Article Title

Re-Writing Modernity

Authors

Margaret Lenta

Abstract

The spread of modernity — that is to say, of the ideas and practices which evolved in Europe from the mid-seventeenth century onwards — has, paradoxically, been both advanced and retarded within the colonising process as it has taken place in most of the countries which have been studied within the discipline of postcoloniality. In the course of the establishment of a state, the colonist has been compelled to allow to the indigene a degree of education and limited exposure to the technology which has been imported from Europe or the United States. Typically, however, and for reasons which will be made clearer in this essay, in the context of South Africa, the colonist has wished to limit or altogether refuse to the indigenous peoples the body of ideas which he brought with him, or later imported, for the most part associated with the Enlightenment. To a lesser extent he has wished to limit the spread of technology into indigenous societies. This has been partly for simple economic reasons: the indigene, to the extent that his or her services are required in the modem sector, must feel the need to offer them as a temporary labourer in the modem sector. No viable modem society, in fact, must develop separately from that of the colonist. A second, and no doubt equally cogent, reason why modemity has been refused or gmdgingly allowed to the indigene has been that literacy, the comerstone of entry into the modem world (as is amply demonstrated in Rewriting Modernity), has the potential to offer access to the body of ideas which Attwell enumerates:

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