This book began with the idea of writing a literary history with an
emphasis on cultural politics, but it developed into the more di≈cult
project of setting out a theory of intellectual responsibility. As South
Africa underwent the momentous changes of the 1990s, the shape of my
project also changed. Early in that decade notions of resistance, subver-
sion, and the building of alternative grassroots structures were still the
order of the day in anti-apartheid politics and, in turn, set the agenda for
left literary and cultural studies. But with the negotiations to end apart-
heid, the nonracial election of April 1994, and the Truth and Reconcilia-
tion Commission, which began its work in 1996, what emerged at the
forefront of public discourse was the question of complicity. The role of
intellectuals after apartheid had become a matter of urgent debate, and it
became clear that, like the legacy of apartheid thinking, the activities of
intellectuals during the apartheid era would have to be scrupulously
By the mid-1990s I had been in the United States for several years and
had followed the polemics in the New York Review of Books and elsewhere
on the complicity of European intellectuals in Nazism. Sensationalism
dominated, and the level of debate, on the whole, was not high. Al-
though some commentators endeavored, with mixed results, to estab-
lish deeper links between a given writer’s thoughts and deeds, accusers
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