oa South African Journal of Higher Education - Fetishistic disavowal and elusive jouissance : the case of the South African higher education decolonisation project

Volume 33 Number 4
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



The argument is made that attempts at decolonising higher education as a transformative project in an era of a toxic, exponentially strengthening neoliberal performativity is inherently paradoxical, as any new “reconstitution” is bound to remain ensnared within the neoliberal grand narrative. Such reconstitution will produce new (dis)guises, as in their quest to acquiesce institutions engage in a superficiality that might obfuscate “authentic” transformation. Any kind of transformation is likely to render futile and instantly obsolete the very benchmarks by which we might recognise its manifestation. Its cognitive comprehension sustains a perpetual elusiveness, its realisation an unattainable jouissance, as a positivist predetermination of the precise co-ordinates of decolonisation’s outcome is likely to render the transformative project vacuous. The decolonisation enterprise and illusions of its comprehensibility are thus marks of our incomprehensibility; its absolute apprehension can only be our realisation of its non-apprehensibility. Quick-fix, knee-jerk knowledgeability necessarily essentialises complexity, the consequence of which is degenerative, dilutive concoctions in the name of appeasement. True decolonisation necessarily self-determines its yardsticks for evaluation, as it is precisely in its fluid (de)colonised outcomes that its “neo-colonisation” with all its frailties is revealed. True transformation and decolonisation in the Foucauldian sense is only possible through a significant discursive event, a rupture of unimaginable proportion, a Žižekian “self-destructive” purification. Anything less will simply reinforce colonialism’s normalcy, thereby reducing any “emancipatory” initiative to a farcical “fetishistic disavowal”.

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