Rajendra Chetty is a post-colonial scholar in South Africa. He is Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of the Western Cape. In 2015/16 he was Fulbright visiting professor at the City University of New York and the University of Washington. He is currently a National Research Foundation C1 rated social scientist and serves as President of the English Academy of Southern Africa.
A critical educationist, his primary research interest is the study of the marginalization of children in high poverty communities and the intersectionality of race, class and inequality in schooling. He studies these issues in his work within a transdisciplinary paradigm with the voices of disadvantaged children and communities in the Cape Flats, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. His research is typically participatory, with youth and activists, drawing from critical race theories. He received his PhD in English Education from the University of South Africa, a MA in South African literature from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, an MBA from the University of Cape Town and Honours degrees in Education and Languages.
His most recent publication is a literary biography, At the edge – The writings of Ronnie Govender (2017, Peter Lang Publishers). He has published two seminal works on South African Indian writings (2002 and 2010); Trauma, Resistance, Reconciliation in post-1994 South African writings (2010); Transnationalisms and diaspora (2009); and Indias Abroad, The Diaspora Writes Back (2004). His international scholarships and visiting professorships include universities in the USA, India, Brazil, Sweden, the UK, Italy & Africa.
He received the 2016 Medal of Honour for his national and international work in educational research from the Education Association of South Africa. In 1994 he was acknowledged for his role as community activist, specifically for his work in Child Welfare during the apartheid era. He has reviewed South African writings for the Mail and Guardian, has a Thespian streak (his most acclaimed performance was the role of the barman, Sunny, in Ronnie Govender's The Lahnee's Pleasure at Artscape in 2010). He is an ultra-distance runner having completed Comrades marathons (90km), Two Oceans Marathons (56km) and a host of national marathons (42km). Rajendra has summited Africa's highest point, Mount Kilimanjaro; the base camp of Everest (Annapurna); and Machu Picchu from the Sacred Valley of Cusco.
NARRATING THE NEW NATION
The purpose of Narrating the New Nation is to engage with South African Indian writings through a critical examination of the oeuvre of key writers within a postcolonial theoretical framework. With the advent of democracy, South Africa has witnessed new writings which either reflected on apartheid with elements of restoration for past atrocities and centered around reflective nostalgia, or looked ahead with optimism and foregrounded new beginnings.
The end of the interregnum in 1994 drove people to narrate the relationship between past, present and future, which revealed an exciting diversity and rituals of bourgeois lives or reflected upon disadvantaged and marginalized homes in townships, casbahs and ghettos. These innovative narratives attempt to conquer and spatialize different histories, while at the same time finding creative ways to assemble shattered fragments of memory.
A critical question this study asks is whether South African literature continues to address themes of journey, exile, migration and identity within the major concern of place and displacement in apartheid and post-apartheid South African Indian writing, or whether the new writings foreground critical self-awareness as citizens of a democratic and neo-colonial nation-state. What analytical questions and concerns do new writings from the Global South address?
This book of critical essays hopes to endorse social and cultural—race, class, gender, sexuality—analysis, problematize them, expand them, and in the end enrich South African literature. In so doing, the authors attempt to encourage a critical, creative and empowering space for a plurality of voices, minds and stories and hope to reveal how literature involves itself in the unfinished business of the collective in South African history and literature.