Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking at the Nelson Mandela Tribute held at UNISA in Ormonde. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaking at the Nelson Mandela Tribute held at UNISA in Ormonde. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)

Cancelling Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie lecture would rob people of chance to learn, says UCT

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Jul 28, 2021

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Cape Town - The UCT student representative council (SRC) is up in arms, requesting an open lecture by writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie scheduled for this evening be cancelled, accusing her of transphobia.

Recently, Adichie came under fire for an essay on her official website titled “It Is Obscene” published in June. In the three-part essay, Adichie addressed two unnamed authors she took under her wing, who later criticised her for “transphobic comments” made in a 2017 interview where she said “trans women are trans women”.

She was widely criticised by members of the LGBTQIA+ community for the comment, with it labelled as transphobic and her feminism described as “lacking intersectionality”.

The SRC wrote an open letter to the vice-chancellor (VC), stating its concern after the university announced Adichie as a guest speaker for its virtual second VC’s Open Lecture of the year.

The SRC said Adichie is a commendable writer and without a doubt has been a powerful voice for women’s rights, however her comments in 2017 during an Interview with Channel 4 were "extremely transphobic statement", especially coming from someone who was meant to be representing the voice of all women.

UCT spokesperson Nombuso Shabalala said the university appreciated the letter from the SRC and the views they expressed and were pleased to see the SRC’s intention to stand up for the rights of those who were often marginalised, abused and violated by society.

Shabalala said UCT was constantly working to adapt to shifting contexts, especially around transformation and inclusivity. She said one of the most fundamental points they constantly highlight and strive for is to enable a non-discriminatory environment for all on their campus.

"It is our view that the invitation of internationally acclaimed author and renowned feminist, Adichie, to deliver the next Vice-Chancellor’s Open lecture, titled ’The Idolatry of Theory: a Defence of Storytelling’, in no way diminishes, undermines or changes our ongoing efforts in creating a culture of inclusivity, tolerance and acceptance for our diverse community within the university," she said.

She said Adichie is known for her LGBTQIA+ rights advocacy in Nigeria. While her advocacy has been controversial, it has to be understood in the full complexity of its context.

"We view the upcoming lecture as all the other VC lectures. It is an opportunity for debate, for an exchange of ideas, for grappling with issues and different perspectives on the same issue," said Shabalala.

She said cancelling the lecture would rob them all of the opportunity to share, to express, to learn and to change their minds. The alternative of silencing robs them of all of those opportunities.

Meanwhile as the vice-chancellor posted a reminder for today’s lecture, people on social media shared their thoughts.

After hearing the response from the university, the SRC has announced that they will boycotting the lecture and instead will be holding a their own open lecture, “The Dangers of Sectional Feminism, in the Context of Trans Women” at 6pm today.

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