer generals and British capitalists came together and swore in their brotherhood at the Union of 1910, was erected to serve a very specific purpose – it was to be one of the foundational symbols of Afrikaner nationalism.
Afrikaner nationalism came about as result of a doctrine of crisis. After being defeated by the British during the Anglo-Boer War and having ten percent of the total white Afrikaans speaking population wiped out as a result of the appalling conditions in the concentration camps, the bloodied and wounded remnants of the Boer communities that were scattered all over the country had to create a new counter-culture if they hoped to survive in the capitalist state that was starting to emerge. Afrikaner nationalism had a clear class component from the start. While the moneyed Boer generals and capitalists were glad to be in cahoots with British capitalists, “poor whites” who had predominantly adopted “kombuistaal” (kitchen-language or kitchen-Dutch) foresaw a precarious future for themselves in the newly formed republic. These poor whites, working as shopkeepers, clerks, small farmers and teachers, had little economic prospects. (McClintock, 1993: 68) To negate a situation in which they would be further subordinated under the capitalist class which formed the republic, the legion of poor whites united and became the forerunners for the creation of new Afrikaner volk (nation). (McClintock, 1993: 68)
Afrikanerdom literally had to be invented which makes it similar to other forms of nationalism in many ways. According to Nagel nationalism involves a threefold process consisting of “imagining” a unified national past and present, inventing various traditions and constructing a community symbolically. (Nagel, 1998: 247) Afrikaners initially had no common historical purpose and they spoke a variety of different creoles. The majority of Afrikaners were a rural, uneducated people who were slowly being forced into the larger cities by the newly formed capitalist class. Therefore the architects of Afrikaner nationalism had to draw on folkloric myths that would solidify a common Afrikaner bond that could be visually and symbolically represented so as to appeal to the majority of illiterate Afrikaners. These founding myths of Afrikanerdom were based on two events – the Groot Trek (Great Trek) and the Anglo-Boer War – both of which would result in the nation being seen as the result of male birthing ritual of military conquest. (McClintock, 1991: 69) The first of these myths bases the national narrative on a journey into a “promised” land that would provide freedom for the Afrikaner people; the second is depicted in the aesthetics of the National Women’s Monument.
The various elements that make up the National Women’s Monument can only be seen when a visitor follows a predetermined path. In the silence of the veld that surrounds the monument the visitor’s footsteps reverberate together with the history that is echoed by the surroundings as the visitor undertakes a pilgrimage through the suffering of those who perished. The story that the monument wishes to tell begins with a statue entitled “Afskeid (Farewell) 11-10-1989”. The equestrian statue shows a Boer on horseback bidding his wife and small child farewell on the eve of the Anglo-Boer war. The visitor is then guided in the direction of the obelisk by a long pathway lined with plaques that specify the number of women who perished in different concentration camps. Next the visitor follows the path to a group of bronze statues the first of which is the Die Banneling (The Exile) that pays homage to the men who suffered alongside women and children in the concentration camps as well as prisoners of war who died in camps around the world or on route to them. Die Bittereinder is the last stop on the path and again shows the Boer protagonist that the visitor encountered at the start of the journey. No longer energetic and in anticipation of freedom from British colonial rule, the protagonist is now exhausted, dressed in tattered rags and gaunt resting on his emaciated horse. The plaque indicates that the statue is dedicated to the 12 000 burgers who continued to fight until the bitter end of the war in 1902. (Marschall, 2004: 1012) From here the visitor is invited to proceed to the museum which situates women in the historical context of the war and which houses an extensive collection of military memorabilia from the war.
Monuments such as the National Women’s Monument are where memory, space, aesthetics and identity interconnect. Thus they form an important part of the world through which we find ourselves travelling from time to time on route to self-recreation. The connections between memory, space, aesthetics and identity represented by the National Women’s Monument is particularly potent seeing as the monument is embedded in an exclusivist nationalist project. Nationalism is a Janus-faced phenomenon. This is because the values that lie at the core of nationalism have an equal ability to inspire and to divide.
For Cocks the ambiguity of nationalism represents a “terrible beauty”. Nationalism’s seductive beauty stems from its ability to unite people and to cultivate a strong sense of community; to establish a feeling of cultural distinctiveness; to create a common history and collective sense of pride in historical accomplishments; to nurture the love of a particular landscape and to establish a united political agency. Yet these very same virtues are also what give rise to nationalism’s vices. Nationalism is thus also commonly associated with a distrust of critics inside of the community that threaten to disrupt the community’s tight-knit social-fibre; a disdain for foreigners and outsiders; a tendency to dispossess foreigners and to claim their territory as the nation’s own or as an avenue for expansion; a mythologized vision of the past and a site of collective political hostility. (Cocks, 1996: 519) It is thus clear that in the act of defining the community and of setting the boundaries of the nation, nationalism simultaneously emphasises unity and otherness (Nagel, 1998: 248). In relation to this Cocks argues that nationalism’s most unsettling quality is its ability for inscribing a particular idea of the nation “brute-materially”, in order words, through the use of physical violence. (Cocks, 1996: 519) Through the use of violence a national identity of exclusivism is thus cemented by violently excluding those who are considered other to the nation, but at the same time this violent exclusion and the resulting “purity” of the nation that emerges is also a mechanism through which the concept of the nation is constantly reignited and justified. The nation is thus created and recreated through a process of violent exclusion which creates Manicheanism.
