Imported Black Books, Radical Undesirability, and Comparative Reading Under Apartheid

Presented by Stephane Robolin

Monday, 5 September, 2022 - 16:00

Whereas scholarship has generally cast the narrative of apartheid-era censorship in understandably national terms, this essay asks: What would an international account of apartheid censorship look like? And what are its implications? It examines the official censorship reports of black books written and produced abroad but intercepted by South African authorities and reviewed by apartheid censors. This essay takes its two case studies from state files on texts that explore political violence: Frantz Fanon’s 1963 The Wretched of the Earth and Alice Walker’s 1976 Meridian. Reading the censors’ readings, I suggest, reveals a range of international dimensions, including comparative analyses of racial rebellion as well as anxieties about black transnational reading. The detailed interpretation and attempted management of these (and other) imported black books gesture toward the benefits of adopting a less nationally bounded narrative of apartheid-era censorship.
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