A Politics of Doubt: The Dissensual in The Heart of Redness

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Department of Dutch and South African Studies, Faculty of English

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The relationship between faith and politics, between faith and democracy, between faith and resistance, and between faith and doubt has always been complicated. In “A Politics of Doubt: The Dissensual in The Heart of Redness,” Grant Farred demonstrates how South African author Zakes Mda grapples with these issues in his novel about the nineteenth century “cattle-killing episode,” an event that divided the amaXhosa people. The Heart of Redness, however, uses the historic “cattle-killing episode” to reflect on the politics, both in a narrowly economic but also in an environmental sense, of postapartheid South Africa. It is to the historical, political and ideological differences that the novel addresses itself, attempting to find a ‘solution’ to the differences within the contemporary black community in the resonant past. Using the work of Jacques Rancière to critique the notion of a consensual democracy, this essay demonstrates the range of philosophical issues that are raised, often, only implicitly, by Mda’s novel. Following Rancière, “A Politics of Doubt” explains why a dissensual politics – a politics grounded in fundamental, sometimes irresolvable difference – might be more ‘true’ to ‘democracy’ than the politics of perpetual compromise. The conflict between the “Believers” and the “Unbelievers,” located as it is in a deeply antagonistic history, speaks of a tension that will not allow for easy reconciliation. Recognizing the historical value of these differences, and how they continue to impact black life in postapartheid society, creates the ossibility for a dissensual politics that is potentially democratic.




politics of doubt, dissensus, faith, post-apartheid literature


Werkwinkel vol. 2(1), 2007, pp. 101-119



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Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Biblioteka Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu
Ministerstwo Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego