The Location of Postapartheid Culture
In his often-cited essay “The Tyranny of Place and Aesthetics,” Es'kia Mphahlele presents the reader with three passages of descriptive writing (by Neil Williams, Can Themba, and Alex La Guma) he considers “typically expressive of the South African ghetto atmosphere.” He then ponders on their shared aesthetic qualities in a way that both registers and verifies a particular kind of urban shock. The prescriptive effect of Mphahlele's comments outweighs their descriptive value. A thorough reading of his essay reveals that it is precisely a sense of dislocation mixed with a sense of responsibility to his native land that makes Mphahlele reluctant to “dare question.”
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