Category Archives: seminar

WISER Seminar: Circuits of Schooling and the Production of Space

Circuits of Schooling and the Production of Space: the Household, Education, and Symbolic Struggles after Apartheid

by Mark Hunter

Every weekday morning, in every South African city, scores of taxis, buses, and cars move children, black and white, long distances to attend schools. A simple explanation for the phenomenal rise of out-of-area schooling in South Africa—one perhaps unmatched anywhere in the world—is the end of apartheid’s racially divided schooling system in the 1990s. But focused on south and central Durban, this paper traces the emergence of ten distinct pathways that children take through different schools, referred to as “circuits of schooling.” The social-geographical inequalities that underpin schoolchildren’s movement today, it argues, are rooted in racial segregation under apartheid, rising inequalities within segregated areas from the 1970s, and a decisive shift from race- to class-based inequalities after 1994. However, rather than seeing children’s mobility as unfolding mechanically from social structure, life histories of parents and interviews with schoolteachers demonstrate that it is a) emerging from important gendered socio-spatial transformations in families/households; b) tied up with the reworking of symbolic power, including through the contested status of English language and schoolboy sports like rugby; c) and produced by (and producing) new struggles over space. As such, the paper proposes that the concurrent deracialization of schools, workplaces, and residential areas is marked by a new urban politics in which the “right to the city” and education are deeply intertwined.

Click here to download this paper at the WISER site.

WISER Seminar: Thought Amidst Waste

Thought Amidst Waste
Conjunctural Notes on the Democratic Project in South Africa

Paper for the Wits Interdisciplinary Seminar in the Humanities, WISER, University of the Witwatersrand, 28 May 2012

by Richard Pithouse, Department of Politics & International Relations, Rhodes University, Grahamstown

the existence of suffering human beings, who think, and thinking human beings, who are oppressed, must inevitably become unpalatable and indigestible to the animal world of philistinism.
-Karl Marx, Cologne, 1843

In a recent essay Achille Mbembe argues that the rendering of human beings as waste by the interface of racism and capitalism in South Africa means that “for the democratic project to have any future at all, it should necessarily take the form of a conscious attempt to retrieve life and ‘the human’ from a history of waste”. He adds that “the concepts of ‘the human’, or of ‘humanism’, inherited from the West will not suffice. We will have to take seriously the anthropological embeddedness of such terms in long histories of “the human” as waste.”

UKZN Seminar: “Where There is Fire, There is Politics:” Ungovernability in Democratic South Africa

Development Studies and Population Studies Seminar – note unusual day and time.
Title: “Where There is Fire, There is Politics:” Ungovernability in Democratic South Africa
Speaker: Kerry Chance (Social Anthropology at Harvard University)
Time: 14:00 – 15:30 (Tuesday) 24 July 2012.
Venue: Seminar Room F213, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Memorial Tower Building, UKZN Google maps: -29.866933,30.981963

Abstract: This talk examines the political meanings of fire amongst residents of townships and shack settlements in post-apartheid South Africa. I argue that fire – inside the home as a hazardous source of light and heat, or on the streets to signal revolt – expresses a grammar of everyday practices and interactions between residents and state officials. Where residents posit the state’s failure to provide formal housing and services as the cause of routine slum conflagrations and street protests, officials posit a new criminal type amongst ‘the poor.’ These practices and interactions have given rise to disputes in South African public discourse over the legitimate demarcation between crime and politics under liberal democratic conditions. Key words: politics; crime; nature; slums; sovereignty; violence; liberal democracy

Dr. Kerry Chance is a University of Chicago-trained anthropologist and currently a Visiting Faculty member and American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellow in Social Anthropology at Harvard University. She is a former Visiting Research Fellow at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, South Africa. She has held fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner Foundation, the Marcus Garvey Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, and the Mellon Foundation. She is the author of the forthcoming book Living Politics: Practices and Protests of ‘the Poor’ in Democratic South Africa, as well as other scholarly articles, news pieces and published interviews.

RU Seminar: Democracy at the Brink of Catastrophe

The Faculty of Humanities together with the Women’s Academic Solidarity Association at Rhodes University in Grahamstown invite you to attend the following lunch time seminar:

Topic: Democracy at the Brink of Catastrophe

Speakers: Shamita Naidoo & S’bu Zikode

Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) is a shack-dwellers’ movement that grew out of a road blockade in the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban in early 2005. It now has more than 10 000 paid up members in 54 settlements across KwaZulu-Natal and, also, in Cape Town. The movement campaigns for land and housing in the cities and to democratise society from below. It has actively organised against xenophobia and has recently succeeded in having the KwaZulu-Natal Slums Act declared unconstitutional in the Constitutional Court.

In the last month more than 30 of the movement’s elected leaders have had their homes destroyed, 21 of its members have been arrested and many of its leaders are living in hiding. Public death threats continue to be issued against the movement’s leaders. The movement insists that the attacks are backed by senior people in the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. The ANC has denied this.

Shamita Naidoo and S’bu Zikode will speak on recent events and their significance for democracy in South Africa.

For more information

Venue: Faculty of Humanities
Date: Friday 30th October 2009
Time: 1 – 2pm


CSD Seminar: Democracy under Threat? What Attacks on Grassroots Activists Mean for our Politics

Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) at the University of Johannesburg invites you to a seminar entitled:

Democracy under Threat?: What Attacks on Grassroots Activists Mean for our Politics

DEMOCRACY requires that the right to express ourselves in association with others be enjoyed by all, not only those who are well connected and visible. Constant allegations over the past few years that grassroots social movements who are critical of the government have been subject to police action denying them those rights are, therefore, a severe threat to the credibility of South African democracy.

Until now, the evidence has suggested that attacks on the rights of grassroots citizens to free political activity have been the work of local politicians seeking to protect their turf, not of regional or national politicians. Recent violent attacks on leaders and members of the shack-dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo in Durban’s Kennedy Road settlement have, however, been publicly endorsed by ministers in the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, raising the possibility that senior politicians are now endorsing attempts to suppress grassroots government critics. If these fears are accurate, democracy is under grave threat: if some are denied the right to express themselves, no-one can be sure that their rights and freedoms will be preserved.

The events at Kennedy Road and the repeated allegations that grassroots political activity is being suppressed therefore require careful scrutiny and analysis. We need to understand their implications for democracy and the steps which are needed to ensure that all are entitled to speak and to associate. The Centre for the Study of Democracy at Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg will, therefore, host a seminar at which grassroots activists, scholars and human rights campaigners will discuss threats to free political activity and their implications.

Venue: Training Centre, 6th Floor, South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)

Time: 9am to 3pm

Date: Wednesday, 4 November 2009

RSVP: Johnny Selemani – / 073 553 0726

Kate Tissington – / 072 220 9125 (by Friday 30 October 2009)


Steven Friedman, Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD)

Pregs Govender, South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)

S’bu Zikode, President, Abahlali basMjondolo

Mnikelo Ndabankulu, Spokesperson, AbM

Zodwa Nsibande, General Secretary of the Youth League, AbM

Michael Neocosmos, Monash University

Richard Pithouse, Politics Department, Rhodes University

Andile Mngxitama, Foundation for Human Rights (FHR)

Marcelle Dawson, Centre for Sociological Research, University of Johannesburg (to be confirmed)

Noor Nieftagodien, History Department, University of the Witwatersrand