Degenaar in Dialogue: An Essay in Four Parts Part Three: Dialogue as a Philosophical Art

Changing contexts of Degenaar’s dialogue


From the beginning of his academic career, and probably even before that, Degenaar was committed to dialogue. What drew him to philosophy, and away from theology, was the figure of Socrates and the practice of Socratic dialogue. Dialogue was thwarted at times, but not his commitment to it. His unsettling prayers, in the first years of his appointment, may have seemed to his students to be provoking God; but it’s just as likely he was seeking a response from pious, but anxious, admissante.


This commitment to dialogue set Degenaar apart as a teacher. His lectures were not intended to provide a one-way transmission of established knowledge. He was seeking to invite, stimulate or provoke some kind of response and then to engage with that response.


Just as he was in dialogue with his students when his prayers in the classroom provoked them, he was in dialogue with readers of the Herdenkingsblad in his essay on a theology of dance, inviting them to join in his exchanges with Gerardus van der Leeuw and, indeed, in Degenaar’s exchanges with himself. Perhaps this invitation, with its implication that competing views were to be welcomed, was just as threatening—in an atmosphere of conformity, defined partly by the expectation of an authoritative answer to every question—as his theological views?


Accounts of Degenaar as a teacher, written by his former students, speak of exchanges in the classroom itself, or provocations and insights in his lectures. As far as I know, however, there is little or no comment, among the early generations of his students, on what later became a kind of institution: informal discussion with students after the end of the lecture, which moved towards the more rigorous form of dialogue, with Degenaar mainly in the role of posing questions, examining the answers, sometimes admiring them, but then adding one more question.


This may be an accidental omission from these recollections, something that seemed obvious and not in need of special emphasis. Or it may be due to the undoubted difficulty of capturing a specific conversational style, especially a style at once unassuming and yet compelling. Or it may have been that his intense and engaged discussions with students only really took shape in the late 1960s or early 1970s, once the Department of Political Philosophy had developed an identity of its own.


Once Degenaar moved into the field of political philosophy, this commitment to dialogue also required him to extend and develop his philosophical repertoire, finding new questions and surprising ways to stimulate thought. Who would expect, for instance, to begin their studies in political philosophy with a creative re-telling of the story of Little Red Riding Hood?[1]


The move to the field of political philosophy may have made possible, and prompted, a different style of engagement with students. Once his students were no longer drawn largely from those preparing for the Dutch Reformed ministry, he no longer had an obvious repertoire of provocation to hand, in which he was already practiced, and could draw on deep familiarity with ideas and images first encountered in childhood. Instead, he was finding his way in initially unfamiliar terrain. It seems as if the critique of theology came naturally to Degenaar, whereas the critique of politics was hard-earned, to judge by his hesitant early political writings.


It’s likely that basic elements of Degenaar’s dialogical style were already in place by the time of his shift to political philosophy. The most insightful account of that basic style that I know, has been provided by Etienne Britz, who was a longstanding member of the gesprekgroep formed in 1958, mainly at Degenaar’s initiative.


Britz describes a vital element of “the Degenaar magic” as his way of apparently being easy to impress, but unusually difficult to convince completely of any point of view. “Even the greenest idea raised by the most naïve member of the discussion group could arouse Degenaar’s interest, as if it was a revelation. At the same time, the most considered remark of the most eminent person present could somehow just not bring the discussion with Degenaar to a conclusion.”[2] This combination meant it was easy to begin a discussion, but difficult, once it had begun, to avoid rigorous examination of your own views.


Britz captures an essential element of Degenaar’s conversational presence—its rhythm, one could say; the subtle mechanisms for moving discussion forward, holding it back, leaving questions open, creating new, sometimes unsuspected, dimension. However, it seems likely to me that Britz’s account applies more to the gesprekgroep—where Degenaar was among fellow academics and had no need to protect their vanity, which was often very well defended—or to discussion with his colleagues in the departmental tearoom.


Among undergraduate students—for whom sustained discussion of serious issues would often be unfamiliar territory—Degenaar would have been gentler and more even-handed, especially with students who had not proven their confidence in discussion.


At the same time, informal discussion with undergraduate students could lead to genuinely life-changing insight, in a way that discussion with academic colleagues, already settled in their views, very likely would not. Discussion with undergraduates, and especially first-year students, required different tools: less irony; more coaxing; readiness for the unexpected; patient guidance and development of an embryonic insight or argument. Degenaar flourished in this context.


The many contexts of Degenaar’s dialogues with students of Political Philosophy


Degenaar was initially the only teacher of the B stream (Political Philosophy) of the Department of Philosophy, when it was established in 1959. At that stage, it seems, there was a common first-year course, in which Degenaar was not involved, and the separation of the two streams began at second-year level. Hennie Rossouw was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy around 1963, and also taught in Political Philosophy for some years, until the appointment of André du Toit, after his doctoral studies at Leiden, in 1969.[3]


I’m not aware of any substantial account of the culture of discussion in the Department of Political Philosophy in the years that Degenaar and du Toit were there. In what follows, I rely mainly on my memory, and my main focus is on Degenaar. I think it’s fair to say that the department provided opportunity for students to develop and test their own ideas to an extent that was remarkable at the time, and perhaps at any time. In part, this was related to the departmental practice of evaluating students on the basis of essays, rather than tests, and setting essay topics that allowed, or encouraged, students to develop their own ideas.


Degenaar often put open-ended questions to undergraduate classes in Political Philosophy, and then paused and looked for a response, or invited students to respond. His questions were generally phrased in a way which did not suggest there was a single correct answer, but that we had a shared interest in addressing an area of uncertainty. When this led to discussion in the lecture, however, it was often relatively brief, especially in the larger first-year class, where some students were more engaged than others. The more intensive and extended discussion usually took place after the class.


During the years I was an undergraduate student, there was also a practice within the department of holding a “reading class” once a week, held during the lunch-hour on a specified day of the week. As I recall, this did not include first-year students, but all other students in the department were free to come, and some who had been students in the department. My recollection is that there were usually about a dozen students who attended, some more regularly than others.


When I first joined this reading class—if joining is the right word for my somewhat regular attendance—it focused on selected works by Albert Camus. As I recall, we read The Plague, The Fall and perhaps also The Stranger, with Degenaar’s guidance. This was an opportunity for somewhat open-ended discussion, but discussion with a quite definite focus on the text we were reading together. André du Toit led discussion of the opening chapter of Alexandre Kojève’s Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, and later Marx’s 1843 introduction to his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. In later years, the same weekly time-slot was used for a discussion of films, as I recall.


