Orienting the Cape: A 'white' woman writing Islam in South Africa

Samuelson M. (2011)


This article engages the archive of M.K. Jeffreys with a focus on her writing of Islam in the Cape. It explores the ways in which this body of work is shaped by Orientalist desire while simultaneously counteracting Orientalist impulses. A complicated nexus of identification, disavowal, incorporation and othering is surfaced in which Jeffreys negotiates competing desires for authority and absorption, simultaneously orienting the Cape towards Mecca and rendering this orientation foreign. Finally, her oeuvre is shown to tease out a three-fold heritage that produces an estranged, entangled self as it articulates the Capes historical and cultural location at the meeting point of three worlds: Africa, Atlantic and Indian Ocean. While tracing how Jeffreyss inscription of Islam in South Africa, and of the founding figure Shaykh Yusuf in particular, is partially embedded in and partially at odds with the colonial archive, I consider also how it might be seen to both anticipate and trouble the ways in which he is enshrined in post-apartheid statist memory, which evokes him to strengthen south-south solidarity in an emergent world order. © 2011 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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