Race, representation and meaning around the 2010 World Cup
Rhodes Political Studies has organised a teach-in this week on the World Cup, with speakers ranging from the celebratory to the denigratory. I'm giving the concluding talk, which I've titled: "Race & representation in the meaning/s of the 2010 World Cup" (note: 3.8mb ppt file).
In summary, the event was intended (in part) by South African government to create "symbolic engineering" - to re-image South Africa in the first instance, and the interdependent semiotic connection with Africa more broadly in the second instance.
The problem, however, is replacing one stereotype of blackness (dangerous) with another (ubuntu). When the positive runs up against contrasting realities AFTER the event (Kampala atrocity at the Final, violent South African strikes, attacks on media freedom), all that's left is to return to the negative: SA = Africa = black = nasty.
What we need instead is an ideology and a discourse that relies less on stereotypes (a la "first time on African soil" and its connotations).
We need more on cognition of commonality and difference - and contradiction and complexity - within SA and within the African continent more broadly. That lets us embrace the World Cup's meaning in a much more nuanced way - putting our pleasure of enjoying the occasion into a wider perspective, and steering a path between romanticism and cynicism.