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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reviled Bodies of Knowledge in the South African University


In this paper, I argue that our conception of knowledge cannot be separated from the bodies that are involved in its creation. Resisting the decolonization of the curriculum and how we come to know goes cheek by jowl with which bodies are acceptable and which are unpalatable in higher education. It is not just particular knowledges that are therefore reviled but black bodies that signify those knowledges—that have to fight to belong or are ejected. The paper focuses on critical moments when high-profile black bodies have faced expulsion from the Universities of Cape Town, Witwatersrand, and North-West to illustrate the relationship between what I term “reviled bodies” and “knowledges” in higher education. It suggests that it is no coincidence that “recalcitrant” black bodies are expelled from those universities that assign no value to indigenous ways of knowing. Finally, the paper posits that geo- and body politics of scholarship should be advanced to ensure that Southern and black bodies are at the center of the academy.

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