Misguided academic rails against Die Antwoord’s postmodernism

Adam Haupt’s stock ideas are derivative and contrived. Deserve to be rejected by anyone supporting freedom of expression. There is no rock without drums. Without the cross-pollination of African rhythms, there would be no jazz music, and likewise hip hop. Ditto, Die Antwoord.

In a piece published on The Conversation, the UCT academic launches into support rather than an appraisal of several allegations of ‘cultural appropriation’ leveled at South African alternative hip hop group Die Antwoord. Immediately reaching towards conclusions and an opinion-based misapplication of what he terms ‘dominant and marginalised subjects’, which borrows heavily from the work of a solitary UK academic Rina Arya, in the process, dishing out the Encyclopedia Britannica whilst ignoring the work of continental theorists.

Haupt thus appears oblivious to the earlier writings of literary theorists such as Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes, who once championed the idea of inter-textuality. For Kristeva intertextuality was a “mosaic of quotations” where “any text is the absorption and transformation of another”. Roland Barthes argued “a text is made of multiple writings” because writers “blend and clash” existing meanings.

Books are not written in a vacuum. According to Michel Foucault, they are “caught up in a system of references to other books”. Each of these theorists made the same point: “the meaning of a text owes more to other texts than the writer who puts their name to the work.”

The concept may be applied here to music culture, language and even fashion. In fact, Haupt’s criticism was once leveled at Eminem.

Rapper Marshall Bruce Mathers III, was slammed for ‘appropriating’ rap music, a genre which ‘began at block parties in New York City in the early 1970s, when DJs began isolating the percussion breaks of funk, soul, and disco songs and extending them’. That’s right, black rappers, appropriated Disco, the Bee Gees, ‘white boy music’.

Take the context of Apartheid which was all about preventing cross-pollination and hybridity to the point where ethnic identity was preserved on bantu reservations by the selfsame logic used by Haupt – ‘for your own good’ and to ‘stop whites going native’.

It may feel good to object to the postmodern intertextuality and cultural hybridity of Die Antwoord, whose work he criticises for being associated with Afrikaans, but doing so places the writer alongside other puritans, Strydom, Verwoerd, Vorster and Malan. The academic merely demonstrates how fatuous, pompous and censorious he has become in a mode of writing that eschews the requirements of rationality and evidence-based research, to posit that the mere position of the subject within, generalised and unequal power relations, is enough to aver, racism?

In Haupt’s weird weltanschauung the reception of words such as biltong, blatjang, dagga and kwagga into Afrikaans are the result of a plot to eradicate a language he calls Kaaps, forgetting that the Dutch Creole emerged as a Gamtaal, an attempt, often by sailors, to communicate, so elegantly described by Daniel Defoe in his novel Moby Dick.

Haupt goes so far as attacking Yolandi Visser for painting her face with makeup, and the result is somehow redolent of ‘Swarte Piet‘, a Dutch character associated with the ‘colonial gaze’.

Women have been deploying makeup for centuries. It is a false equivalence to raise the spectre of Hollywood ‘blackface’, in other words, a ‘white actor playing the role of a black person’, since Yolandi is clearly just being Yolandi. There is no harm caused by her self-expression. Nobody is out of a job. So far as the misguided academic is concerned, artists and musicians labelled white should be placed on mute, and should not express themselves, because, well, they are white and he is not?

Haupt’s assertion of linguistic imperialism is tenuous at best, appearing to rely on the fact that similar accusations may have been written up, by other academics, and thus he engages with another logical fallacy, that of circular logic (circulus in probando), a problem inherent to deferred investigation and meaning, in an obvious scholastic bias — inauthentic criticism which at the end of day, rings hollow, since Zef is a style which emerged from the polyglot and patois argot of Parow, not the armchairs of moral policemen like Haupt.

Zef may have a passing association with so-called Afrikaaps, but saying this language or mode of expression should be reserved for certain people, is like saying all language is copyrightable, which is clearly not the case. Nobody is going to fine you for speaking German without a license. Doing so would place one alongside those who seek to suppress language. In fact such activity would resemble the self-same stratagems of those dastardly colonialists.

Culture is always fluid, it does not live in a museum and deserves to be seen within an intertextual continuum. Die Antwoord are a living cross-referential subject-object, not a mere expression or mode of power-relations. Speaking and singing are not always an expression of two basic stereotypes — the oppressor or the oppressed, — as if we are all mere government bureaucrats rather than artists creating living works of art, books, music videos? Haupt’s position is essentially anti-humanist for it seeks to subjugate his subject, fixing and doctoring the other’s creativity to his own fanciful interpretations.

We are anything but stereotypes.

The cheap parlor game played by Haupt invariably involves throwing around stock objections, bald assertions which may be based upon Marxist class analysis, and thus contrived academic notions of power and power relations — ideas obviously gleaned from narrow contemporary proponents of historical materialism (where all history should be strictly-speaking the history of classes). The result is a major contradiction — an historical dislocation and distortion leading to internal inconsistency.

Inconsistency which, at the face of it, tends to break-down the minute one bothers to actually read history — engaging with facts instead of mere, discourse. He could do better by getting to grips with Post-Marxism, which provides an anti-essentialist approach in which class, society, and history are no longer treated as unitary, universal, pre-discursive categories?

If apartheid wasn’t about cultural purity, what was it, mere materialism?

By the same token do we avoid food which isn’t cooked by Gogo?

Is there really an ever-present ‘grand narrative’ always reducible to geopolitical categories such as colonialism and empire?

Whither ones own private meaning, existence and right to language?

Do we have to remind Haupt to object whenever he encounters a black man in a French suit wearing an English collar and tie? Ditto those Celtic tattoos you just acquired at the local tat-shop. Why would anyone want to deny Die Antwoord‘s right to freedom of expression, if not to pursue a personal vendetta, or simply to get ahead in academia? Power-relations are not corrected by an inversion of power. We can turn the map of the Earth around, but we cannot change the fundamental fact of our common humanity.

So herewith my attempt at another definition. If the shoe fits wear it:

Wokeism is the purposeful misreading of history to score short term popular goals. Blind scholasticism without reference to actual evidence and research. The person who claims to be awake, is more than likely, still asleep.

We all one species folks

Cape Doctor’s Heavy Dose of Medicine

THIS billboard says it all. It’s not what you think, since the Cape Doctor referred to is the Cape’s infamous wind, the South Easter. Just how much of our language is constructed through metaphor and simile? In today’s object-orientated world where computers appear to “know” more than “people”, it is becoming increasingly harder to tell the difference between man and machine. Whither language? Phrases like “Cape Doctor’s Heavy Dose of Medicine” show us just how far we actually are from real artificial intelligence (AI) since the double entendre, confuses the machine while making mincemeat of literal notions of meaning. Just think what it takes to interpret the phrase? For starters one has to divide the sentence into subject and predicate, a simple operation most pupils of school going age can perform but which computers find near impossible.  Then one has to pick apart the implications, discover the meaning, literal or figurative, overt or implied. It is something no computer today is able to do, unless the computer is taught the exception or terms, has a life, a real life outside of the object orientated language that confine machines to the realm of 1s and 0s.

Expert systems on the other hand, cover up stheir mistakes by accessing these errors. It is an interesting area of computer science, but nevetheless I have proved my point. The brain is faster than a computer when it comes to translating billboards.