All of these contexts of discussion—and the further, less formal, context, to which I turn in the following parts of this account—were powerfully influenced, I believe, by the first-year tutorial programme designed and run by André du Toit during these years. The first-year courses he taught focused on specific analytical skills: in the first semester, practical logic; in the second semester, conceptual analysis. In the weekly hour-long tutorials, we had the opportunity to try out our skills in analyzing logical and conceptual structures, often in passages from political texts, learning to recognize their strengths and weaknesses. So skillful was the design of these tutorial exercises that we would often start out with a strongly-held view, and conclude, simply by following the questions, with the opposite view.


This style of discussion was very different from that which prevailed in Degenaar’s courses. In du Toit’s tutorials, we were made to stick with the question that had been asked, and deal with the implications of our answers, until we found a way of achieving logical or conceptual consistency. We could not have our philosophical cake and eat it, as Degenaar sometimes allowed us to do.


Degenaar was rigorous, but not always, and almost never in a conspicuous way. One question could lead to another, in a way that left us baffled, or could be followed by a joke or a story. He would often pretend that he was confused about a specific question, when the confusion came from us. We would understand in fragments, but always with a sense that it was vitally important for us to grasp more fully, not for the sake of the course, but for the course of our lives. But du Toit’s tutorials prepared us for the informal discussions we had with Degenaar—which I’m about to describe—making us familiar with difficult questions; providing us with a kind of lifebuoy for the times we could not keep up.


A few years later, I began teaching the tutorials I’d taken a few years before, when university funding became available for student tutors. Later still, I taught both of those first-year courses, and saw them from yet another perspective. I continued to use the same format for tutorials for decades after I left Stellenbosch—at the University of the Western Cape, the University of Cape Town, and in various activist courses, mainly hosted by NGOs, until three or four years ago.


Perspectives on Degenaar’s discussions with undergraduates, 1972 to 1986


There were surely many other contexts than I’ve described—more than he could or would have counted—in which Degenaar’s commitment to open-ended discussion was lived out, and became a reflex and a habit for him. That commitment continued almost until the end of his life. In his conversation, teaching and writing, his dialogical styles may have developed in tandem with each other, for the most part, at least.[4]


I want to focus here on one such context in particular. I believe that the context of discussion in which Degenaar most fully came into his own, and which had the most life-changing impact on his students, was open-ended, mainly political, discussion with his undergraduate students, and perhaps especially with first-year students. It was more extended, spontaneous and free-ranging than discussion in the classroom, although its spirit could find its way into the classroom.


These discussions would generally happen after a mid-morning lecture, with a relatively small group of students—seldom more than a dozen, I would say. Some students would join in regularly, and others occasionally, or would follow the discussion, perhaps just for a while. My impression is that these discussions would usually start with one or other student approaching Degenaar at the end of the lecture, and asking his view on a topical issue, often about South African politics, and often related to a comment Degenaar had made in the lecture.


Degenaar’s willingness to start a conversation with a first-year student, at the beginning or end of a lecture, made him unusual among our lecturers, at that time. (His ease and charm in conversation made him unusual among academics of any time.) If the conversation continued for a while, a few more students might stop to listen or join in. If a significant topic emerged, then at some point Degenaar might suggest that they continue the discussion in the quadrangle of the Ou Hoofgebou, allowing us to make way for the next class in that venue, perhaps already starting to arrive by then.


As far as I know, these discussions were never planned in advance. Sometimes there was a sense, at the end of the discussion, that questions had not been resolved and a suggestion that the topic should be discussed further, so that the following discussion was anticipated, at least. No-one was specifically invited, and no-one was excluded. You did not know when they would take place, how long they would continue, who would participate and to what extent the numbers would increase or decrease as the discussion went on. Sometimes the discussion may have ended after fifteen minutes; occasionally they may have continued for an hour. You certainly did not know where they would lead.


Degenaar’s guidance of the discussion was unobtrusive, sometimes even gentle; but it determined the atmosphere of the discussion and set its pace, depth and tone. At times there would be long exchanges between students, in which he would not intervene. But the exchanges between students were made with an awareness of his presence, and his willingness to provide a point of view—often by way of a question—either spontaneously or when prompted.


What made them distinctive was Degenaar’s presence, his willingness to take all views seriously, and a certain eagerness on the part of students. Students in political philosophy courses often discussed issues among themselves after classes—in my observation, far more frequently than in other undergraduate courses I took—but the discussion had a different character when Degenaar was present.


However, although these discussions were experienced by all involved as spontaneous and unstructured, there was a consistent pattern in them, and a degree of forethought, both among students with questions for Degenaar and probably by Degenaar as well, who knew better than we did how to frame a topic. We did not realize that we were being shown how to clarify a question, rather than forcing the discussion to go off at a tangent.


It’s unlikely that I would have noticed this when I was a first-year student. The first year was perhaps when Degenaar’s effect was most formative and, at times, even overwhelming. In my second and third year, we took his readiness to engage in discussion for granted, and discussion became part of the formal class to a greater extent than in the larger first-year class.


This practice of discussion with Degenaar after the lecture continued long after my years as an undergraduate; most likely until Degenaar’s retirement from the university at the end of 1991. My own view of the process I’m now seeking to recollect changed over time, but continued for many years, in ways that I will briefly describe. Over a period of fifteen years, from 1972 to 1986, I could see this process taking place from various perspectives.[5]


As a first-year student, I listened cautiously at first to these discussions, and then joined in more often, as the year continued. As I recall, I was more outspoken when this kind of dialogue took place in our second-year or third-year class, probably in a more academic tone. Then, in my third year and my honours year, I was a tutor for the first-year course, and had a dual perspective, both discussing with Degenaar in the honours course, and speaking regularly to first-year students who were going through the process I had experienced not so many years before them.


Then, for seven of the following ten years (1977-86), I was a lecturer in Political Philosophy. In these years, students would often tell me about their exchanges with Degenaar, or his views would be raised in our discussions. I don’t recall this ever leading to much discussion of Degenaar’s views, or his style of engagement. And sometimes Degenaar would speak to me about students having asked his view of something I’d said to them.


