Quotes

One of the fundamental challenges of emancipation in South Africa is for the emancipated to avoid the conceptual trap of ascribing to the past of white racism centrality of explanation.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele, “The Lion and the Rabbit”: Fine Lines from the Box

Every convention will outlive its validity.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele

The habit of looking at the spectacle has forced us to gloss over the nooks and crannies.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele

The conflict between material needs and inherited, if problematic, rewards on the one hand and political legitimacy on the other, can weaken individual moral resolve. This may transform a competent and proven struggle stalwart into a common corrupt official.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele, “An Approach to Viable Futures” in “The Politics, Poetics and Practices of Social Change in South Africa” by Pieterse & Meintjies (2004)

Attributing dissent to disloyalty too soon suggests insecurity and intolerance rather than internal organisational coherence. It suggests a reflex imposition of party discipline in place of understanding.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele, “An Approach to Viable Futures” in “The Politics, Poetics and Practices of Social Change in South Africa” by Pieterse & Meintjies (2004)

A government in power will need to create a safe space in the public domain where its own internal contestations can, from time to time, be played out without fear of being compromised politically. They can then withdraw into the formal sphere of power play and turn safe space understandings into decisions and in the process increase public trust.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele, “An Approach to Viable Futures” in “The Politics, Poetics and Practices of Social Change in South Africa” by Pieterse & Meintjies (2004)

This is the formidable challenge of a popular post-apartheid government. Can it conceptually anticipate a future when it is no longer overwhelmingly in control, and resist the temptation to prevent such an eventuality.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele, “An Approach to Viable Futures” in “The Politics, Poetics and Practices of Social Change in South Africa” by Pieterse & Meintjies (2004)

…no civilisation worth the name will emerge without the payment of disciplined and rigorous attention to detail.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele, Rediscovery of the Ordinary: Essays on South African Literature and Culture

The necessary political vilification of exploitation should be separated from the human triumph associated with work, a triumph which constitutes a positive value for the future.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele, Rediscovery of the Ordinary: Essays on South African Literature and Culture

…the rhetoric of protest began to replace the necessary commitment to engaging the forces of oppression through paying critical attention to the concrete social and political details of that oppression.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele, Rediscovery of the Ordinary: Essays on South African Literature and Culture

In reality, the recognition of a source of grievance does not necessarily imply that one understands a possible range of political implications which that recognition may entail.

— Njabulo S. Ndebele, Rediscovery of the Ordinary: Essays on South African Literature and Culture