The Manichean theme runs through all of Fanon’s works, but he is especially articulate on the matter in Black Skin White Masks and The Wretched of the Earth. The Manichean world is one which is compartmentalised, or as Fanon puts it a “world cut in two” which is “inhabited by two different species.” (Fanon, 1961: 39) Seeing as Fanon’s work is immersed in the colonial context he refers particularly to the Manicheanism of the colonial world. Within this context the Manichean divide sets up a range of different binaries which result in a condition under which the collective consciousness associates black with “ugliness, sin, darkness, immorality” and white is associated with the opposite of these values and characteristics – beauty, virtue, light, morality (1952: 192).In accordance with this it can be understood why Fanon argues that the black man becomes black in relation to the white man. (1952: 110) All of the essentialised elements associated with blackness are thus drawn from a Manichean construction drawn from the essentialised features of whiteness. The aim of the Manicheanism is thus to set up a world that is mapped by divides that separate two different species and that locks individuals into the divides into which they were born. Therefore Fanon says that the black-white relation is characterised by a condition under which “[t]he white man is sealed in his whiteness.//[t]he black man in his blackess” which sets up a very clearly demarcated binary that infuses the superstructure and the substructure of the colonial world (Fanon, 1952: 9). Afrikaner nationalism drew on the Manichean model in order to create an exclusivist ideology. However, although Fanon is primarily concerned with black/white Manicheanism and while this is the primary binary around which Afrikaner nationalism was constructed, I would like to argue that there are three modes of Manicheanism around which Afrikaner nationalism was constructed to achieve a set of different ends of which the black/white Manicheanism forms one mode. These three Manichean modes are:
1. British barbarism/Afrikaner suffering – this binary relation serves to as a foundational myth of Afrikanerdom and is a primary mechanism through which an Afrikaner volk emerges which sees itself as having a distinct language, culture, customs, politics and religion from the English speaking settler population against which the volk emerges as a contrast.
2. Black/white – here the exclusivism of Afrikaner nationalism is based on racial hatred in which black becomes synonomous with everything that white is not including evil, laziness and stupidity. Apartheid, as an extreme form of exclusivism and achieves what Fanon argues is the logical conclusion of Manicheanism which is to dehumanise the “blacks” and to turn them into animals (1961: 41). Once apartheid’s Manichean structure was able to abandon black people to the zoological realm, it was consequently also able to strip them of an array of citizenship rights seeing as they were no longer seen as citizens but as animals. In relation to this McClintock has pointed out that nationalist ideologies are comprised of contested systems for representation which are enacted through social institutions that legitimize the limiting of people’s access to rights and resources depending on whether they are considered citizens of the nation state. (1995: 104-105) Through this binary poor whites are also saved from complete economic marginalisation which can be seen when Fanon says that in the colonial context “you are rich because you are white, you are white because you are rich” (Fanon, 1961: 39) and even those who are not rich are not reduced to the animal realm.
3. Masculine/Feminine – here the relegation of females to victimhood recaptures male heroism in spite of British defeat and the creation of volksmoeder allows the mother to constantly reinscribe apartheid Manicheanism within the family.
The first of these Manichean modes has already been touched on and the second will be discussed briefly later on, the third of these three modes will be discussed at length here seeing as it is of the most relevance to this paper. McClintock, drawing on some of Fanon’s ideas in A Dying Colonialism, has pointed out that all nationalisms are always gendered. (1995: 130) Therefore the symbols of nationalism such as the National Women’s Monument are also gendered. Cloete has shown through her analysis of the commemorative publications based on the monument that the way in which the monument is inscribed within Afrikaner memory is based on the modernisation of a patriarchy that stems from the Calvinism of the Great Trek and that serves to construct women as nurturers of the volk. (1992: 136) Marschall has also argued that the National Women’s Monument has historically provided an opportunity for Afrikaner men to make statements about women that serve to confine and define their role within Afrikaner society. (2004: 1012) Marschall’s argument is based on the architectural and sculptural signifiers of the monument. The phallus-like construction of the obelisk, the military memorabilia consisting mostly of a collection of arms, the three sculptural groups and the initial burial of men rather than women at the foot of the obelisk all indicate that the monument is in fact dominated by men’s experiences rather than women’s. This point is further underscored by the fact that not a single woman was involved in the committee that commissioned the monument. (Marschall, 2004: 1013)
British barbarism and Afrikaner victimisation
A visitor to the National Women’s Monument undertakes a journey along a path that consciously exploits the emotionality of the British “scorched earth” policy and the suffering that was endured in concentration camps. At first when walking along the long pathway leading up to the obelisk visitors are provided with the numerical facts of the distribution of deaths during the war – rational, unemotional, statistical information – which accumulate until the visitor reaches the climactic point of the sombre path. At the obelisk and the graves Anton van Wouw’s central sculptural group invites the visitor to mourn and to sympathise with grief and perhaps also the anger of the nation. (Marschall, 2004: 1014) van Wouw’s sculptural group includes a bare-footed woman who is seated holding a dead a child on her lap with a look of despair on her face. The sculpture is evocative of Mary holding the deceased Jesus. Here the message that comes across is epitomised by suffering, martyrdom, but when read together with the second sculpture, also one of triumph. (Marschall, 2004: 1014) The second sculpture depicts a woman standing upright in Voortrekker attire which includes the “kappie” (bonnet), a signifier of the traditional Afrikaner woman. The woman, gazing into the distance, carries a determined look on her face which Marschall argues expresses the woman’s will, resilience and determination to survive. (2004: 1014) However, the woman in the statue herself is also transformed into a signifier and the statue serves as a metaphor for the ultimate survival and triumph of the Afrikaner nation through the will of God. (Marschall, 2004: 1014-1015)
Through placing a strong emphasis on the vulnerability and the innocence and through portraying the women who perished as a result of the violence that came with the war as victims rather than as heroines who in many ways assisted their partners in the fights against the British, the outrageousness of the deeds committed by the British forces is highlighted. In order for the perpetrators and their actions to come across as cowardly and barbaric, the monument has to visually and textually inscribe women into a tightly defined role characterised by victimisation and shame. (Marschall, 2004: 1017) Cloete observers that the women are depicted as “patient, suffering, afflicted, defenceless, tender, delicate, refined, and civilized” (1993: 137). It is only through constructing the Afrikaner woman in this way and limiting her role to discourse in Afrikaner nationalism to the role of the suffering, defenceless victim that a Manichean binary can be drawn that unifies the volk in the light of British barbarism and brutality. Being a national monument, the role of the National Women’s Monument was ultimately to unify the Afrikaner nation despite differences of class, economic prosperity, politics and religion (as long as that religion had its roots in patriarchal Calvinism). Yet the National Women’s Monument could only unite the volk through implicitly inscribing exclusivism. President Steyn was adamant that there would be no British representation in the project despite the concern raised by Louis Botha that the monument would stir up animosity between Afrikaners and English-speaking South Africans. Additionally it seemed never to have occurred to the planning committee to include the many coloured and black women who also suffered and died in the concentration camps. (Marschall, 2004: 1017) Victimhood was thus monopolized and placed wholly upon Afrikaner women trapping them in a discourse which denied them their agency in order for a nationalist ideology based on Manichean binaries that were perpetuated throughout South African society.