Until about 1980, classes in political philosophy were held in the Ou Hoofgebou and the department had offices in Crozier Street, in a building we shared with the Department of Philosophy. Around 1980, we moved to the newly-constructed to the B.J. Vorster building—now the Humanities building. In the Vorster building, my office door was directly opposite the door of the department’s seminar room, where second-year and third-year classes were held, and my practice, then and ever since, was to keep my door open when I was in my office. An unintended result of this practice was that I would overhear Degenaar’s discussions with students, at least in part, whether I liked it or not.


My recollection is that, in general, I did not contribute to any of these discussions once I began teaching in the department, or even show that I overheard them. I was tempted sometimes, but felt my presence would interfere with Degenaar’s unique rapport with students. There was at least one semester, however, in the mid-1980s, when Degenaar attended a third-year course I gave on Marxism, in which he and I together were regularly engaged in discussion with students. When we were both at the office, I was involved in some discussion with Degenaar almost every day.


In recent years—especially since his death, five years ago—I’ve come to believe that it was in the context of this kind of informal and open-ended conversation with undergraduate students that Degenaar’s peculiar genius was most clearly evident and his philosophical project most fully developed. I do not mean that it was separate from other parts of his philosophical life, but that this was its cutting edge. In this context, I attempt to capture the style and structure of these conversations.


I encountered Degenaar’s own, more modest, recollection in an interview with Anton van Niekerk, for the occasion of Degenaar’s eightieth birthday. Van Niekerk asks him: “What remains with you most from your days as a lecturer?” Degenaar replies: “What remains with me most is that I experienced that I could help people through the critical questions I ask, or the jokes I make, or the silence, the pauses which could be part of our classes and discussions. . . . What I enjoyed the most was the situations in which you discover that you don’t actually say anything to people, but by the question you ask you enable them to discover that they are talking creatively. He doesn’t ask me and I answer him; I ask nothing, and yet he answers.”[6] This may have been not just what he enjoyed, but also what he saw as his decisive contribution to our formation.


Some topics that led to sustained discussion with Degenaar, recollected


These discussions with Degenaar often had a central topic, although it sometimes took a while for that topic to crystallize. The discussion sometimes began with students asking questions, trying out ideas or commenting on campus events. From this exchange, a sustained discussion might emerge, or might not. Sometimes the topic shifted somewhat during these initial exchanges.


Put differently, the process of formulating the problem or topic was somewhat random, but usually became more clearly focused, often with Degenaar’s assistance. But some topics were more likely to be sustained than others, and to be re-activated from time to time. In hindsight, it also seems likely that these topics were either introduced by Degenaar—sometimes indirectly—or encouraged by him, when raised by a student. I’ll list three of such topics here, which may provide an indication of the range of discussion, during my undergraduate years at least.


The topic that stands out most clearly in my mind, almost fifty years later, was that of the migrant labour system in apartheid South Africa. My recollection is that this discussion was initially the sequel to Degenaar asking whether any of us in the first-year class had read a report in Die Burger that morning that the Dutch Reformed Church had appealed to the government to make the migrant labour system more humane.


None of us had read the news report, and it’s possible that none of us immediately grasped the irony of a request to make an inherently inhumane system “more humane.” We didn’t know it then, that this was not the first time that the church had made such an appeal: it had expressed its “deep concern about the break-up of families, the moral collapse and religious dislocation of the Bantu” in 1970, and called on the government to ensure that “separation of family members” should be “as brief as possible.”[7]


It’s also possible—remember that Stellenbosch only admitted students classified as white, and that the Western Cape was then treated as a coloured preference area—that some students in the class did not know what the migrant labour system was, or what might be inhumane about it. But Degenaar had planted a seed that would grow vigorously in our minds. We learned to read the news with this background in mind.


The question had such force, precisely because the system of migrant labour was at the heart of the contradictions of South African politics and society. The system had been given legal force by the Glen Grey Act of 1895, intended by Cecil Rhodes, then prime minister of the Cape Colony, to ensure a supply of black labour for the mines. It became essential to the apartheid system , especially once Verwoerd had announced his intention to establish independent homelands in South Africa, as a response to the wave of decolonization taking place in Africa in the 1960s. But the church’s request to the government exposed the hypocrisy of the entire system. How could a system of separating families, and dumping people in overcrowded wastelands in the homelands, be made “more humane,” except by abolishing it?


I should say that, although Degenaar was deeply engaged with this topic, it was clear that it caused him real distress, not only because of the suffering caused by migrant labour policies, but also because of the moral failures of the Dutch Reformed Church. He took no pleasure in pointing out, or enabling us to point out, the hypocrisy of the church’s position, as students may have done. For Degenaar, although he did not make a display of it, this Christian hypocrisy was clearly a genuine source of loss and sorrow to him. This may have been puzzling at first to students whose main focus was on the denunciation of apartheid. It took a while for us to see that Degenaar’s sorrow at church hypocrisy did not take the place of sorry and anger at the far greater wrong inflicted on black South Africans. [8]


But insight into the failings of migrant labour and other apartheid policies raised new questions, and led to new topics of discussion. Not long after the initial discussion of migrant labour—and probably after others like it—one or more of our classmates would report the views of his friends in residence, after conveying these new insights to them. Their friends would often begin by defending migrant labour, but some at least would come to concede its devastating effects on black South Africans. They felt, however, that saying this out loud would immediately discredit you in the eyes of those who held power, and the Stellenbosch students who supported them. In this context, surely the morally preferable option would be to pretend to support the migrant labour system, or at least refrain from explicit criticism, and then use the credibility you gained in this way to improve the system or gradually prepare the ground for ending it?


In this way, a second topic of discussion emerged: the moral viability of verligte reformism from within the National Party and its allied organizations; in effect, the strategy of pretending to do one thing in order to be supposedly more effective in doing the other; pretending to support apartheid in order more effectively to undermine apartheid. My recollection is that it received short shrift among the first-year students of that year, but it came up again in future years, and in relation to different aspects of the apartheid order.


From my recollection of discussion with students in later years, when I was teaching in the department, those inclined to support apartheid became more willing to say so openly, and accept that it could only be sustained by harsh repression. It was our verligte academic colleagues who remained committed to a kind of double-speak. In 1979-80, this led to polemical attacks on Degenaar for his views, articulated in response to Elsa Joubert’s Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena, that the system of migrant labour amounted to structural violence against black South Africans.[9] As the crisis of apartheid deepened, a similar group of Broederbond academics attacked Degenaar, du Toit and Hermann Giliomee, then teaching history at Stellenbosch, as oorbeligtes, neo-Marxists and the like, in a broader polemic about P.W. Botha’s apartheid reforms, arguing that the abolition of migrant labour would not create welfare for all “as if from thin air.”[10]


A third topic that gave rise to considerable discussion—initially in my first year, I think; but it lived on after that—was the philosophy of Black Consciousness. Black Consciousness began as a revolt against supposed non-racialism within a student movement dominated by the white English-speaking universities in the late 1960s. It had an immediate impact on radical student politics at those universities, and soon became an unavoidable point of reference in debates about broadly liberal opposition to apartheid, raising pointed questions about the character of a post-apartheid society and the role of whites in seeking to end the apartheid order. Indeed, it raised the question of whether white liberals had any significant role to play in the struggle against apartheid.


