Elzbieta Matynia is a historian of ideas and a sociologist of culture, with special interests in performance both in theater and beyond. She has written incisively about the making of democracy and works actively in the support of free intellectual exchange.
She, the director of the Transregional Center for Democratic Studies of the New School, is currently a Fulbright research scholar in Johannesburg, South Africa. We at the Center saw her off at our annual beginning of the year party, as I reported in a previous post. I asked her to periodically send us reports as she researches the tragedy of the assassination of Chris Hani, a former head of the South African Communist Party (aligned with the African National Congress) and a widely admired anti-apartheid leader seen as a potential successor to Nelson Mandela. I have just received her first impressions.
Elzbieta and I first met in her native Poland when I was studying theater, an artistic form that created cultural and social alternatives in a repressive state. It’s strange to receive her note. Now she is in the position I once was, an outsider trying to make sense of a difficult political situation. Her most recent book, Performative Democracy, is in dialogue with my most recent, The Politics of Small Things. She starts, appropriately, as Tocqueville or Montesquieu would, by setting the stage with a description of the physical environment, linking it to the hopes and fears of a country undergoing significant political challenges. – Jeff
Do you want to experience the most spectacular spring ever? Come to Johannesburg in late September: you can smell it, you can see it, and you can almost hear it. The African jasmine is in bloom, the fragrance of its star-like flowers fills every street. You can see the buds of camellias in the parks, and hear people talking about the purple-blue flowers of . . .