The volksmoeder ideal
The way in which the National Women’s Monument is constructed therefore serves to erase a history that shows the agency of Afrikaner women and instead replaces it which an image of Afrikaner women as passive victims. The historical records tell a story that contradicts the representation of Afrikaner women in this way. In many instances throughout history Afrikaner women were actively involved in the struggles of their volk. Susanna Smit, a formidable Voortrekker woman led a delegation of women to British High Commissioner in Natal in 1843 and demanded to have a say in the colony’s affairs; during the Anglo-Boer war women ran farms while their husbands were away and actively resisted British soldiers; and in the aftermath of the war Afrikaner women were at the forefront of building and re-building the volk through the racially determined philanthropy carried out by the ACVV. (Du Toit, 2003; Marschall, 2004: 1013)
The National Women’s Monument’s construction of Afrikaner women as victims, sufferers and nurturers serves to solidify the volksmoeder discourse which, as will be seen, forms a core tenet of the Afrikaner nationalism that emerges from the early 1900s onwards. The volksmoeder discourse associates women with the domestic sphere and specifically with child-rearing, but in the larger national scale what this depiction results in is a discourse of the woman not only as a mother of the private household, but as a mother of the volk (nation). (Marschall, 2004: 1014) This is clearly illustrated by the interpretation of the sculpture invoked by Dr. J.D. Kestell, chairman of the monument committee and an acknowledged father of the Afrikaner nation, “[t]he eyes of the woman are saying ‘my child is dead, but I shall not entirely die out. My people shall not be exterminated’.” (Kestell quoted in Marschell, 2004: 1015) In addition to this the monument does not celebrate individual war heroines; women are portrayed as tropes with their experience being universalised to extend their suffering to the African nation or volk as a whole across time, space and gender. The fact that female suffering is extended to the entire volk through the monument can be read in relation to Nagel’s idea that women occupy a distinctly symbolic place within nationalism. (1998: 252) The symbol of the volksmoeder thus presents a masculinised definition of femininity and women’s place within the nation. Furthermore by constructing Afrikaner women as the symbols of suffering, the humiliation of the defeat during the Anglo-Boer war is lifted off the shoulders of Afrikaner men. By being presented as heroic fighters who defended their nation, their wives and their children until the bitter end, Afrikaner men are still able to access the masculine cultural themes of nationalism such as honour, patriotism and bravery. (Nagel, 1998: 251-252)
The volksmoeder discourse has evolved through the years to conform to the constant shifts in Afrikaner nationalist ideology and the changing definitions of Afrikanerhood that came about as a result (vand der Watt in Marschall, 2004: 1015). At the time that the National Women’s Monument was erected, which can be seen as the emergent stage of the volksmoeder model, Afrikaner nationalism was focused on establishing principles such as resilience in the midst of suffering under British colonial rule and patience in anticipation of emancipation from British capitalist oppression. (Marschall, 2004: 1015-1016) Here the ideal was thus to set up to create a binary between the suffering of the Afrikaner volk and the barbarism of the British in order to construct a unified Afrikaner nation. However, the image of the volksmoeder was transformed with the construction of the Voortrekker Monument, another key symbol in the construction of Afrikaner nationalism. Again van Wouw was the sculptor commissioned to create some of the key sculptural elements of the monument. Drawing on his earlier work at the National Women’s Monument, the woman in van Wouw’s sculpture at the Voortrekker Monument closely resembles the standing woman that he sculpted at the National Women’s Monument. Again the woman is dressed in traditional Afrikaner regalia complete with a bonnet and she is depicted looking into the distance with a firm look on her face while extending a protective gesture to her children. By the time that the Voortrekker Monument was erected, the Afrikaner/British binary was no longer the central to the mobalisation of Afrikaner nationalism. When the Voortrekker Monument was inaugurated in the 16th of December 1949, racial purity had become a primary concern and therefore the black/white binary had to be cemented. Using the exact same signifiers of resilience and protection that were used at the National Women’s Monument, van Wouw’s sculpture at the Voortrekker Monument thus formed part of the institutionalization of a nationalist ideology in which the role of the Afrikaner woman was to be the educator of her children – an educator that would serve as a representative of white, Calvinist civilization and who would act as the guardian of the racial boundaries of the volk by reinscribing the black/white Manichean binary. (van der Watt in Marschall, 2004: 1016) Fanon is unique in asserting that the “white family is the workshop in which one is shaped and trained for life in society” (1952: 115). With the family as the workshop of apartheid, the volksmoeder becomes the supervisor in charge of overseeing the flawless production of children who have internalised the Manicheanism of the world that surrounded them and who would continue to live in a Manichean world through which they would constantly reinvent themselves as racial superiors. Rather than conflating the nation and the family like many other theorists, when Fanon says that “the family is the miniature of the nation” what he is making transparent is the way in which the family acts as a cultural projection through which the Manichean values of the segregated world are naturalised (1952: 109).
