In this timely, original and sophisticated collection, writers from the Global South demonstrate that forms of publicness are multiple, mobile and varied.
The notion that societies mediate issues through certain kinds of engagement is at the heart of imaginings of democracy and often centers on the ideal of the public sphere. But this imagined foundation of how we live collectively appears to have suffered a dramatic collapse across the world, with many democracies apparently unable to solve problems through talk – or even to agree on who speaks, in what ways and where. In the 10 essays in this timely, original and sophisticated collection, writers from southern Africa combine theoretical analysis with the examination of historical cases and contemporary developments to demonstrate that forms of publicness are multiple, mobile and varied. They propose new concepts and methodologies to analyse how public engagements work in society.
Babel Unbound examines charged examples from the Global South, such as the centuries old Timbuktu archive, Nelson Mandela as a powerful absent presence in 1960s public life, and the challenges to the terms of contemporary debate around the student activism of #rhodesmustfall and #feesmustfall. These show how issues of public discussion span both archive and media, verbal debates in formal spaces and visual performances that circulate in unpredictable ways.