Restless Natives, Indigenous Languages, and Revolution: Keorapetse Kgositsile's Critical Biography


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


English Department


There is to no date any substantial book published on South African national poet laureate and giant of African and diasporic letters, Keorapetse Kgositsile. My critical biography project uses primary themes in Kgositsile's life and work—revolutionary commitment, Setswana language, and jazz—as organising principles. Kgositsile’s literary oeuvre, published in black international periodicals, and by independent black diaspora publishing houses, tasks us to think through the imbrication of African linguistics, land, collective memory, roots and routes, and anti-colonial struggle. His poetry and political essays in exile confront the inadequacy of the English language in his production of self, resolved by his active cultivation of his native Setswana cultural reservoir. The reading of his English-language oeuvre through the baseline of Setswana enriches scholarship on Africa’s relationship with its diaspora, and polyglot internationalism. His exilic routes conjugate black radical traditions of South Africa, Caribbean, and Afro-America, while also placing them in locution with yellow and red radical traditions: those of Asia and Soviet bloc.