||Hart Gillian, Naidoo Prishani, Veriava Ahmed, Mbali Mandisa, Chari Sharad, Wilson ZoŽ & Neocosmos Michael (2007) Research Reports 2005 volume 1 (27-32) From Local Processes to Global Forces. CCS Research Reports : 1-200.
Research report no. 27 1
denaturalising dispossession: critical ethnography in the
age of resurgent imperialism
Research report no. 28 27
Prishani Naidoo and Ahmed Veriava
Re-membering movements: trade unions and new social
movements in Neoliberal South Africa
Research report no. 29 63
The Treatment Action Campaign and the history of
rights-based, patient-driven hiv/aids activism in South Africa
Research Report no. 30 87
Political work: the holy spirit and the labours of activism
in the shadows of Durbanís refineries
Research Report no. 31 123
Wishful thinking, wilful blindness and artful amnesia:
power and the undpís promotion of democracy in Botswana,
Namibia and Tanzania
Research Report no. 32 157
Re-thinking politics today: elements of a critique of political liberalism in southern Africa
The Centre for Civil Society was established at Durban's University of KwaZulu-Natal in July 2001, with the mission of promoting the study of civil society as a legitimate, flourishing area of scholarly activity. Our two-dozen strong community at UKZN's Howard College campus is comprised of academics and research officers, administrators, visiting scholars, and doctoral and masters students. Our home is the university's renowned School of Development Studies, and our colleagues include more than 150 research grantees, research associates, community liaisons and other collaborators. Until 2004, Adam Habib was founder and director; in 2004 Vishnu Padayachee (also head of the School of Development Studies) took over as interim director when Adam took an executive post at the Human Sciences Research Council; and in October 2004 Patrick Bond moved from Wits and York Universities to become director.
The Centre is committed to independent critical scholarship. We serve as a research unit housing several major multi-year programmes whose staff are funded mainly from external resources, including (in 2004-05) the Ford Foundation, Mott Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, the Foundation for Human Rights, the Finnish Embassy, the SA-Netherlands Research Programme for Alternatives in Development, the Norwegian Research Council and the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa.
In addition, the Centre's staff work on self-directed research projects (e.g., Mandisa Mbali's work on AIDS activism, featured in a Report below). The Centre's services to the intellectual community include provision of research grants, and one of the six Reports (by Prishani Naidoo and Ahmed Veriava) in this volume was funded in this manner. We are also fortunate to have resources for Post-Doctoral fellowships, given to outstanding young academics working on projects of relevance to African civil society (ZoŽ Wilson's Report in this volume is an exemplar). We also maintain collaborative relations with research associates (e.g., Gillian Hart, Sharad Chari and Michael Neocosmos) for whom we offer publishing and seminar outlets.
The Centre runs a popular website which contains over 2 000 articles, documents and images. The site receives an average of over 1 800 page impressions per working day. Research Reports contained in this volume - and the 27 preceding Reports - are available for free download (as .pdf files) from the website. This new format for the Centre's Research Reports- which formerly were published as individual A4-size pamphlets - aims to make our work more durable and, in a sense, formal. We look forward to feedback, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To begin this volume, we are grateful for cutting-edge analysis of modern capitalism brought 'home' to South Africa - where some of it originated! - by a native Durban geographer based mainly at Berkeley, Gillian Hart. Hart weaves together spatio-temporal, political-economic, socio-cultural and critical ethnographic insights recently developed, amongst others, by Michael Perelman, David Harvey, Massimo DeAngelis and Michael Burawoy (a 2004 Harold Wolpe Trust Memorial Lecturer, from whom we borrow this volume's title 'from local processes to global forces'). The idea of 'accumulation by dispossession' - Harvey's phrase, drawn from Rosa Luxemburg - has a great deal of resonance with South Africa's history of 'articulations of modes of production' (to borrow Wolpe's famous idea). Perhaps it is the responsibility of political economists working here to test whether 'global apartheid' - a concept regularly invoked by president Thabo Mbeki - follows the distinctive superexploitative logics of South Africa's highly-gendered racial apartheid, so fraught with what Marx termed 'primitive accumulation'.
