Category Archives: Anna Selmeczi

CLP: Anna Selmeczi “Haunted by the Rebellion of the Poor” : Thursday 17 March

Padkos and the Paulo Freire Institute, are very pleased to welcome Anna Selmeczi back to Maritzburg. Join us at 4:30 to hear the talk and share some drinks and snacks together.

We last met Anna when she did such a great job as our guest speaker at the launch of our second “Padkos Digest” volume in 2014. Anna currently holds the South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI): Social Change, at the University of Fort Hare and has been a consistent partner in our journey to uncover paths towards emancipatory praxis in our South African context. Continue reading

Haunted by the Rebellion of the Poor: Civil Society and the Racialized Problem of the (Non-)economic Subject

Haunted by the Rebellion of the Poor: Civil Society and the Racialized Problem of the (Non-)economic Subject

Anna Selmeczi

Intrigued by the so-called “rebellion of the poor,” this paper traces back the cur-rent South African concern with popular protest to its reconfiguration during the last years of the apartheid order. Focusing on the discourse around grassroots resistance in the mid- to late-1980s, I begin by showing how, in juxtaposition to an ideal notion of civil society, popular mo-bilization had been largely delegitimized and the emancipatory politics of ungovernability recast as antidemocratic by the first few years of the post-apartheid regime. In deploying par-ticular notions of violence and culture, this discursive shift, I suggest, fed into reconstructing the ungovernable subject as the racial other of the new South Africa’s citizenry. The second part of the paper mobilizes Foucault’s genealogy of liberalism to draw parallels between this process and the liberal effort to resolve the potentially conflicting principles of governing the economic subject and the subject of rights within the realm of civil society. Finally, via the postcolonial critique of liberal notions of civility and their rootedness in racial thinking, I sug-gest that civil society secures the governability of the population through rendering the poten-tially disruptive freedom of the people as the excess freedom of the racialized other.

 

Haunted by the Rebellion of the Poor: Civil Society and the Racialized Problem of the (Non-)economic Subject

by Anna Selmeczi, Foucault Studies

Intrigued by the so-called “rebellion of the poor,” this paper traces back the current South African concern with popular protest to its reconfiguration during the last years of the apartheid order. Focusing on the discourse around grassroots resistance in the mid- to late-1980s, I begin by showing how, in juxtaposition to an ideal notion of civil society, popular mobilization had been largely delegitimized and the emancipatory politics of ungovernability recast as antidemocratic by the first few years of the post-apartheid regime. In deploying particular notions of violence and culture, this discursive shift, I suggest, fed into reconstructing the ungovernable subject as the racial other of the new South Africa’s citizenry. The second part of the paper mobilizes Foucault’s genealogy of liberalism to draw parallels between this process and the liberal effort to resolve the potentially conflicting principles of governing the economic subject and the subject of rights within the realm of civil society. Finally, via the postcolonial critique of liberal notions of civility and their rootedness in racial thinking, I suggest that civil society secures the governability of the population through rendering the potentially disruptive freedom of the people as the excess freedom of the racialized other.

 

Dis/placing political illiteracy: the politics of intellectual equality in a South African shack-dwellers’ movement

Anna Selmeczi, Interface

This paper starts out with the claim that the contemporary spatio-political order of the South African “world class” city is conditional upon constructing many lives as superfluous and disposable. This construction partly rests on the inherited topography of apartheid displacement which continues to push the poor black majority into zones of invisibility and inaudibility. Beyond this physical distancing, the production and abandonment of surplus people also depends on rendering them as improper political subjects. In the prevailing political discourse, poor people’s struggles are deemed less than political through notions such as the idea that all protest is related to the pace of “service delivery” or accusations of violence, as well as often explicit characterizations of dissenting people as ignorant. Such discursive moves imply and reinforce a conception of the poor black majority as unable to think and practice their own politics; that is, as a politically illiterate group of people.

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Abahlali’s Vocal Politics of Proximity: Speaking, Suffering and Political Subjectivization

Abahlali’s Vocal Politics of Proximity: Speaking, Suffering and Political Subjectivization

by Anna Selmeczi

Using as its point of departure the claim that today the urban is the main site for the abandonment of superfluous people, this article explores the emancipatory politics of the South African shack-dwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo. Based on a notion of political subjectivization as the appropriation of excess freedom, I argue that Abahlali disrupt the order of the ‘world-class city’ when they expose the contradiction between the democratic inscriptions of equality and the lethal segmentation of the urban order. In articulating their living conditions as the unjustified breach of the promise of ‘a better life’, the
shack-dwellers prove their equality and thus emerge as political subjects. As the article argues, at the centre of this process is a political practice of speaking and listening that is driven by the imperative to reverse the distancing and delaying practices of an order that abandons them by remaining physically, experientially and cognitively proximate to the experiences of life in the shantytown.