The Afrikaner family, and the mother in particular as the primary signifier of domesticity within this context, thus becomes an agent of the apartheid system. It thus becomes clear that Fanon might just as well have been speaking about the family and the volksmoeder in apartheid South Africa when he says that, “[t]he society is indeed the sum of all the families in it. The family is an institution that prefigures a broader institution: the social or the national group.” (1952: 115) Fanon’s ideas on the family can also help us to see the ways in which the volksmoeder ideal is paradoxical. While on the one hand it confines the Afrikaner women to the domestic space, it also gives her power within the realm of domesticity. She becomes the bearer of the Afrikaner culture and its traditions while the nation’s men become the forward thrusting source that guarantees the future of the nation. By portraying Afrikaner women as passive victims the National Women’s Monument leaves a legacy which continues to inscribe Afrikaner women into seemingly passive, domesticated roles. However, by applying a Fanonian lens to the volksmoeder ideal it becomes apparent that Afrikaner women certainly did not remain passive in their domesticated roles. Instead they were active agents that inscribed Afrikaner domination and the Manicheanism that naturalised it within the home. This can be seen when Fanon says that “[t]he home is the basis of thetruth of society, but society authenticates and legitimizes the family.” (Fanon, 1965: 66)
THE NATIONAL WOMEN’S MONUMENT IN PRETORIA
When British and Afrikaner capitalists met in 1910 to form the Union of South Africa, not a single black South African was present. For many black South Africans the Union was an act of profound betrayal seeing as it excluded black South Africans from skilled labour. In 1912 the African National Congress was established in an attempt to secure a voice for black people. Like Afrikaner nationalism, the ANC also had a narrow class base. (Lodge in McClintock, 1993: 73) The petite bourgeoisie and the small urban intelligentsia who formed the original membership of the ANC were men that Fanon would describe as “dusted over with colonial culture” (1961: 134). The solidly male organisation had no interest in radical social change and was instead driven by a desire to secure full participation in the British Empire. (McClintock, 1993: 73)
The ANC can be characterised as a nationalist movement which forms part of a group of nationalisms that Brennan calls “insurgent or popular nationalism” which is associated with the anticolonial “national movements of the developing world”. (Brennan in Lazurus, 1993: 69-70) Although the structures of this kind of anti-colonial nationalism often differ from those of colonial nationalism both of these types of nationalism are often subjected to the same critiques such as that they are coercive, elitist, essentialist and authoritarian. (Lazarus, 1993: 71) Fanon too is not uncritical of the rise of anti-colonial nationalism; instead he sees it as an ambivalent repetition of the colonial nationalism that preceded it. In The Wretched of the Earth Fanon provides a sharp and thorough critique of anti-colonialism in the chapter entitled “The Pitfalls of National Consciousness”. In the aftermath of the Algerian Revolution Fanon was witness to the ways in which anti-colonial nationalism, or what he calls bourgeois nationalism, falls short of attaining the goals of the liberation struggle and ultimately he goes as far as to say that it is “good for nothing” (1961: 176). For Fanon is becomes clear that in rearticulating colonial discourse in the establishment of an anti-colonial nationalism, the state has not been transformed but has instead been captured and placed in the hands of the indigenous national elite which interests it serves. Anti-colonial nationalism is thus successful in transferring “into native hand those advantages which are a legacy of the colonial period” (Fanon, 1961: 152). Although the discourse of colonial nationalism was thus reiterated in the anti-colonial nationalist struggle, it was never really translated into a language of liberation. Instead the names of the most prominent actors were simply replaced with new ones in many ways. Therefore Fanon points out that the project of the national elites that emerges from the anti-colonial nationalist movement “has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the mask of neo-colonialism" (Fanon, 1968: 152). Although Fanon is critical of anti-colonial nationalism he doe nonetheless see is as a necessary moment seeing as he observed during the Algerian Revolution that “[t]he phenomena of resistance observed in the colonized must be related to an attitude of counter-assimilation, of maintenance of a cultural, hence national, originality.” (1959: 42) However, for Fanon this kind of nationalism represents a stage which must later be overcome in order for a new humanism to be embraced. The lack of transformation and the lack of transformation brought about by the proponents of black nationalism in South Africa will be discussed below.
· Transforming race through space
In today’s world of transnational corporations, globalised culture and post-identity rhetoric nationalism is no longer a trending topic in academia’s more fashionable circles. Academic outputs after all form part of the circulation of commodities in a capitalist world market that sees nationalism as nothing but a barrier to further expansion and accumulation. We have thus become accustomed to a naturalized idea that the nation state is at best a managerial mechanism and at worst an obstacle to the expansion of transnational capital. (Mattelart in Lazarus, 1993: 70) Accordingly “citizens of the world” no longer view the nation state as being central to their construction of identity and have instead embraced what Brzenzinski calls “a new planetary consciousness” based on “a new world unity” underpinned by universal values. (Brzenzinski in Lazarus, 1993: 70) Despite the popular shift in focus from nationalism to globalism, the echo of an exclusivist history based on nationalist ideology continues to be a significant issue in contemporary South Africa which in many ways remains divided as a result of our apartheid history. Therefore in post-apartheid South Africa a project of nation-building, which in many ways follows along the same lines as nationalism has been embraced.
