This proposal proceeds from an anomaly. Apartheid routinely breached the separation that it names. Whereas the South African regime was deeply isolationist in international terms, new research links it to the Cold War and decolonization. Yet this trend does not consider sufficiently that the global contest over the meaning of apartheid and resistance to it occurs on the terrain of culture. My project argues that studying the global circulation of South African cultural formations in the apartheid era provides novel historiographic leverage over Western liberalism during the Cold War. It recasts apartheid as an apparatus of transnational cultural production, turning existing historiography inside out. This study seeks:
• To provide the first systematic account of the deterritorialization of “apartheid”—as political signifier and as apparatus generating circuits of transnational cultural production.
• To analyze these itinerant cultural formations across media and national borders, articulating new intersections.
• To map the itineraries of major South African exiles, where exile is taken to be a system of interlinked circuits of affiliation and cultural production.
• To revise the historiography of states other than South Africa through the lens of deterritorialized apartheid-era formations at their respective destinations.
• To show how apartheid reveals contradictions within Western liberalism during the Cold War, with special reference to racial inequality.
Methodologically, I introduce the model of thick convergence to analyze three periods:
1. Kliptown & Bandung: Novel possibilities, 1948-1960.
2. Sharpeville & Memphis: Drumming up resistance, 1960-1976.
3. From Soweto to Berlin: Spectacle at the barricades, 1976-1990.
Each explores a cultural dominant in the form of texts, soundscapes or photographs. My work stands at the frontier of transnational research, furnishing powerful new insights into why South Africa matters on the stage of global history.
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