Ecologies of relation: post-slavery, post-apartheid, and rethinking race across the Atlantic in Zakes Mda’s Cion

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Kirk B. Sides


Safundi, Volume 17, p.3–19 (2016)



This article will argue that Zakes Mda’s 2007 novel Cion stages a dialog, one where two “Souths” – South Africa and the American South – speak to one another and give a critical voice to an under-acknowledged history of transatlantic discursive exchange on race and racial governance. Mda’s fictional South African critique, of an America still struggling with the cultural and political legacies of slavery, gestures towards a history of exchange between the two countries that in many ways is representative of a more global dialog on racial segregation during the first half of the twentieth century – of which both southern (US) segregation and apartheid are seminal examples. Moreover, this article explores various conceptualizations of race as well as the governance of racial relations as they have been articulated through ecological imaginaries, and especially between South Africa and the Southern United States over the course of the twentieth century. In this article, I argue that not only can apartheid (as well as pre-apartheid segregation) be rethought of as part of a global conversation on race and thus less as a South African anomaly, but also that the United States through its examples of various racialist technologies was highly influential across the colonial and apartheid worlds.

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