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Centre of African Studies: Events


Covid-19 and the Resilience of Systemic Suppression, Oppression and Repression

Covid-19 and the Resilience of Systemic Suppression, Oppression and Repression
Speaker: Francis Nyamnjoh # University of Cape Town
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Date and Time
14th Oct 2020 16:00 - 14th Oct 2020 17:30
Microsoft Teams

This paper is about the resilience of systemic, structural or institutional inequalities (informed by real or imagined categories such as race, ethnicity, culture, geography, class, gender, sex and age) and the interconnecting global and local hierarchies that sustain such inequalities and the tokenism of their transcendence despite repeated attempts by their victims to effectively undo them. The Covid-19 pandemic offers a commanding kaleidoscopic prism through which to examine resilience, not so much from the vantage point of the valiant investments by ordinary people and their advocates to resist, overcome and get by despite their precarities and the overwhelming forces that seek to subject, numb, blame, neutralise and co-opt them, their rights, entitlements, freedoms, creative endeavours and their very existence. This is not to downplay the power and successes of social movements by and on behalf of the systematically suppressed, oppressed and repressed. Rather, the paper looks at resilience from the angle of the often hidden and invisible underpinnings (re)engineered by the dominant (elite) interests/order (north, south, east and west, global and local) to disguise or camouflage their power, influence, privileges and suffocating grip on resources, opportunities and the minds, bodies, souls and humanity of dependent others, while speaking the language of autonomy, inclusivity and accessibility. The paper digs deep, into the structural foundation of human relations across races, ethnicities, geographies, classes, genders, sexualities and generations, among other factors, to show how resilient inequalities, injustices, poverty and underinvestment in critical social services, for instance, systematically continue to undermine and neutralise the efforts of the most vulnerable and dispossessed majority of humanity globally to organise, mobilise, assert and fulfil themselves in meaningful ways.

Covid-19 offers much food for thought to critically review prevalent and conventional teleological modernist neoliberal assumptions about and usages of the concept of resilience that seem to take attention away from the power of resilient inequalities and injustices while deceptively encouraging the overdramatization of the delusory power of ordinary folks to transform and transcend their circumstances with the benevolence and active assistance, supposedly, of the very same oppressive, repressive and suppressive elite. The paper implicitly argues that resilience as an empowerment or recognition of human agency for the overwhelming majority of ordinary folks the world over, is possible not through mimicry, elite outsourcing of blame, prescriptiveness and trickledown munificence, but only to the extent that deeply embedded systemic – covert, tacit and everyday – inequalities are comprehensively and systematically excavated, deactivated and reconfigured in accordance with the logic and humility of incompleteness and conviviality. To transcend perennial elite domination that has effectively neutralised productive contestation by ordinary folks, the paper calls for appropriate action, creativity, innovative and convivial modes of solidarity beyond the irrational ecstasy of ephemeral euphoria and exuberance.

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