Keyan Tomaselli’s enlightening piece – The Nomadic Mind of Teshome Gabriel: Hybridity, Identity and Diaspora (2022) – compelled me to reflect on my personal and intellectual nomadism of feeling neither/nor; both/and. The way we see is a constant negotiation of our physical and abstract practices; seeing is an active interpretive process of ‘what we choose to accept and/or reject depending on our location in time and space’ (Tomaselli, 2022).
The points in this article make a necessary contribution towards discussions around decolonising education. Decolonisation is a dynamic process of becoming; it is a space between the concrete and abstract world. The issue I have with the current wave of decolonisation à la #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall is that it reinforces the static binaries it purportedly challenges. Reading Fanon, Biko and Sankara without studying their lives removes their wholeness; it renders them mythical concepts with an impoverished history, memory and ideas (Barthes, 1972). Yet, I can’t help but sympathise with the angst many feel when they reflect on the remnants of apartheid legacies (spatially, materially and even mentally). However, we cannot restrict our ways of seeing to imprisoning ‘categories and suffocating political correctness’ (Tomaselli, 2022).
My recent move to Canada from South Africa has provided an illuminating perspective on how pushing reductive labels and political correctness to the extreme can result in the pathologisation of social identities, rendering certain groups to believe they are incapable of progress and lacking agency. Approaching decolonisation as a process of becoming challenges us to embrace a nomadic cultural consciousness giving us the intellectual licence to view social phenomena beyond restrictive labels.
Interestingly, the article reminds me of a concept I recently stumbled upon while researching fashion and culture – subject formation.
The underpinning idea of subject formation is that identity is a process of becoming through negotiation, agency and articulation.
Nomadism perfectly encapsulates the dynamic process of becoming – traversing space and time, similar to my research on the dialectical relationship of conceptual, material and lived spatial practices among transit migrants.
Thank you, Professor Tomaselli, for introducing me to Teshome Gabriel, Ntongela Masilela and Handel Kashope Wright. More importantly, thank you for writing this necessary piece that paid homage to the work of a legend while expanding the conversation of identity, essentialism, decoloniality, and post-structuralism.
Centre for Culture, Media and Society
University of Kwazulu Natal