Kerry Chance, Cultural Anthropology
This article combines theories of liberal governance, material life, and popular politics to examine the unruly force of fire in state-citizen struggles. Tracking interactions between state agents and activist networks during South Africa’s celebrated democratic transition, I analyze how the urban poor leverage the material properties of fire to secure techno-institutional claims to energy infrastructure, and more broadly to political inclusion and economic redistribution. I highlight how fire, as a social and historical as well as a chemical process, becomes a staging ground for the promise and endangerment of infrastructure. Approaching fire as intertwined with power, I argue, illuminates how those living on the margins of the city come to inhabit political roles that transform economic relationships in the context of liberalism.
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Last week, the worst fires to hit the Cape Peninsula in many years burnt thousands of hectares of vegetation, took two lives and 13 houses, and saw at least 500 residents evacuated. Capetonians responded with heartwarming displays of community spirit, donating food, drinks, and millions of rand after being moved by the heroism of firefighters – some of whom were unpaid volunteers with day-jobs, and others who are remunerated just R86 per day. The latter firefighters live in areas where devastating fires are more commonplace. By REBECCA DAVIS.
Fires are nothing new to Cape Town, where large stretches of arid vegetation become a tinderbox during the hottest and windiest months of summer. Not since 2000, however, has a fire raged out of control in the manner that it did last week. The story attracted international media attention, likely aided by some incredible and terrifying photographs. Continue reading
Aftermath of the latest Foreman Road fire (which cost two lives) – 9 November 2014
Sunday, 9 November 2014
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
A Shack Fire in the Foreman Road shack settlement in Clare Estate, Durban has Claimed Two Lives
Yesterday we had a very successful march, together with our Congolese comrades, against the politic of death. Early this morning two residents of the Foreman Road shack settlement lost their lives in a huge fire. We are the people that can be freely murdered without consequence. We are also the people that are left to live like pigs in the mud and to die in shack fires.
For almost ten years we have been struggling to force the state to take shack fires seriously. We have won many victories over the years but we remain the people that are left to burn. Every time there is a fire the politicians and the police rush to blame us for the fire. They never blame the conditions in which we are forced to live. They never meet with us to work out a way to improve these conditions. We will not rest until we have forced this society to recognise and respect our humanity. Continue reading