History of the Human Sciences 32 (5):3-27 (2019)

Recent criticisms of the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford campaign have problematized the presence of Black bodies within British higher education by reference to an ideal image of the impartial and discerning academy. In this article, I historically and intellectually contextualize the apprehension, expressed in the debates over RMF Oxford, that an intimate Black presence destabilizes the ethos of higher education. Specifically, I argue that much more than Rhodes’ statue implicates the British academy in the Empire’s southern African interests. I excavate a genealogy of academic debates regarding the effects of an increased proximity of Black presence to empire’s white spaces. These debates were initiated by social anthropologists in the interwar years primarily with regards to studies of southern Africa’s urbanizing spaces. What is more, such debates were highly influential to the study of ‘race relations’ in Britain’s postwar era of Commonwealth immigration. Critically, all these debates problematized the cognitive competency of African/Black peoples to inhabit white cultural spaces – including the academy – in ways that were not destabilizing of imperial order. Current campus campaigns such as RMF should not be evaluated against an ideal image of the academy. Rather, they form part of a continued confrontation with the afterlives of academic dispositions that were implicated in the imperial project that Rhodes was integral to.
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DOI 10.1177/0952695119859727
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What is a Dispositive?Jeffrey Bussolini - 2010 - Foucault Studies 10:85-107.
Key Problems of Sociological Theory.John Rex - 1964 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 14 (56):352-355.

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