To face the inhuman: a critique of Colin Richards’ critical humanism

Joja, Athi Mongezeleli
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This study looks into the critical writings of late South African art critic, Colin Richards, and his deployment of the concept of ‘critical humanism’ as a way of understanding and engaging with post-apartheid contemporary art. Premised on the desire to subject art writing to a much needed reflective treatment, this study takes upon itself, the responsibility to trace out a specific, yet central, aspect of Richards’ critical discourse as a way of engaging his interpretative practice and the aporias of liberal humanism that remain hegemonic and unchecked within the cultural field and beyond. Posited from the perspective of black radicalism, the study engages Richards’ critical humanism in so far as it is juxtaposed or takes seriously the work of post-colonial thinkers such as Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, and Edward Said as key co-interlocutors. The study’s contention is that Richards’ critical humanism, despite its assumed discursive relational contact with anti-colonial humanism, when studied closely, shows an uncritical liberal disposition that the afore-mentioned post-colonial critical thinkers opposed and fought against
A thesis submitted in fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts (Coursework & Research Report) for the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, 2021