n South African Journal of Higher Education - Beyond exceptionalism : Neville Alexander's ideas on 'nation', 'race' and class for reimagining the transformation of the university, in an 'ordinary' South Africa

Volume 29, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



The questions that Neville Alexander raises in his three texts (1979, 2002 and 2013) are issues with which academics wrestle in the university in different forms. These questions have a direct bearing on the social practices that unfold in pursuit of the consolidation and expansion of a new democratic order. The perspective in this article is that of the university, in that it attempts to think through the sensitive matter of the relationship between academic autonomy, institutional imperatives and the national project. With this in mind the authors set out to present Alexander's thoughts on questions relating to the political (i.e., the 'national question'); economic (i.e., affirmative action and practices of embourgeoisement); and the socio-cultural (the racial habitus which includes reference to a new historical community). Each of the aforementioned informs the way in which the university is positioned as an institutional site in light of Alexander's approach to the 'national question' in South Africa. This means that the authors take up the university's role in society, raising the matter of its identity, the form it may take and how the university contributes to what they refer to as a 'nation-in-becoming'.

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