In January 1971, Biko presented a paper on “White Racism and Black Consciousness” at a conference of student leaders held at the University of Cape Town, with the aim of opening debate among student leaders from a broad range of South African universities.[11] The Stellenbosch student body had quit the conservative Afrikaanse Studentebond (ASB) a few years before that, and had a somewhat amorphous position of non-alignment in South African politics. Stellenbosch was represented by Michiel le Roux, later the founder of Capitec Bank.[12]


Two generations of student radicalism


Biko’s ideas had a considerable impact among at least some Political Philosophy students of my generation, along with Rick Turner’s The Eye of the Needle, also published in 1972, and then banned in the following year. Turner had started his teaching career as a temporary lecturer in Political Philosophy at Stellenbosch, in 1969.


Both Biko and Turner were placed under government banning orders in February 1973, along with a number of student activists at black and English-speaking universities. Biko was confined to the district of King Williamstown, in the rural Eastern Cape. There he struck up a friendship with Donald Woods, editor of the East London-based Daily Dispatch. Despite the onerous restrictions of the banning order, Woods found a way to report on the ideas of Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement. Woods’ regular column was also published in the Cape Times, and provided a clear and attractive image of the man and the movement.[13]


Black consciousness was, in a sense, at the edge of our political vision, but it occupied a prominent place there. It became an essential part of our political and philosophical formation, even while we never entirely saw our role in relation to it, given its insistence on the primacy of black experience and identity in South Africa. I can recall only one discussion, which must have taken place in 1978, of a specific text by Biko: Bernard Zylstra’s interview with him, conducted some months before Biko’s murder at the hands of the security police in September 1977.[14]


As I recall, Degenaar made photocopies of the interview, which was published after Biko’s death in a minor theological publication based in Michigan, and arranged a lunch-time discussion of it with students in the seminar room. This discussion, as well as distribution and possession of the photocopy, was probably in breach of the law at that time, although I don’t recall anyone mentioning that. The interview text itself is a clear and compelling account of Biko’s views, often on issues not dealt with elsewhere. Perhaps because it is so philosophical in approach it has been largely overlooked by the Biko industry which has emerged since 1994!


I have no doubt that Degenaar’s discussion of migrant labour under apartheid and of the limits of verligte reformism from within the National Party—along with discussion of other related topics I’ve not listed—had a role of building anti-apartheid activism at Stellenbosch, even though the activists may not have been conscious of his influence, or Degenaar conscious of their activism. Looking back, I would say that discussion of Biko and the Black Consciousness movement, or the work of Rick Turner, had little or no impact on anti-apartheid students in those years, although Turner’s writings had a considerable impact on student activism in the 1980s.


Most of the anti-apartheid activists among Stellenbosch students of my generation were motivated not only by ethical issues, but also by strong career ambitions. In my first year, I was recruited into a semi-clandestine anti-apartheid group, almost all of whom were law students, which—perhaps oddly—began life with a petition protesting police violence against UCT students protesting against repression at black universities, following the expulsion of Abraham Ongopotse Tiro from the University of the North. As I recall, we did not even discuss protesting police violence against our black fellow-students, perhaps thinking that white students would see that as unrelated to their own lives.


In those years—with white living standards protected, and before the rise of neoliberalism—the drive for self-advancement was much less pronounced than it is today. But it was making itself felt, and a year or two later, law students had begun to think of themselves as aspirant lawyers, in ways that felt to me at odds with the ethic of Degenaar’s dialogue.


After Soweto—and especially after the launch of the United Democratic Front in 1983, the End Conscription Campaign in 1984 and the establishment of a Stellenbosch branch of NUSAS in 1986—anti-apartheid activism required and engendered a different mindset, in which the radically egalitarian visions of Biko and Turner became not only accessible, but a kind of template for life in a post-apartheid society.


The sample of topics for discussion with Degenaar, which I provide in the previous section, draws mainly on my undergraduate years, partly for the reason that I’m better able to sense the connection between the topics of that time and the existential needs that drew us to Degenaar and made the discipline of philosophy something of a necessity in our lives; also, because I remember them most clearly. I cannot recall, for instance, a sustained discussion of military conscription and conscientious objection during my undergraduate years; but I know that the issue was vitally important to a later generation of students. Indeed, I later signed a public refusal to be conscripted, in solidarity with students I taught.[15]


Their relationship with Degenaar would surely have been different from that of my generation in some respects; they were more profoundly impacted by the crisis of apartheid, and their radicalism was deep-rooted in a way that was not true of my generation. It seems likely to me that they made deeper demands on Degenaar’s solidarity; and I believe he lived up to them.


The question of the “Socratic” style of Degenaar’s dialogue with students


Before speaking of the characteristic structure of Degenaar’s dialogue with students, it is necessary to touch on the widespread view that his dialogical style was essentially that of Socrates.


There can be no question about Degenaar’s commitment to the Socratic style of debate and enquiry, a style which became second nature to him. I’ve already described how he spoke of having met Socrates, rather than reading about him, in his student years, or having fallen in love with Socrates. But it seemed to me that he had, in many respects, re-invented that Socratic legacy over many decades of putting it to work, and making it part of himself. It’s likely that he himself hardly noticed how his use of it had evolved and changed. Indeed, it would have been odd, if that lifelong engagement had kept exactly the same form throughout, never developing or changing.


Almost fifty years have passed since I first heard these dialogues with Degenaar, and since I participated in them most fully, and with most at stake for my own life. It’s likely that, if I had tried to make a record of them earlier, I would have remembered more of their content than I do now. But if I had been asked about Degenaar’s own interventions, and the structure of discussion that resulted, I think I would have been at a loss. As I’ve said, we students somehow deceived ourselves that it was our eloquence and insight that moved the discussion forward.


