Hope in the Debris of Capitalist Utopia?: Exploring Manifestations of Hope and Utopianism in the Everyday Lives of Workers and Communities in Lephalale, Limpopo

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Thembi LUCKETT, University of Witswatersrand, South Africa
Throughout history there have been dreams, visions and hopes for a utopian world. Hope is understood as an ontological reality, emergent from the unfinishedness of the world. Bloch’s seminal work uncovers a mass of material containing dreams and wishes for a better life, in the search for emancipatory-utopian elements in all living ideologies. In this way, his work brings to the fore contradictions, ambiguities and potentialities, as well as the possibilities of the capture/co-option of hope (Kellner, 1997). As such, we are forced to finely comb through the detail of everyday life; to look towards practices of the here and now, with all their contradictions and potentialities. Through ethnographic research methods, this paper seeks to explore manifestations of hope in the everyday lives of metalworkers and the communities in which they live in Lephalale, Limpopo. Lephalale is described as the “first post-apartheid town” and “the future mining and energy generation hub in South Africa” through the construction of the mega-project, Medupi coal power station as well as new coal mines. These resource extractivist mega-projects are firmly situated within the framework of the utopia of capitalist development and its concomitant practices of progress, growth and permanent accumulation. Mieville describes the utopia of corporations as a time of apocalypse too, in which the poor are dispensable. It is a utopia that will destroy its living foundations and leave fields of rubble behind in a modernist march of progress and thus the starting point of any counter utopia must be with dismantling the progress based on ‘empire’. In this context, how do the utopias of those in power get traced through the lives of people and the lands that they flatten, leaving rubble behind? In the debris, is there space for hope and possibility for the visioning of alternative collective utopias?