Monstrous Transformations Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism in Post-Apartheid Afrikaner Art

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Nicholas J. Hauman


According to Ulrich Beck, the breakdown of nation-state power and the migration of people, culture and ideas through neoliberalism provides us with a unique historical moment that simultaneously holds the potential for unparalleled cosmopolitanism and rising xenophobia. This essay further explores and problematizes this distinction through an analysis of the video art and music of the rap-rave group Die Antwoord and the photographer Roger Ballen, both of which provide images of Afrikaner Identity with differing ramifications for the formation of cosmopolitan identities. In both, figures become living collages, their anatomy mixes with animals and inanimate objects, and they transform into stark colors of black and white. The cosmopolitan becomes something monstrous and frightening. If an understanding of this xenophobic seed embedded in cross cultural soil is placed in the context of the larger history of capitalist market expansion, within the cyclical movement of cosmopolitanism and nationalism in South Africa, then discourses of monstrous transformations can be seen as obfuscating cosmopolitanism and xenophobia as alternatives opposing one another – as dialectically related phenomena. Interactions between groups within capitalism might lead to innovative mixtures but only in ways that quietly reinforce differences which surface when competition over resources occurs in hierarchical social relationships. Through analyzing how identities fuse in the works of Ballen and Die Antwoord, the following article will display both the space of critique and the danger of co-option of cosmopolitan identities.

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