But that structure of questioning and prompting came back to my mind in the months after Degenaar’s death in 2015, partly in response to the celebration of Degenaar as the Socrates of Stellenbosch. There is no doubt that he had a deep affinity with the figure of Socrates, and drew constantly on the resources of Socratic dialectic. However, once you pause to think about the comparison, it is quickly apparent that Degenaar’s dialectic was significantly different from Socratic dialectic.[16]


What it had in common with Socratic dialectic was its conversational form, moved forward by conceptual questioning and refutation. It differed from Socratic dialectic in that it did not seek an unchanging meaning of moral concepts. It was developed primarily in the formation of students, rather than in debate with fellow citizens. It could not assume that its social context provided universally valid norms, as Athenian citizens might do in the time of Socrates. All of this resulted also, as I’ll describe, in a different style of questioning and engagement.[17]


Although the term “Socratic” captures something of the spirit and inspiration of Degenaar’s dialogical style, it is a kind of shorthand which obscures as much as it clarifies, or more. I do not think it is important to find a name for Degenaar’s dialogical style, and will not propose one. Perhaps the ideal mode of clarification would be to reconstruct, or re-imagine, a real or possible dialogue with Degenaar, in the manner that Plato reconstructed or re-imagined exchanges with Socrates. But this is simply beyond my reach. Instead, I will outline what I will speak of the structure of Degenaar’s dialogue, with some concrete illustration of how it worked, and leave others to judge the adequacy of my description.


The structure of Degenaar’s dialogue with students, briefly reconstructed


In speaking of the structure of Degenaar’s conversations with students, I do not mean that this structure was premeditated, or even entirely conscious. Degenaar had made himself into a dialogical being, to put it like that, and in discussion he was simply his spontaneous, constantly developing, self. He had no need for conscious calculation about the effect of his response to others.


Degenaar was also extraordinarily sensitive to the emotions of his interlocutors, and aware of which were deep or shallow, authentic or contrived. He would not simply follow the argument where it led, but was willing at times to be swept along by the tides of feeling that gave rise to it—although always aware that sentiment needed to be related to conceptual meaning.


So, when I speak of the structure of his dialogical engagement, I mean something akin to the structure of a poem, rather than the structure of a machine or a building, for example; a structure constituted perhaps as much by feeling and rhythm as by logical formula.


It would also be possible to speak of a repertoire that Degenaar brought to his conversations with students, or of a flexible structure could be adjusted to fit the larger discussion. But what was decisive for his impact was not a specific structure of response, no matter how flexible, but rather the subtlety and precision with which he put this repertoire to work; his extraordinary sense of timing, which enabled him to switch the direction and pace of argument in a moment; his generosity in argument, and his wit.


I will set out this flexible structure, or repertoire, in the form of six characteristic responses made by Degenaar in this kind of discussion, and illustrate each of them briefly by relating them to topics and questions that came up in discussion with students.


These responses allowed for variation, or repetition, according to the context. I do not mean that the order in which I set them out here was always followed, or even the norm, or that all of these responses would be made in any extensive dialogue. Some responses may have been repeated, even several times, although always with a somewhat different focus and meaning. Others may have been unnecessary, especially as students came to anticipate Degenaar’s typical questions. My aim is not to cover all the possible permutations, but rather to bring out the underlying logic of the dialogical process.


Degenaar’s typical first response, once was the topic had achieved its initial, often still approximate, definition, would often be the question: Hoe is dit moontlik (how is it possible)? The question carried a range of meanings and emphases, and allowed for a range of responses, according to context.


The question could be as concrete as an enquiry about how something had happened, or almost as abstract as the Kantian question about the conditions of possibility for our most general categories. The effect of the question was to shift us away from a stance of critical opposition, or even indignation, and towards an attempt to describe the premises or attitudes of the view we opposed, or sometimes the view we held.


How was it possible, for example, for the Dutch Reformed Church to uphold the sanctity of marriage and urge parents to bring up their children to be good Christians, and yet support migrant labour policies that separated parents from their children? How was it possible for them to believe that these policies could be made more humane? Did they think that a government that wanted their families to remain in the homelands would build high-speed trains to enable them to commute daily from the Transkei to the Witwatersrand? Or was this simply a way to deceive themselves that they no longer had any responsibility for these policies, having asked that they be limited?


Gradually, we would be prompted to reconstruct the mindset behind the migrant labour system and the homeland policy which made it seem unavoidable, and perhaps also to grasp the conditions it inflicted on huge numbers of people, and how their suffering and impoverishment would have to be wished away by Christian leaders unwilling to recognize the results of their own political commitments.


But Degenaar helped us to keep our emerging analysis of the apartheid mindset focused, especially by listening carefully for the central concepts we used to describe it. At critical moments, he would force us to clarify by asking a second question: Wat bedoel jy daarmee (what do you mean by that)? We would collectively have to explain the term involved, how it fit into the analysis we were developing; in effect, we would have to slow down, consider each step of the argument and become aware of how it could be refined, or perhaps how an alternative account was possible. All the while, Degenaar would guard against glib responses, which relied on simple caricatures of an evil and hypocritical bureaucracy, for example.


In the process, Degenaar would often help us to see what we had done, by putting as specific formulation in context. Thus, his third step might be a comment such as: Dit is ‘n oulike skuif wat jy nou maak (that is a clever move you’re making)! Often, we weren’t aware of having shifted the argument at all, until he pointed out what we had done, or almost managed to do.


Perhaps inadvertently, one of us had distinguished between the cruelty of the migrant labour system and the intentions of the people who supported it or turned a blind eye to its consequences. Perhaps there was a place for personal cruelty in the system, but that place was more likely to be assigned to the policeman enforcing pass laws, or even the shopkeeper refusing credit to the starving mother. Or were they all part of a more complex system than we had imagined? By focusing on one formulation, in the way I’ve just described, Degenaar enabled us to distinguish it from other formulations of a similar kind, and gradually recognize both their diversity and how they might be connected.


His fourth response, as I number these responses here, was intended to return us to a kind of synthesis. It could be done in a statement: Daar lê ‘n hele wêreld daaragter! (a whole world lies behind that; that is to say, behind that belief or attitude), or a question: Is daar nie ‘n hele wêreld wat daaragter lê nie? (is there not a whole world behind that). Here we were being asked not just to recognize a set of attitudes and beliefs, but also the potential coherence of the world-view constituted by them. The question of the “whole world behind” a specific belief was a warning against being too clever, or too quick to claim superiority over those with whom (by now, if not before) we differed. They lived in the world with a certain coherence, even when that coherence was achieved at the cost of the avoidable suffering of others, and critique required us to recognize and reconstruct that moment of coherence. He made us aware that the task of creating a coherent alternative world was not as simple as the task of critique.


