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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Staging performance: race, authenticity and the right to speak in the media debates in the Mbeki era
Author:Finlay, AlanISNI
Periodical:Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies (ISSN 0256-0054)
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:freedom of speech
State-society relationship
race relations
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02560054.2011.621296
Abstract:Recent research into public intellectual discourse in the Mbeki era (1999-2008) dealt with two media episodes - the debate about the formation of the so-called 'Native Club', and reaction to a fall-out between writer Nadine Gordimer and her biographer - as well as the columns of public intellectual Sipho Seepe in the 'Mail & Guardian' newspaper. This article examines the findings of this research, reading across the studies in order to highlight what it suggests about public intellectual discourse as it emerges in the media. It suggests that during the period of the Thabo Mbeki presidency (a context in which the government's relationship with a wide range of stakeholders, including the media, was particularly tense) issues of race, authenticity and the right to speak had a high level of newsworthiness. These issues were foregrounded in exchanges debating the authenticity of black intellectuals (Native Club), in Seepe's columns on black intellectuals, and in the frequently 'ad hominem' exchanges between biographer Ronald Suresh Roberts and supporters of Gordimer. The article suggests that this foregrounding at times overshadowed other substantive questions that were raised, and that could have been debated further as issues for public intellectual deliberation. Instead, these were displaced by a racially charged 'performance' of identity, described by one researcher as a 'vanity' of subject. The article further argues that the foregrounding of race, authenticity and the right to speak reflects the ongoing contestation between the Mbeki presidency and the media over the media's independence and its role as a constructive participant of the postapartheid democracy. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]