In many ways the National Women’s Monument forms part of an attempt to construct a new national identity based on multiracialism and therefore also manifests as an attempt to unlearn the racial hatred based on Afrikaner nationalist ideology by transforming space. Fanon argues that the measure of a truly post-colonial world is spatial. (1961: 37) Therefore in the new South Africa an attempt had to be made to reconstruct the spatial configuration of the country in order to bring about societal change. The Wretched of the Earth maps the Manichean nature of the colonial world, a world which is divided in two along the binaries that are set up by the Manichean allegory which was discussed earlier. Through this mapping Fanon allows us to see the way in which space determines race and vice versa. The racialised binaries of the colonial world does not allow for the achievement of an interracial subjectivity. (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 93) It is as a direct result of this Manicheanism of the colonial world that Fanon argues that the colonized always “dreams of putting himself [sic] in the place of the colonizer-not of becoming the colonizer but of substituting himself for the colonizer.” (1965: 103) Because the colonial world is constructed along strict racial binaries it is almost impossible for the colonized to imagine anything other than the complete elimination of the colonizer. However, Fanon’s dialectic asks of the colonized to go beyond the Manichean world that manifests physically in the spatial configurations of the colonial world and rather to engage in a dialectic of experience in which Manichaeism will be overcome. Sekyi-Otu thus states that Fanon does not rejoice in the death of the colonizer, but rather in the death of the race as the primary principle of moral judgement. (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 116) Fanon would thus like to see the collapse of Manichean conceptions of the other in favour of a view of the world in which we are able to engage in dialectic construction of the other based on various different shades of meaning. (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 117) Therefore in order to achieve an interracial national subjectivity in post-apartheid South Africa Fanon would argue that spatial reconfigurations are crucially important.
Unlike the National Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein the National Women’s Monument (also known as the South African Women’s Monument) in Pretoria is not as much a journey as it is a destination. This is not to say however that visiting the monument does not present a journey in some sense, but unlike the monument in Bloemfontein which a showpiece in itself, the South African Women’s Monument is part of the much larger and perhaps much more impressive architecture of the Union Buildings in Pretoria designed by Herbert Baker. The location of the monument was chosen because it is the venue at which the event which the monument commemorates took place. On 9 August1956 (the date now celebrated as women’s day) a delegation of around 20 000 women marched on the Afrikaner Nationalist government based in the Union Buildings and demanded that the oppressive pass laws which legislated that black men had to carry pass books (a form of identification monument) with them at all times should not be extended to black women living and working in “white” urban areas. (Marschall, 2004: 1018)
If the visitor manages to make it past the security checks, a walk on the pathways that are part of the lawns that surround the Union Buildings guide the visitor to the steps leading up to the South African Women’s Monument. Unlike the National Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein which commands the landscape surrounding it with its bold construction, the Pretoria monument is as unobtrusive as possible so as to not disturb the original architecture of the Union Buildings. The monument was designed to fit into entrance at the center of the Union Buildings where the women had gone to hand over their petition while maintaining the integrity of the existing structure. (Marschall, 2004: 1020) Therefore the monument does in some ways meet the Fanonian criteria of transforming race through space in order to meet the goal of creating inclusive spaces that are in some sense post-colonial. By placing the monument at the centre of the Union Buildings, which once represented an exclusivist white male space, a bold statement about the equality of black people and women in post-apartheid South Africa is made. However, the small scale of the monument does very little to make an impact on the space in which it is place. Instead it is swallowed up by the grandiose architecture and landscaping that surrounds it. Therefore just like the ANC nationalist bourgeoisie that moved into the Union Buildings the monument represents an attempt to alter, but not to radically transform the structures of post-apartheid South Africa. New security regulations also means that access to the Union Buildings has been vehemently restricted which means that only the proponents of the nationalist bourgeoisie has access to the elite space from which the rest of South Africa is excluded.
· The traditional
The new National Women’s Monument forms part of the “Legacy Projects” initiated by ex-president Thabo Mbeki and was unveiled in 2000. Unlike the Bloemfontein monument, the Pretoria monument is an attempt to expand the “national” label to all South Africans. The planning committee for the new National Women’s Monument was comprised of both women and men of various different races. The process was also based on two of the buzz words of post-apartheid South Africa – transparency and inclusiveness. A nation-wide design competition was held which drew entries from over 60 architects and artists. Several women’s organizations were also consulted on making the decision about which entry would be commissioned. (Marschall, 2004: 1019) Of central importance to the planning committee was that the monument would celebrate the contribution of all women to the freedom struggle regardless of their race, class, political affiliation or culture which would make it a true “Rainbow Nation” monument. (Matschall, 2004: 1018) The winning entry entitled “Strike the Woman Strike the Rock - Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’ Imbokodo,” (drawing on the lyrics of the famous struggle song which was sang by the women who were marching to the Union Buildings) was created by Marcus Holm and Wilma Cruise. (Marschall, 2004: 1019)
The jury responsible for selecting the winning entry praised the winning design for its celebration of the “agency of women, as evidenced by their courageous initiative in 1956” (Jury report compiled by Callinicos in Marschall, 2004: 1020). The National Women’s Monument in Pretoria by emphasizing the agency of women by portraying them as resistance fighters is thus an exact inverse of the Bloemfontein monument’s emphasis on passivity and victimhood. Although the protest march commemorated by the monument was the result of the distress the women suffered under oppressive apartheid legislation, the monument does not contain any themes of victimization, pain or suffering (Marschall, 2004: 1019). The monument created by Holm and Cruise is neither a structure or a sculpture resembling more traditional monuments, but is rather comprised of a “found object” – a small and modest grinding stone (imbokodo) – placed in the middle of the pillars that surround the outside foyer leading into the Union Buildings. According to Marschall the grinding stone is an icon of black South African women’s culture and is used in traditional homesteads to grind mielies (2004: 1020). The grind stone is also a literal interpretation of the women’s call “strike a woman, strike a rock” from which the title of the monument was drawn. The grinding stone, being anti-elitist and an accessible and simultaneously highly symbolic form of imagery, makes it relatable for ordinary South Africans, particularly black South Africans from rural areas that who are familiar with the grinding stone. (Marschall, 2004: 1020)However, by focusing on the rural imagery of black South Africa the monument does form a new kind of cultural exclusivism. It does this by drawing on the realm of the “traditional” and in doing so it fails to acknowledge the fact that the delegation of women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 was in fact a true instance of multi-racial solidarity with women from all of South Africa’s racial groups present even though the protest did predominantly consist out of black women. (Marschall, 2004: 1018) Therefore the grinding stone only represents one section of the women who were present at the march. Furthermore by focusing on the traditional the progress that was made by urban women in 1956 is obscured and women are relegated back to the realm of the traditional just as Afrikaner women were during the reign of Afrikaner nationalism. Fanon sees this favouring of the traditional over the state as being one of the signature traits of bourgeois nationalism. By embracing the tropes of tradition rather than developing the state Fanon points out that the nation has been transformed into an “empty shell” of what could have been rather than a “crystallization of the innermost hopes of the whole people” (Fanon, 1961: 118). Fanon extends this critique further and claims that the national bourgeoisie has no real aspirations of transforming the nation and its structures (Fanon, 1961: 124).