These four interventions—sometimes repeated; sometimes clarified; sometimes with our digressions or embellishments cut short—were often enough to make the world accessible for analysis and critique, in a way it had not been before, and which we had never really imagined to be possible. Describing Degenaar’s effect in this way—in the manner of a formula or a mechanical process—cannot convey the excitement and sense of discovery of the process it set in motion. For the sake of completeness, however, I’ll add two further responses that we sometimes took with us, when the discussion ended.


The fifth response, a question again, was an occasional sequel to making us aware of the world entailed in a specific belief: Kan ‘n mens in so ‘n wêreld leef (can one live in such a world)?


As I write it, I ask myself whether Degenaar asked it in so many words, or implied it strongly enough for us to believe that he had. It may be that he asked it only once or twice, in a context I no longer remember. Or that one of us asked it, without being able to pursue the question. It had diverse meanings: Could we live in that imagined world consistently? Could we live in that world with full awareness of its reality, or only by deceiving ourselves that it was an unavoidable necessity? Would we choose to live in such a world, if we understood that was the choice we were making, individually or collectively?


Sixth, and finally, Degenaar’s frequent salutation and encouragement, towards the end of such a discussion: Dit is belangrike vrae wat jy stel (these are important questions you are raising). This way of concluding registered some progress made in the discussion; it affirmed that progress could be made by formulating clearer, more illuminating questions, rather than believing we had answers to everything; its emphasis on the not-yet-answered questions also indicated the distance that still had to be travelled. It gave us a sense of the value of open-ended enquiry, which could not be measured by answers alone


To some extent, at least, what was strongly implied, but perhaps never spoken in so many words, was the question: How will you live up to the arguments you have developed? Put differently: Who will you become? As I recall the effect this made on me, it was only on thinking about the discussion afterwards that I became aware of the implied question, perhaps with a shudder.


Making such a question explicit, at the immediate conclusion of such a discussion, may easily have been experienced as a kind of rebuttal; as a way of telling us that our questions were unfounded until such time as we justified our moral right to answer them. This was not Degenaar’s meaning, but he also knew that critical questions carried their own moral burden. His gift was to enable you to become aware of the question, but not to press you to answer it before you were ready.


Indeed, a central part if Degenaar’s gift was the ability to make students believe that it was through their own insight and effort, rather than Degenaar’s guidance, that they had reached the conclusions they did. As students, we sometimes marveled at how fortunate Degenaar was to encounter us always at our best, when our formulations were sharp and luminous, and their incisiveness surprised even ourselves, requiring almost no effort at all. Of course, he had made much of the effort for us, enabling our new insight, and he allowed us that moment of self-deception, which was an essential step in enabling us to see the world more clearly as it was.


Earlier, I gave several examples to illustrate the range of topics that came up in these discussions with Degenaar. I’ve illustrated the steps he might have followed, in guiding us through one such topic: that of migrant labour under apartheid. Each topic might have its own specific line of movement and its own potential sticking points; what I’ve provided here is a somewhat general and abstract model.


Would he have recognized it, if one of us had described it to him? Perhaps he would have. But I don’t believe that he designed it consciously, or that it would have worked so well, if it had been the application of a deliberate methodology. Instead of designing a method, he made himself the person who would spontaneously guide us across the difficult terrain of our times.


Solidarity as a dialogical art


Formulating these steps, however, raises the question of whether Degenaar’s style of discussion could be reduced to a formula, which any teacher could replicate, if they wished to do so. I do not believe that this would be possible. For the encounter with Degenaar made an indelible impression because of the certainty we had that nothing he said was pretended.


There would surely have been moments when he phrased a question or a comment strategically—that is, with the intention of offering us a way to develop our argument or of guiding us in one or other direction. But he never pretended to believe something that he did not really believe. When he was ambiguous, his ambiguity was never intended to mislead. By some combination of word and gesture, he conveyed this to even the most skeptical of his students. Because he was putting himself at risk in this way, we sensed we could do the same.


Put differently, his approach to discussion with students was one of instinctive and consistent solidarity. Solidarity may seem, at first glance, an odd, even mistaken, term to use in the context of philosophical discussion. The term is often used to indicate support of an embattled cause, and recognition of need that is so dire that all reservations must be put aside; whereas Degenaar’s solidarity often took the form of articulating his reservations, and urging us not be too certain of our convictions. His solidarity was a shared commitment to values of justice and truth. He showed us that, by questioning our strongest convictions, we became able to strengthen them.


He did this spontaneously, in a variety of ways, all of them from the heart, and often in moments of profound distress or deep empathy. I’ll give a few examples, somewhat at random. Others will surely be able to add their own.


André du Toit describes Degenaar weeping before his students on the morning after the Sharpeville massacre of 1960.[18] After the Soweto uprising began on 16 June 1976, and armed white men began patrolling the streets of Stellenbosch, Degenaar went to ask them what they were doing and to make them aware of the inadequacy of their response.


I recall Degenaar gently taking my side, after my enraged outburst at our verligte colleagues in the tearoom we shared with the Department of Philosophy, on the morning in September 1977 when we learned of the death of Steve Biko, at what I saw as their complicity in that death.[19] After the assassination of Batandwa Ndondo in 1985, when his bothers Dumisa and Lungisile Ntsebeza were first detained and banished to remote rural areas to prevent them from speaking out, Degenaar did not hesitate to put his name to letters of protest to K.D. Matanzima, then president of the Transkei, and to provide support and encouragement.[20]


Later, as the crisis of the apartheid order deepened, state repression became more brutal, hopes of gradual reform died out, Degenaar was frequently present at the meetings of embattled student groups. This is where he established his connection with Neville Alexander, who was a powerful influence on Stellenbosch radicalism of the 1980s, precisely because he was committed to argument and analysis, in a time when slogans often took their place. According to the reports of students I knew, much of the time FDegenaar simply listened quietly, immersing himself in a new political atmosphere, learning rather than teaching; in dialogue, but simply through his presence. His solidarity never took the form of blanket agreement. But if he disagreed, he did not distance himself for that reason.


