AO. South Africa's role in global intellectual histories

  • AO: Breckenridge appears animated by questions related to Africa’s role in global (intellectual) history. In 2015’s “Biometric State”, he asks: “Why does South African history matter?” and in 2018 paper he is interested in what happened to theories about African capitalism. He argues that there are important lessons to learn from a study of South African history that others must be wary of, esp. with regards to a system of racist bureaucracy (which has traveled to other societies on the Atlantic basin).

  • AO: Breckenridge argues that “a cultural understanding of the state – one which works well for the sprawling bureaucracies of India or France – is problematic on the African continent” because the state has largely survived in Africa by standing at the intersection of the colonial territory and the outside world and is largely charactertized by a lack of information and lack of ability to track the individual body or understand the dynamics of the social body (citing Cooper) (6)


Analytic (Question)




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