On Contemporary Waithood
Two recent debut novels, Songeziwe Mahlangu’s Penumbra (2013) and Masande Ntshanga’s The Reactive (2014), reflect the experience of impasse, stasis, and arrested development experienced by many in South Africa. This chapter uses these novels as the starting point for a discussion of writing by young black writers in general, and as representative examples of the treatment of ‘waithood’ in contemporary writing. It considers (spatial and temporal) theorizations of anxiety, discerns recursive investments in past experiences of hope (invoking Jennifer Wenzel’s work to consider the afterlives of anti-colonial prophecy), assesses the usefulness of Giorgio Agamben’s elaboration of the ancient Greek understanding of stasis as civil war, and asks how these works’ elaboration of stasis might be understood in relation to Wendy Brown’s discussion of the eclipsing of the individual subject of political rights by the neoliberal subject whose very life is framed by its potential to be understood as capital.
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