Corinne Oosthuizen’s tribute to Degenaar, at the time of his death, describes what seems to me a similar context: “He is among us, far beyond his classroom. He is in our discussions over coffee, in our critique of the world, in our critique of him, in our attempts to live with integrity in the repressive political impossibility around us. . . . The one who walks all the way to our untidy student newspaper office, to talk to us when we are once again in trouble with the university’s powers that be. Who, among the slap chips and photos and EM-rulers challenges us and helps us think. Who puts a hand on my back, when the pressure from above for us to silence our voices of protest feels too much and the path too lonely. . . . Who arrives at our gatherings and political meetings. Who sits in the corner and listens. With whom we like to differ. With whom we always want to talk again.”[21]


Solidarity takes many forms, and is not always dialogical. Anyone who may want to emulate Degenaar, would have to begin with this consistent practice of solidarity.


Education beyond measurement


Part of the difficulty in assessing this process of dialogue with Degenaar, is that it fell entirely outside a process of measuring academic progress which has long been an essential part of higher education, but has in recent years become a massively distorting and stifling factor in it. That factor was always in the background in the years I’m writing about, and at times it became a priority: students had to hand in their essays on a certain date; lecturers had to mark the essays, and so on.


Informal discussion with Degenaar may have been linked to these imperatives, but it was not part of them; that is, participating in such discussion may indirectly have sharpened your capacity to make an argument; but that participation did not take the place of the essay you had to hand in, and for which you would receive a mark. And participation may also have resulted sometimes in overconfidence, love of academic-sounding formulations, or just confusion. Indeed, confusion was probably an inevitable part of the process; it was gaining clarity about potentially confusing questions that made it valuable.


Although I was not directly involved in these discussions for most of the period I describe, I could recognize their effect on the students I was teaching, and recognize in them something of the life-changing force of the process I had gone through. As a first-year student, I recall listening to the beginnings of a discussion in the quadrangle of the Ou Hoofgebou, not intervening myself because I knew that I was due to be at a lecture in a different building, and then discovering I was already late for the next lecture, or deciding to skip the lecture for the sake of the discussion.


As the discussion took its twists and turns, you could see the involvement of those listening in the agitation of their bodies. Degenaar made clear thought seem infinitely difficult, yet infinitely worth the effort. In discussion with him, the process of thinking and arguing seemed transformative, of ourselves and potentially of the world.


Later, as a teacher, I could recognize the habits of thought and speech among students that resulted from these exchanges. At times, the impact on students was immediately visible. I have a recollection, from sometime in the 1980s, of seeing a group of perhaps a dozen students follow Degenaar from the first-year lecture venue, on the ground floor of the B. J. Vorster building, all the way to his office on the sixth floor, jockeying for position, to make sure they didn’t miss any part of the conversation or to get their own final comment in. What they were speaking about, I can no longer remember, if I ever knew. But the same engagement and urgency was visible in their every gesture and movement.


One way to describe the value of this process is that it gave students an enduring sense of the intrinsic value of philosophical enquiry—above all, its value as viewed without the lense of individual self-advancement.


Almost fifty years later, higher education has become a charade, driven by pursuit of the empty metrics of so-called excellence.[22] In its current form, it is headed for collapse, and it will be a relief to almost all concerned when the collapse is over. The deepening climate and ecological crisis will make new forms of learning and enquiry necessary. When these emerge, and to the extent that they do, the example of Degenaar’s dialogical arts may prove their value again.


The rhythms of memory


I spoke earlier of how the structure and repertoire of Degenaar’s dialogue came back to my mind in the time after his death, more than five years ago. That it came to my mind, then or at any other time, is no warrant for the accuracy of my account of it. Other former students of Degenaar may confirm something similar, or disagree, or recall a different element of the encounter, unrelated to its repertoire and structure. Memory is fallible, can be distorted by context and assumed meaning, and is often in need of correction.[23]


During my (sometimes interrupted) fifteen years at Stellenbosch, my perspective on Degenaar’s forms of discussion must surely have shifted, as my own views and priorities changed. There were probably times when I thought of that kind of student discussion with Degenaar as something that had once been formative for me, but which I had then outgrown. My perspective also changed as I discovered a world outside Stellenbosch: teaching black working-class students at the South African Council for Higher Education (SACHED) in Cape Town in 1979-80, at a time when Neville Alexander was its director; establishing the Marxist Theory Seminar at the University of the Western Cape, from 1988 to 1995; and much else besides.


Why, then, should I trust my memory about this, whatever details I may have forgotten or obscured or never known? It has been my experience several times in my life that the image of someone recently deceased becomes clearer soon after their death—even startlingly clear, more so than during their lifetime—perhaps because your view of them no longer focuses as much on the present moment. I thought of Degenaar a great deal after his death, both because of his part in my life, but also because it seemed to me that his memory had been subtly falsified, glorifying his resistance to nationalism at a time when that resistance no longer had any cost, and assuming his compatibility with the neoliberal university of the present.


Put differently, I trust this memory because, if it is fundamentally mistaken, then it seems to me that I would been mistaken about every element of my encounter with Degenaar, over the more than forty years that I knew him, and how I’ve remembered him in the five years since his death. And if I am mistaken about so significant a part of my own formation, then what can I be sure of?


[1] Cf. Johan Degenaar, “Die Betekenis van ‘n Sprokie,” in Hennie Aucamp, ed., Papawerwyn en Ander Verbeeldings vir die Verhoog (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1980), pp. 70-79.

[2] “Selfs die groenste gedagte van die naïfste of jongste lid van die Gespreksgroep kon Degenaar se belangstelling prikkel asof skille skielik van sy oë geval het. Terselfdertyd kon selfs die rypste opmerking van die mees vooraanstaande aanwesige ‘n oop gesprek met Degenaar maar net nie tot ‘n finale konklusie bring nie.” Etienne Britz, “‘n Heenkome vir die Nutteloses,” in Hertzog et al (ed.), Gesprek sonder Grense, p. 43.

[3] Cf. Anton van Niekerk, “A Department under Siege: How Philosophy at Stellenbosch Was Split in order to Survive,” Stellenbosch Theological Journal 3: 1 (2017), pp. 459-61.

[4] It seems likely to me that Degenaar’s commitment to dialogue did not always extend into his written work, and may have been less evident, or evident only in a contrived way, at times when it was the lifeblood of his teaching. That dialogical style of writing is clearly visible in Degenaar’s writings in the 1950s and 60s. It never disappears, but his written work became more academic in character—concerned with definitions taken from the mainstream literature; listing rival paradigms; postmodernist décor, for example—in later decades. It may then have moved back towards a more concrete and informal, hence dialogical, style after his retirement, when he no longer had the same context and impulse provided by regular contact with students. He did not always escape the pressures and fashions of academic life, and their demand for stuffy prose.

