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Celebrating Es’kia Mphahlele’s Centenary

Decoloniality’ is the emancipatory vision du jour. This paper mobilises Es’kia Mphahlele’s philo-praxis to critique certain aspects of the ‘decoloniality’ discourse in South Africa. In particular, I will focus on Mphahlele’s counsel that historically colonised people need to overcome “first exile” – from home culture and own ways of seeing the world – if they are to develop decolonising theories and practices. Mphahlele’s work shows that the failure to overcome ‘first exile’ leads to ‘decolonial’ projects that repeat colonialist ideas about the inherent differences between black and white; the uniqueness of ‘black culture’; and the need to retrieve ‘native’ discourses. Finally, I will invoke Mphahlele’s seminal critique of the discourse of hybridity to show that the decolonial vision of “pluriversality” proposal often falls short of overcoming the problem of attachment to colonialist discourse.


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