· All the women
In addition to the grinding stone, a visitor the monument also encounters the words to the petition that the women handed over the government in 1956 mounted to the set of steps leading up to the monument as well as a set of speakers which now provide a home to pigeons in the concrete canopy above the monument. Initially the speakers formed in audio component through which the line “strike the women, strike the rock” is repeated in all the official languages to signify the women whispering down the tunnels of history. (Marschall, 2004: 1021) Again the audio component is meant, according to the competition jury, to echo the idea that the monument is “dedicated to all women in civil society” (Callinicos in Marschall, 2004: 1022). However, the term “all women” that is used by the jury raises exclusivist connotations. The term “all women” is used by the jury to refer to those women who fought for black liberation in South Africa. “All women” here does not refer to the conservative white women, many of whom were deeply imbedded within the dominant volksmoeder ideology of the time, who regularly voted for the Nationalist Party; the women who approved of racial discrimination or the women who enjoyed the privileges ensured for them by the system. (Marschall, 2004: 1022) Just like black and coloured women were excluded from the monument in Bloemfontein, the Pretoria monument excludes white women.
Although it may correctly be pointed out that white women who did not actively resist apartheid do not deserve to be celebrated or commemorated, the fact that their voices are completely excluded as though they never even existed is problematic. We live in a historical milieu in which generations of Afrikaner women have been incorporated into a new South Africa which provides them with very little indications as to how they are to construct their identity in relation to this new context. Many of these women would have had their identity defined for them by the patriarchal nationalist discourse of the volksmoeder and are now navigating their way through a cultural terrain that does not allow them many other options other than reverting back to this outmoded trope of identification. (Steyn, 2003: 19) Afrikaner women, as well as Afrikaner men, thus continue to suffer from what Fanon calls “cognitive dissonance” in post-apartheid South Africa. Generations of Afrikaner women are now confronted with the uncomfortable feeling of cognitive dissonance in which their core beliefs have become delegitimized and in which they are forced to look for new beliefs and values that are often in conflict with their old beliefs. (1952: 113) The only monument that is inclusive of Afrikaner women that has been built since the end of apartheid is the Koeksister Monument in Orania which serves to reinscribe Afrikaner women in the domestic realm and as philanthropists who have a history of literally selling koeksisters to raise money for other members of the volk who find themselves in need. Given this reality, in which the majority of post-apartheid nation building discourses and structures simply avoid the issue of constructing a potential post-democratic mode of identification for Afrikaner women, Vestergaard has argued that it should come as no surprise that Afrikaner women continue to revert back to the old volksmoeder ideal that remains racialised and inherently racist in the post-apartheid context. (2001: 22)
Muted rather than mutated
South Africa remains a society permeated by patriarchal values across all groups of the population despite race and class. The way in which women’s month is celebrated with the same kind of sentimental fluff as mother’s day and the fact that very few monuments or sculptures of South African women have been built since the new National Women’s Monument attest to this. In light of the aesthetic under-representation of women at South African monuments and tribute sites, Marschall argues that the monument in Pretoria is a patronizing gesture meant to “cover” women’s contributions to South African history once and for all. (2004: 1024) The insinuation here is that the monument was constructed so that politicians could have an alibi for having “dealt” with the contributions made by ordinary women during the struggle against apartheid. Just like the National Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein, the Pretoria monument also serves to mute women. Having been spoken for once and for all, women’s voices are drained out and muted. (Marschall, 2004: 1025)
The Pretoria monument can be seen as a female (but not a feminist) response to patriarchal structure encountered in Bloemfontein. Unlike “the transcendental signifier of a phallocentric volk-metaphysic” (Cloete, 1993: 21), the grinding stone is a female symbol. The National Women’s Monument in Pretoria is in fact literally a receptacle, therefore being as aesthetically vaginal as the obelisk in Bloemfontein is phallic. Furthermore, the grinding stone which forms the main component of the monument is small, submissive and unobtrusive while the obelisk is domineering commanding the attention of the visitor from miles away and commanding power from the landscape surrounding it. (Marschall, 2004: 1022)
The obliteration of the need to commemorate women and their contributions elsewhere is also evident in the several “heroes monuments” have been erected in South Africa in the post-apartheid era such as the Port Elizabeth Heroes Monument and the monument to the Guguletu Seven for example. The heroes monuments are dedicated to male anti-apartheid activists who lost their lives during the struggle. The definition of hero that is favoured in post-apartheid South Africa, as represented by these monuments and statues, is derived from a military context from which women and their contributions are predominantly excluded. (Marschall, 2004: 1024) Female activists, who tend to be more focused on social programs rather than military struggle, are thus not seen as heroes in their own right, but rather as appendages that helped male initiatives to overcome apartheid.