[5] I was an undergraduate student in Political Philosophy from 1972 to 1974; an honours student in 1976; a tutor for first-year students in 1974 and 1976; a lecturer in 1977-78; 1981-83; 1985-86 (that is, for seven of the ten years from 1977 to 1986); I was also an M.A. student from 1977 to 1985, although I lived in Cape Town for some of these years.

[6] “Die ding wat, ek meen, my die meeste bybly is dat ek ervaar het dat ek mense help deur die kritiese vrae wat ek vra, of die grappies wat ek maak, of die stilswye, die pouses wat deel kon wees van ons klasse of gesprekke. . . . Wat ek die meeste geniet het, was die situasies waarin jy ontdek dat jy nie eintlik iets vir mense sê nie, maar dat jy deur die vraag wat jy stel, die persoon kan laat ontdek dat hy of sy self besig is om skeppend te praat. Hy vra my nie en ek antwoord hom; ek vra niks, en hy antwoord tog!” Anton van Niekerk, “Degenaar word tagtig: Huldeblyk en gesprek,” in Hertzog et al, ed., Gesprek sonder Grense, p. 319 (originallan interview in Eikestadnuus, 28 April 2006).

[7] P.J. Hugo, “Migratory Labour in South Africa: Illusion and Reality,” South African Journal of African Affairs no. 1 & 2 (1976), pp. 65-68.

[8] In the background of Degenaar’s discussion of migrant labour was the activism of David Russell, at that time the Anglican priest in the resettlement camp at Dimbaza, a dumping ground in the Ciskei Bantustan for black people, often elderly or disabled, who were surplus to the labour requirements of white South Africa. After many appeals to the government to relieve conditions of starvation had no result, Russell and others walked from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town, in 1970 or 71, where Russell fasted on the steps of St George’s Cathedral, near Parliament, in protest. Degenaar preached the sermon at the Anglican Church on the Braak at Stellenbosch, where the group made their last stop before walking to Cape Town. Cf. https://groundup.org.za/article/obituary-bishop-david-russell_2157/. [9] Degenaar reprinted the whole polemic in his book, Voortbestaan in geregtigheid: Opstelle oor die politieke rol van die Afrikaner (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1980), pp. 65-92.

[10] This polemic is described by Hermann Giliomee, Historikus: ‘n Outobiografie (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 2016), pp. 127-33; quoted phrase on p. 129.

[11] Originally published as Steve Biko, “White Racism and Black Consciousness,” in H.W. van der Merwe and David Welsh, ed., Student Perspectives on South Africa (Cape Town: David Philip, 1972), pp. 190-2020; more generally accessible in Steve Biko, I Write What I Like (Johannesburg: Picador Africa, 2004), pp. 66-79.

[12] Cf. Michiel le Roux, “The New Afrikaners: Views on the Politics and Ideals of the Moderate Afrikaans Student,” in van der Merwe and Welsh, ed., Student Perspectives on South Africa, pp. 86-94.

[13] For Woods’ encounter with Biko, cf. Donald Woods, Biko: Cry Freedom (New York: Henry Holt, 2011).

[14] Bernard Zylstra, “An Interview with Steve Biko,” The Reformed Journal vol 27, no. 12 (December 1977), pp. 9-18. A search at https://disa.ukzn.ac.za leads to a mostly legible PDF of the original. The only accessible reprint I have located is in Donald Woods, Biko: Cry Freedom (New York: Henry Holt, 2011), kindle loc. 1954—2145. It was the last interview with Biko before his death in police detention in September 1977.

[15] As I had completed my initial nine-month period of military conscription in 1971, my public refusal did not entail the same dangers for me as it did for students still facing call-up in the 1980s for a longer period of conscription. But I was glad of the opportunity to act in solidarity with them.

[16] I should say that I have played a small role in the preparation of this image of Degenaar, having described the emergence of a Socratic tradition in the opening section of my article, “Wine-Farming, Heresy Trials and the ‘Whole Personality’: The Emergence of the Stellenbosch Philosophical Tradition, 1916–40,” South African Journal of Philosophy 16:2 (May 1997), pp. 55–65.

[17] For a brief and cogent account of Socratic dialectic, see Richard Robinson, Plato’s Earlier Dialectic (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1941), pp. 80-85.

[18] André du Toit, “Oor politieke pyn, of die hede as geskiedenis,” in André du Toit, ed., In Gesprek: Opstelle vir Johan Degenaar (Stellenbosch: Die Suid-Afrikaan, 1986), p. 23.

[19] Our colleagues argued that change could only take place through the National Party, and supported the NP as the only viable road to reform. My response was that supporting the NP reform process also involved support for the brutal crushing of black resistance, including (on that day) the killing of Steve Biko. I have no doubt that my outburst was ill-mannered, to say the least.

[20] Andrew Nash, “Death Squads in Broad Daylight: Two Questions about the Killing of Batandwa Ndondo,” South African Outlook 115:1374 (October 1985), pp. 39–41.

[21] Corinne Oosthuizen, “Gedagtes by die dood van ‘n leermeester,” Die Burger, 24 July 2015. “Hy is met ons vêr verby sy klaskamer. Hy is in ons koffiegesprekke, in ons kritiek teen die wêreld, in ons kritiek teen hom, in ons pogings om met integriteit te lewe in die neerdrukkende politieke onmoontlikheid om ons. . . . Die een wat ál die pad opstap na die deurmekaar studentekoerantkantoor om met ons te praat wanneer ons die soveelste keer in die moeilikheid is met die Universiteit se powers that be. Wat ons tussen slaptjips en foto’s en ems-liniale uitdaag en help dink. Wat ‘n hand op my rug sit wanneer die druk van bo om ons stemme van protes stil te maak te veel voel en die pad te alleen raak. . . . Wat by ons byeenkomste en politieke vergaderings opdaag. Wat in die hoek sit en luister. Met wie ons graag verskil. Met wie ons altyd weer wou praat.”

[22] Cf. Andrew Nash, “Excellence in Higher Education: Is There Really No Alternative?” Kagisano 9 (March 2013), pp. 42–62.

[23] Cf. Oliver Sacks, “The Fallibility of Memory,” in The River of Consciousness (New York: Vintage, 2018), pp.