Bert Olivier

The question of heterotopia and/as dystopia

The term, ‘heterotopia’, was used by Michel Foucault in a brief text – titled ‘Of other spaces’ – published in Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité (October, 1984; translated from the French by Jay Miskowiec). It is a richly suggestive text, although academics who can’t deal with poststructuralist thinkers’ complex writings have generally derogated it with all kinds…

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The craving for power

The hankering after power is as old as human beings; no, older – it is as old as the first unicellular being that emerged from the primeval morass of evolution. After all, like all organisms since then, it would have tried its primitive best to survive, to stave off death. And isn’t that already an…

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Optimism vs. realism regarding the future

The TIME magazine of 15 January, 2018, titled ‘The Optimists’, is edited by Bill Gates, one of the two richest individuals on the planet – this alone already (at least partly) explains his optimism, which is understandably not necessarily shared with people in positions of less economic power. Reading it is an object lesson in…

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The decline of the American Empire

It is no exaggeration to say that America ain’t what it used to be. Several articles I have read recently indicate this, whether they focus on Trump’s disastrous presidency, on social or educational matters. One in particular caught my attention yesterday (see here), and another this morning (see here), both of which draw one’s attention…

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Literature, art, space, and the secret of life

It never ceases to amaze me that the arts – foremost among them literature, sculpture, architecture, music, painting and cinema – are able to capture in their respective medium(s) virtually everything that makes life worth living; in a phrase, the ‘secret of life’. My recent re-reading of all my favourite John Fowles novels is what…

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Language: An emotive issue

Why is language such an emotive issue? Primarily because it goes to the heart of what we are as speaking beings, as Jacques Lacan would no doubt retort. Language is what differentiates between humans and other animals insofar as it is a symbolic system where every signifier (word, image, or gesture) corresponds with a signified…

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Educational disparities at an international level

For some time now, it has been the case that internationalisation of education cannot be separated from globalisation as a multifaceted phenomenon. This inevitably raises the question of whether such globalisation, especially given its inseparability from advanced (electronic) communicational developments (partly as a means to the sharing of knowledge and, unavoidably, economic prosperity), is judged…

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John Fowles’ beguiling literary art

Undoubtedly one of the great exponents of the novel in English, recently deceased John Fowles, wrote novels that, in addition to gripping narratives, integrated many insights and elements from disciplines such as natural science and psychoanalysis, sometimes in such a manner that these elements functioned as drivers for narrative action. A case in point is…

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The weakness of the ANC

The current elective conference of the ANC makes me think, involuntarily, of the decline of this once-proud, 105-year old organisation, to the point where it has been too weak to do the obvious thing, namely to ‘recall’ (their chosen euphemism for discharge, or fire) their current (and soon-to-be-replaced) president, Jacob Zuma. The funny thing, which…

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A challenging archaeological perspective

In the world of archaeology it seems that it takes a long time for what Thomas Kuhn called a “paradigm switch” to take place. By this phrase – as is well-known – Kuhn (1962) meant a sudden abandonment of a certain fundamental conception of a science, which has held sway for some time, in favour…

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