Polyglot Internationalism and the Matriarchive: The Case of Keorapetse Kgositsile

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Abstract

In this essay, I make a case for oral traditions passed on from matrilineal members of the family to their (grand)children as a key system of knowledge that has informed and shaped black intellectual culture and the black radical imagination in South Africa and its transnational iterations. I focus on the work of Keorapetse Kgositsile, who attributes his cultural and political consciousness to his grandmother and mother, and asserts that they equipped him with the wisdom to survive the hostile environment of colonial modernity and apartheid. I put forth questions about a gendered black radical tradition and the place of these (grand)mothers in it. I adopt the heuristic matriarchive, which holds together locally specific matrilineally inherited worldviews, intersubjective relations, vernaculars, and aesthetics. I show how these have shaped pan-African sensibilities in this towering figure of South African modernity. When we consider the manner in which this prominent figure of black intellectual culture carries with him what I call the matriarchive to inform his work and politics in his itinerancy in the black diaspora, we open possibilities to investigate how the matriarchive was brought into locution with transatlantic cultural and political production. The issue of transnationalism and vernaculars serves to illuminate the mutations and transformations of the matriarchive in his work, which has enriched a polyglot internationalism. I argue that his work, shaped by a distinct sense of custom, culture, and community, has transformed his interlocutors in the black diaspora.

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Phalafala, U. P. (2020). Polyglot Internationalism and the Matriarchive: The Case of Keorapetse Kgositsile. Interventions, 22(3), 346–363. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369801X.2020.1718539

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