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Against Normalization: Writing Radical Democracy in South Africa (Post-Contemporary Interventions)


Against Normalization: Writing Radical Democracy in South Africa (Post-Contemporary Interventions) Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

At the end of apartheid, under pressure from local and transnational capital and the hegemony of Western-style parliamentary democracy, South Africans felt called upon to normalize their conceptions of economics, politics, and culture in line with these Western models. In Against Normalization, however, Anthony O’Brien examines recent South African literature and theoretical debate which take a different line, resisting this neocolonial outcome, and investigating the role of culture in the formation of a more radically democratic society.

O’Brien brings together an unusual array of contemporary South African writing: cultural theory and debate, worker poetry, black and white feminist writing, Black Consciousness drama, the letters of exiled writers, and postapartheid fiction and film. Paying subtle attention to well-known figures like Nadine Gordimer, Bessie Head, and Njabulo Ndebele, but also foregrounding less-studied writers like Ingrid de Kok, Nise Malange, Maishe Maponya, and the Zimbabwean Dambudzo Marechera, he reveals in their work the construction of a political aesthetic more radically democratic than the current normalization of nationalism, ballot-box democracy, and liberal humanism in culture could imagine. Juxtaposing his readings of these writers with the theoretical traditions of postcolonial thinkers about race, gender, and nation like Paul Gilroy, bell hooks, and Gayatri Spivak, and with others such as Samuel Beckett and Vaclav Havel, O’Brien adopts a uniquely comparatist and internationalist approach to understanding South African writing and its relationship to the cultural settlement after apartheid.

With its appeal to specialists in South African fiction, poetry, history, and politics, to other Africanists, and to those in the fields of colonial, postcolonial, race, and gender studies, Against Normalization will make a significant intervention in the debates about cultural production in the postcolonial areas of global capitalism.


A literary study of South African cultural changes since the end of apartheid from 1980 to present.

About the Author

“An important, topical, beautifully written, challenging, and always interesting book. Delicately melding close reading with political vision, O’Brien presents a carefully contextualized introduction to South African writers of the last two decades and includes a consideration of their many genres.”—Margaret Daymond, editor of South African Feminisms: Writing, Theory, and Criticism, 1990–1994
“In this rich and astute book, Anthony O’Brien introduces his readers to an array of writers and relates them to global, cultural, and political concerns. Subtly responsive to the increasing complexities both of postcolonial theory and culture in post-apartheid South Africa, Against Normalization advances postcolonial analysis on several significant fronts by embarking on a truly comparative approach to South African writing.”—Rob Nixon, author of Homelands, Harlem, and Hollywood: South African Culture and the World Beyond
“O’Brien brings together both familiar and unfamiliar literary and cultural material in South Africa without failing to wrestle with the enormous critical and theoretical problems concerning what connects and differentiates these diverse currents of literature, theater, and critical theory in South Africa.”— Biodun Jeyifo, Cornell University

Product Details

O'brien, Anthony
Duke University Press
Stanley Fish
Jameson, Fredric
O'Brien, Anthony
Fish, Stanley
South Africa Politics and government.
Democracy in literature.
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Post-Contemporary Interventions
Publication Date:
9 x 6 in

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Against Normalization: Writing Radical Democracy in South Africa (Post-Contemporary Interventions) New Hardcover
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Product details 352 pages Duke University Press - English 9780822325529 Reviews:
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A literary study of South African cultural changes since the end of apartheid from 1980 to present.
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