Violent Cultures, Acting Citizens and the Passive State: Contesting Political Morality in South Africa

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Tawanda Sydesky NYAWASHA, University of Limpopo, South Africa
In this paper, I discuss how the use of violence has become a mechanism for mostly poor citizens in contemporary South Africa to contest the moral functioning of government and state institutions. More essentially, the paper locates the place of violence within the broader state-society relationship. The paper argues that this interaction between the state and ordinary citizens in South Africa reveals the everyday appropriation of violence by either party to foster an ‘effective’ social and political contract. By taking cues from the everyday social struggles of the poor that manifest themselves through social protest, this paper argues that the use of violence in such struggles is largely an outcome of a weakening moral order on the part of political authority. My evidence for this claim is purely qualitative and ethnographic. I engage with this evidence in this paper to reflect on the agency of the figure of a “violent citizen”. In this reflection, I show how this agency is shaped mostly by everyday moral concerns related to the normative/democratic practice of government and party politics especially at the local level.