Assman notes that “greatness” is an asset that is created for men by men and therefore male values continue to replicate patriarchal criteria for heroism. (Marschall, 2004: 1026) Although South African women contributed to the liberation struggle in many ways, men and their patriarchal standards of “greatness” continue to determine which women will receive invitations to become guests in the male realm of heroism. The action of conducting a protest march, drawing up a petition and garnering mass mobalisation, meets the male criteria of being daring resistance fighters. Women who contributed in other ways such as nurturing wounded, providing shelter or moral and emotional support, are not represented. (Marschall, 2004: 1026) It can thus be assumed that the other functions that women provided during the anti-apartheid struggle such as providing accommodation and shelter for comrades as well as nursing among many other things continue to be viewed as a naturalized part of a “woman’s work” and thus not worthy of celebration or recognition. The monuments that have been built to praise our struggle heroes and conversely also the monuments that have not been built to celebrate the actions of our struggle heroines, are thus a mechanism through which men remain sealed in their masculinity and women remain sealed in their femininity. Military actions and violence thus remains a male signifier while the female is still signified by the domestic sphere.
Although many nationalist movements do not credit the contributions made by women in non-military ways, Fanon in A Dying Colonialism makes an attempt to elevate the way in which the masses, not just women “resist and fight in a thousand ways, not only with arms in hand” (1959: 3). However Fanon does also concede that ultimately violence is what is needed to overthrow an oppressive regime that solidifies itself through the use of violence and that at a certain point during the revolution it becomes necessary that arms are taken up. In The Wretched of the Earth Fanon makes this clear when he says that:
“Violence alone, perpetrated by the people, violence organized and guided by the leadership, provides the key for the masses to decipher social reality. Without this struggle, without this praxis there is nothing but a carnival parade and a lot of hot air. All that is left is a slight readapting, a few reforms at the top, a flag, and down at the bottom a shapeless, writhing mass, still mired in the Dark Ages.” (1961: 34)
For Fanon violence thus represents a process of recreation (1961: 35). In line with this violence thus not only allow an avenue for the oppressed male to recreate himself as a person of equal worth in relation to the white man, but also for women to transform themselves in adopting the new patterns of military conduct. (1956: 47) In seizing the gift of national liberation with their own hand Fanon believes that women will be able to recreate themselves in order to free themselves from patriarchal as well as colonial oppression and to govern their own lives. (Fanon, 1959: 2)
Although some feminist theory has looked positively upon Fanon’s contribution to making visible and attempting to understand the role of women in nationalism, his views on the role of violence in overcoming colonialism have been received far less favourably. Sharpley-Whiting has pointed out that gynocentric feminism especially has found fault with Fanon’s views on the use of violence. Gynocentric feminism is a strain of feminism pioneered by Iris Marion Young which attempts to assert an alternative female ethic in contrast to what is perceived as a dominant masculine ethic. In accordance with this Young sees gynocentric feminism as academic movement that “defines women’s oppression as a devaluation and repression of women’s experience by a masculinist culture that exalts violence and individualism.” (Young in Sharpley-Whiting, 1998: 23) However, although Fanon does not explicitly refer to this, the implication of the language of his text is that when women take up arms, they become embedded in militarised sexual metaphors that come about as the result of a patriarchal social structure. Fanon describes the female combatants who take part in the Algerian Revolution as agents who “thrust out the settler” and who “penetrate the colonial city” (1959: 58; 37). Nagel has shown that when a woman enters a military struggle she becomes “a participant in a discourse, a set of shared words, concepts, symbols” that serve not only to determine the linguistic possibilities that are open to the woman, but also of the possibilities of “being” that are open to her in the militarised context. Therefore when women are embedded in the kind of militarised language of which Fanon’s text provides one example, women essentially become masculinised. (Nagel, 1998: 260) Through adopting militancy South African women have been able to transform the universality and biological personification of womanhood and so in our context it would seem that Fanon is correct in pointing out that women are able to recreate themselves through violence. However, it seems that violence only allows women to recreate themselves as imitations of masculinity and does not allow the “birthing of a new woman” (Fanon, 1959: 107). The fact that female struggle heroes have not been honoured with statues while many male struggle heroes have emphasizes Spivak’s point that women emerge as comrades who are invited to struggle when it is necessitated, but when everyday life returns women are sent back to their “normal” roles. (Spivak in Lazarus, 1993: 134)
In contemporary South Africa the primacy attached to the militancy during the struggle has thus resulted in women being erased from the new monuments and statues in two seemingly contradictory ways:
1. Firstly monuments celebrating women’s contribution to the struggle do not emphasize their nurturing, caring or supportive roles, but only the militarized roles that women played as “mothers of the revolution” (as embodied by the National Women’s Monument); and
2. In the few cases in which statues of female struggle heroes have been erected these statues do not represent them as the active militants that they were, but instead they are depicted in passive roles often standing in simple poses and looking into the distance.
