ISS 20 år: Social Movements and the Limits to Insurgent Citizenship in South Africa
Professor Jeremy Seekings, Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town
In 2016 the Department of Sociology and Human Geography is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the two disciplines being brought together to form the department as it is today.
Abstract: In the 2000s, a 'rebellion of the poor' erupted in poor urban neighbourhoods across South Africa, as residents challenged poor service delivery by the post-apartheid state and their dissatisfaction with political representation, especially in local government. Linked to 'new social movements', these protests seem to entail the kind of "insurgent citizenship" discussed by Holston with respect to urban Brazil, as poor citizens claim social, economic and political rights. This paper examines the limits to "insurgent citizenship" in the South African case: economic claims were limited to redistribution through the state (through public services), without addressing the underlying issues of distribution (notably of employment), whilst demands for more participatory governance floundered. The lecture builds on the arguments in Chapter 10 of "Policy, Politics and Poverty in South Africa" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and the article " Is the South 'Brazilian'? The public realm in urban Brazil through a comparative lens" (Policy and Politics, 2013).