Incomplete histories: Steve Biko, the politics of self-writing and the apparatus of reading

22 Dec 2011

This paper gathers together deliberations surrounding Steve Biko’s I Write What I Like as it simultaneously registers the critical importance of the text as an incomplete history. Rather than presupposing the text as a form of biography or following a trend of translating Biko into a prophet of reconciliation, I argue that the text leads us towards the postcolonial problematic of self-writing. That problematic, I argue, names the encounter between self-writing and an apparatus of reading. The paper stages the encounter as a way to make explicit the text’s postcolonial interests and to mark the onset of an incomplete history. This, I argue incidentally, is where the postcolonial critic may set to work to finish the critique of apartheid. Incomplete histories call attention to how that which is unintelligible in a text makes an authoritative reading difficult.