01 October 2018 | Story UFS | Photo Rulanzen Martin
Prof Charles Ngwena is a former professor in the UFS Department
Prof Charles Ngwena is a former professor in the UFS Department of Constitutional Law and Legal Philosophy in the Faculty of Law.

The meaning of race, culture and sexism in Africa takes a different tone than it does in the West. The West has always tried to create an identity for Africa, but the real question remains: “What does it mean to be an African?’ 

“My aim with this book was to see how discourse is formed and what it means when you say the word ‘African’, which is meaningless. You have to look back to understand how that was created,” said Prof Charles Ngwena.

Prof Ngwena’s new book, asks the critical question,‘What is Africanness?’ Fully titled, What is Africanness? Contesting nativism in race, culture and sexualities is a timely contribution to contemporary South African debates on issues of decolonisation, race, ethnicity, nation building and belonging.

Identity formation a crucial element

“The book speaks directly to African cultural heritage and deconstructs a Western-imposed and homogenising framework for understanding Africanness,” said Dr Nadine Lake from the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies (CGAS) at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Prof Ngwena foregrounds the importance of intersectionality when approaching issues of race, culture and sexuality and writes: “Genericness is ineluctably homogenising. It can serve to obscure heterogeneities among women, pre-empting the need to explore the implications of differences among women in feminist theory and praxis.

“Identity is being and becoming. It is always changing. What young people think of identity is not the same way their grandparents thought about it,” said Prof Ngwena. He added that his contribution through this book was to underlay identity formation.

The book, published by Pretoria University Law Press (PULP), was launched in a joint venture by CGAS, the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria on Tuesday 11 September 2018 at the UFS.