A Politics of the Emergent: Cultural Studies in South Africa

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Sarah Nuttall


Theory, Culture & Society, Volume 23, p.263–278 (2006)




city, cultural studies, everyday life, publics, race, South Africa, transnationality


This essay attempts to track the changing shape of cultural studies in South Africa, drawing on both local and global reference points. In the first part of the essay, I account for the preoccupations of South African cultural studies from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. In the second part, I reflect on further shifts since 2000. Here I argue for a politics of the emergent, an increasing turn towards the negotiation of the possible, the drawing in of trans-national frames, and the reformulation of theories of race in the aftermath of resistance politics. Studies of popular culture during this period increasingly come to be superseded by a focus on public culture and on circulation. The essay concludes by considering current contests in cultural studies in South Africa and with a reflection on its current place within a reconstituted public intellectual space.

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