Review: Jonny Steinberg's Three Letter Plague (Book Review) - Journal of Pan African Studies

Review: Jonny Steinberg's Three Letter Plague (Book Review)

By Journal of Pan African Studies

  • Release Date - Published: 2008-09-01
  • Book Genre: Social Science
  • Author: Journal of Pan African Studies
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Review: Jonny Steinberg's Three Letter Plague (Book Review) Journal of Pan African Studies read online review & book description:

Johannes Fabian, in "Time and the Emerging Other" (1983) analyzes the discursive implications of traditional, "western" anthropology within the context of Africa. His main objective is to outline how anthropology and its object of study was (re)produced through an ideological position founded on notions of difference or "othering." This world-view, for instance, fed the conception that Africa, in comparison to Europe, was "primitive." Fabian points out that early anthropological study of Africa and its inhabitants were framed through certain western prejudices about Africa, which simultaneously reinforced them. He focuses chiefly on the temporal logic of western anthropological discourse and how its conceptions of evolution and development placed its western observers "higher up" the evolutionary scale than the African "object." Fabian's project is incredibly interesting but one particular point stands out in relevance to this review: he mentions that one of the main ways in which a system of "othering"--typical of western discourse--was reinforced by anthropological study was through what he refers to as a lack of "coevalness." (i) It is this notion of coevalness--or lack thereof--that I would like to use in relation to South African writer, Jonny Steinberg's new book, Three Letter Plague: A Young man's Journey Through a Great Epidemic (Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2008. ISBN 9781868422883 1868422887). In particular, I would like to employ the concept when observing how Steinberg has achieved a way of bridging the gap between himself and the subject matter of his book, the lives of "others." Within the context of Fabian's theorization of coevalness, the anthropologist or observer would for a time inhabit the space of his or her object of study--usually a social group. During this time, the anthropologist would gather data through which he or she would try and understand the social mechanisms of this particular group.

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