Biko: Subject and the State


Mon - Wed, Sep 10 to Sep 12, 6:00pm - 8:00pm


Center for African Studies Lounge - 1280 Massachusetts Ave., 3rd Floor

September 10 - 12, 6pm - 8pm.

Tendayi Sithole is associate professor at the Department of Political Sciences, University of South Africa. He is a founding member of the Africa Decolonial Research Network. His research interests are Africana existential phenomenology, black political thought, literary theory and jazz studies. Sithole is the author of Steve Biko: Decolonial Meditations of Black Consciousness (Lanham, MD: Lexington Book, 2016). He is also a jazz poet who collaborates with various jazz musicians. His jazz poetry collection The Life and Times of Zimontology (East London: Poetry Printery, 2018) has just been published. The current book-length project that Sithole is completing is provisionally titled Fugitive Tapes: The Poetics of Black Radical Sonic Imaginations.

He will present three lectures on Steve Biko (details below):

Sept 10: Biko and Time
Sept 11: Biko: The Police State and the Epistemology of its Arresting Practices (featuring student commentary by Mfundo Radebe)
Sept 12: SASO and Fallism: Fugitive Practices of the Decolonial Imperative



10 September

Biko and Deep Time

This paper proposes and examines the concept of “deep time” to suggest ways of thinking about the past, present and future as entangled. It suggests the ways in which Steve Biko continues to live, and how his philosophy of Black Consciousness is continuing to haunt the present. This persistent haunting does not only have to do with the relevance of Biko’s thought and legacy. Rather, it is a critique and a radicalization of political demands that have to do with the question of (in)justice. The question that animates this paper is: “what time is it?” This is the question, I argue, that preoccupied Biko in calling for fundamental change in that blacks, in deep time, have the capacity to judge and this is a way of making of ontological demands. Turning to the concept of coloniality, which is essential to illuminate deep time, the paper situates Biko as the specter that haunted the past, and continues to haunt the present and even the future.



11 September

The Epistemology of Biko’s Arrest

The knowledge practice of the apartheid state will be the subject of examination which I will center around Steve Biko. I will propose that the arrest of Biko should be understood not as the arrest of the body but the arrest of ideas—that is, Black Consciousness is the idea that should be arrested as it is a bane to the code of law and order. The knowledge of the apartheid state is coded in the law and order propagates itself as just and without any form of accounting as Biko is declared the outlaw. The apartheid state then invents the epistemology which, in dealing with Biko, is lauded as the public good. The paper will, in tracing the epistemic contours of the apartheid state, make three interventions. First, to examine how the state attempts to arrest the ideas of Black Consciousness and the failure of such an arrest. Secondly, how the propaganda of law and order is used as justice it is injustice. Lastly, how the Biko as a political prisoner can be imagined to be addressing the world and not the presiding judge in court.  These three interventions will serve as the analytical tool with what Lewis R. Gordon calls “war on politics” to critique the epistemology of Biko’s arrest.

Featuring student commentary by Mfundo Radebe. Mfundo studies Economics and African Studies at Harvard college and is the president of the Harvard African Students Association.


12 September 2018

Biko: SASO and Fallism: Fugitive Practices of the Decolonial Imperative

For the fact that there are contentious definitions of the subject and also structure, the task is to locate them in Steve Biko’s thinking. The subject is the human and the structure is the world. In Biko’s, the two were sites of struggle and this is where the political ontology of Black Consciousness finds its formidable expression as the “thought in struggle.” Since the logic of subjection is the definer and chronicler of human relations, the paper will contend that the subject and structure are defined outside blackness. Biko’s Black Consciousness is still fraught with this dilemma and the post-1994 South African liberal constitutionalist regime has not been able to resolve the injustices of the subject and structure as per Black Consciousness’ “thought in struggle.”




tendayi_lecture_poster.pdf326 KB