Resisting Xenophobic Violence in South Africa: thinking the character of popular politics

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 14:15
Location: Constitution Hall (MTCC NORTH BUILDING)
Oral Presentation
Michael NEOCOSMOS, Rhodes University, South Africa
As is well known South Africa has experienced on-going xenophobic violence since achieving democracy. Violent outbursts in 2008 and 2015 were simply extreme examples of a xenophobic culture that is endemic in the population as a whole. I have argued elsewhere that in essence, xenophobia must first and foremost be understood as a particular form of (state) politics, i.e. it is characterised by discourses and practices embodied in state thinking (indigeneity, autochthony, national entitlements, exclusion, etc.). These discourses and practices are accompanied by a (state) produced culture that legitimates the deployment of violence for the resolving of contradictions and differences within the context of a specific mode of rule in what I term a domain of ‘uncivil society’. Most research has focussed on analysing xenophobia and xenophobic violence and not on explicit organised opposition to it among ordinary people within uncivil society. This presentation focuses rather on much less well-known political subjectivities: the alternative politics of resisting xenophobic violence and their related attempts at confronting the dominant state politics of exclusion. I will comment on such experiences in order to elucidate what I believe to be indications, in some instances, of a politics of universal humanity emanating from such resistance.