The first of these modes of representing women has already been discussed, but the second can be illustrated by the recent unveiling of two new statues in Kimberley. In 2010 the Sol Plaatjie Municipality commissioned two new sculptures to be added to the city centre – one of Plaatjie, a founding member of the ANC, and another of Francis Baart who was one of the women present at the 1965 protest and who was central in the drafting of the Women’s Charter. The statue of Baart depicting her with her hands folded behind her back and with an introspective look on her face was met without controversy even though she was known to be an impassioned rather than a contemplative woman. The original statue of Plaatjie, requested by the local ANC, depicted him holding his fist in the air (a traditional struggle pose) and with an aggressive expression on his face. However, the Plaatjiefamily upon seeing the statue were strongly objected it seeing as Plaatjie was not a proponent of the violent struggle mentality that the statue linked him with. Instead he saw his words as his weapons and carried out his activism through his journalistic writings. A new statue showing Plaatjie seated and writing at a table was created, but has been housed in a local art gallery for the past two years instead of being moved to its intended place at the city’s Civic Centre. (Mark Thompson - Sol Plaatjie Statue Planning Committee, personal Correspondence, 2012) From the Plaatjie/Baart incident it is clear that in post-democratic South Africa the boundaries of that define gender, just like racial boundaries, have not been radically transformed and instead as a society we have remained comfortable with seeing violence associated with men and “passivity” with women. This limits the potential for female agency to be recognized, but it also traps men in the tight confines of a very particular masculine identity. In South African masochistic self-denial and a turning off of whole areas of the self in order to conform to the demands of masculinity continue to make our men into half-humans who have to destroy their vulnerability in order to rise to a masculinised ideal of the militant struggle hero. (Nagel, 1998: 247)
Conclusion: A new humanism
Fanon was neither a nationalist nor a universalist, but rather a humanist. Within his humanism Fanon embraced both the particular and the universal and he argued that it was only through the particular that a universal consciousness could emerge and grow. (1961: 247-48). Fanon’s own hybridity , his cosmopolitanism and his multiplicity speaks to this humanism. Given his own lived experience, Fanon thus declines Sartre’s Hegelian invitation “to look to the end of particularism to find the dawn of the universal” (Sartre in Posnock, 1997: 329). Instead Fanon embraces a dialectic that not only preserves but foregrounds the interaction between the universal and the particular. It is this interplay between the universal characteristics of gender as well as its particularities that can bring about an expanded vision of gender agency.
· An expanded gender agency
It is not always clear in Fanon’s work whether he is capable of fully extending agency to women. In Black Skin White Masks Fanon makes it clear that while the black man wants to become the white man, he wants to take the white woman. This is apparent when Fanon says that “[t]he fantasy of the native is precisely to occupy the master’s place” and that “[w]hen my restless hands caress those white breasts, they grasp white civilization and white dignity and make them mine” (1952: 63). McClintock argues that in the fantasy of taking the master’s place a politics of substitution is at play while in the second instance the white woman possessed or taken hold of indicating a politics of appropriation. (1995: 362) This association of the masculine with agency and the locking of the female into “thingness” is also implicit in A Dying Colonialism where Fanon frequently uses descriptive language that implies that women are appendages to a struggle that is led and constructed by male agency and are referred to as “women-weapons” on various occasion among other things. However, despite this, it is possible for us to expand the dialectic of experience that is mapped by Fanon to include women and through doing so to arrive at a more complex theory of gender agency that could result in a new humanism.
Sekyi-Otu, drawing on Hegel just like Fanon did, defines the dialectic in terms of motion in particular motion that leads to the dissolution of the “two metaphysics” of difference to which the colonizer and colonized subscribe and which results in a “progressive enlightening of consciousness” by exposing the hidden realities of the colonial condition. (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 26) From the dialectic of experience Fanon constructs a “new humanism”. In A Dying Colonialism Fanon clearly articulates his visionary narrative of the “radical mutations” that he believes will result in a free post-colonial subject. These radical mutations that Fanon envisions are enshrined within Fanon’s goal of a new humanism. (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 185) In line with this Fanon asserts that “[i]f we want humanity to advance a step further, if we want to bring it up to a level different from that which Europe has shown it, then we must invent and we must make discoveries" (1961: 232). However in addition to these new discoveries Fanon also suggests that the technologies monopolized by the colonizer, such as biomedicine and the radio, should be adopted and reappropriated with the new humanism in mind. (Sekyi-Otu, 1996: 200) For Fanon the revolution is never over and although the dialectic is an open one it remains one of struggle. (Pithouse, 2003: 119)Therefore Pithouse argues that the kind of humanism that we find in Fanon is of a revolutionary nature and is this open to change within the symbolic and material realities that the agents of the dialectic find themselves in. (Pithouse, 2003: 116) With this in mind it can thus be argued that the monuments, as symbolic and material realities, of post-democratic South Africa should be transformed to expand the potential of female agency in this dialectical process. Such a dialectical would make it possible to expand the content of both masculinity and femininity to include violence as well as an ethic of love.
· Love and Violence
If we read Fanon’s works as a dramaturgical narrative as Sekyi-Out suggests we can see that he presents us with an unfolding of thoughts and events. (1996: 45) A dramaturgical reading of The Wretched of the Earth thus shows that while Fanon at the beginning of the book advocates violence as a means through which the oppressed can be emancipated from the double consciousness and social perversions that plague them in the colonial context, the last chapter that deals with a number of case studies of patients who incurred mental health problems as a result of revolutionary violence shows that the oppressed remain subjected to the damaging psychological effects of inflicting violence and having violence inflicted upon them. (1961) The militants of the struggle are not able to escape the wounds that the new society constructed by the nationalist bourgeoisie cannot help them to heal.
As much as Fanon believes in the revolutionary potential of violence, he also believes in the healing abilities of love. In Black Skin, White Masks Fanon makes this clear: “Today I believe in the possibility of love; that is why I endeavor to trace its imperfections, its perversions.” (1952: 105) Fanon thus grasps at this love throughout his work and it can be seen as the foundation that underpins his concept of a new humanism. Therefore it can be argued that Fanon would be an advocate of a new humanism that combines both the “feminine” ethic of love and the “masculine” ethic of violence. Therefore love should be embraced by all of us in order for its benevolence to be reproduced, but where love has failed in the face of hate we should be willing to embrace a considered and emancipatory violence. This would result in a condition under which the “open door of every consciousness” can truly be realised and in which would make a healthy encounter between black and white as well as male and female possible (Fanon, 1952: 58; 118). We cannot simply hope that reinscribing the phallus (associated with militancy) and the vagina (associated with care) into the monuments that claim to celebrate our nation’s people. We need to be able to move beyond this so that we can arrive at a vantage point that will allow us to see a dynamic view of our humanity. This is necessary work for us to undertake as a nation and our monuments should help us undertake this work instead of hindering us from being able to do it. Perhaps it is time then that we re-imagine both of the National Women’s Monuments to be radically different than what they are today.
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