Of course, as not only Hart but also Prishani Naidoo and Ahmed Veriava show, the dilemmas of opposing contemporary class apartheid - with all its racialised, gendered, ecological and geopolitical features - include conflicts over the sorts of analyses and discourses that can be most fruitfully invoked. For Hart, there are warnings about local-global scale jumps emerging from the Mumbai slums, as debated by Arjun Appadurai and Swapna Bannerjee. On this difficult terrain, Hart's own studies of land, including diverse South African appropriations of Zimbabwe's experience, and municipal-scale struggles in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, are enormously rich, and lead her to call for 'nonimperial geopolitical categories' which in turn feed into 'relational understandings of the production of space and scale'. These, she concludes, 'are crucial for forcing attention to the mutually constitutive processes through which metropoles and (post)colonies make and remake one another.'
The remaking of African nationalist politics and trade union values under neoliberalism, and the invention of new organisational forms mainly associated with the excluded multitude, animate Naidoo and Veriava. Their contribution to the Centre's now voluminous set of 'social movement' research studies is not only careful documentation of Johannesburg community politics since 2000, which is the bulk of the material presented in the Report. They also show us the merits of 'praxis', of being deeply involved in the social change movements from which they write. As former Wits University student activists (and as current UKZN School of Development Studies masters research students based at the Centre for Civil Society), they are acutely aware of university neoliberalism, which serves these authors as a means of introducing the ideological standpoints now dividing South Africa's leftist social forces. The Report is the most detailed accounting yet of the conflict between trade union interests (often corporatist, tied to an alliance with the ruling party) and the chaotic rise of independent-left organisation and ideology.
Different themes on similar terrain - 'rights-based' advocates demanding increasing access to state resources - are considered by the Centre for Civil Society's Mandisa Mbali. She uses the Treatment Action Campaign's predecessors, origins and human rights discourses to help us understand and appreciate the complicated politics of gay/lesbian/bisexual advocacy and human rights rhetoric. Access to anti-retroviral medicines has been one of the most difficult struggles in transitional South Africa. Because of TAC's partial successes, which are still enormously important (e.g. breaking the logic of intellectual property rights, and forcing the president to authorise medicines he does not believe in), Mbali gives TAC leadership great credit. Still, as she recognises, the local processes which appear to have influenced global forces are not innocent of complications associated with strategies, tactics and alliances. Given TAC's strong commitment to remain within the ruling party in politico-ideological terms, their success may not be replicable outside that model. Still, these complications take us back to the formation of consciousness and identity, topics whose application to activists/strategists like Zackie Achmat and Edwin Cameron certainly deserve our rapt attention.
In a model of detailed political ethnography, Sharad Chari of the London School of Economics Department of Geography and the UKZN School of Development Studies returns to Hart's theoretical challenges, as he takes up even more profound problems concerning the reproduction of the capitalist system and class, ethnic, racial and especially gender identity and struggle. Durban's 'Coloured' and 'Indian' industrial neighbourhoods of Wentworth are his case study site. The analysis is a fitting tribute to the wealth of cultural experiences and social struggles that continue in that setting. With rigour, eloquence and a brilliant spotlight on the travails of daily life, Chari unravels social relations within and between gangs, labourers, anti-apartheid activists, contemporary red/green eco-justice movements, womens' groups and especially semi-formal charismatic-religious organisations. He concludes by questioning why subaltern politics rely upon religion in 'a community living next door to oil refineries, to stand in for a very different universal medium than money, to confront the degradations of commodification and incomplete decolonisation in contemporary South Africa'.
Moving then to macropolitical transitional arrangements within micro contexts, and to the Southern African region, some of the most challenging sites for civil society organisations are those bound up in 'governance', especially when they confront the 'democracy agenda', as CCS post-doctoral scholar ZoŽ Wilson shows in her critique of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). In studies of Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania, she gathers evidence suggesting that this agenda (unwittingly) creates fertile ground for authoritarian state/society relations. Wilson points out that while none of the evidence reviewed is necessary or sufficient to undermine optimism about the democracy agenda, nevertheless, the UNDP's profound conceptual flaws may well result in interventions that will, first and foremost, empower the state apparatus and its elites.
Finally, University of Pretoria sociologist Michael Neocosmos draws many of the core themes above into a new engagement with orthodox political theory. He considers 'contradictions between neoliberalism and nationalism' and the 'often colonial character of liberal human rights discourse as it confronts "tradition" in Africa.' This logic leads him to endorse 'popular-democratic nationalisms' as the 'only perspectives capable of addressing issues of social justice in the interests of a majority,' as distinct from the 'statist-militaristic discourses' bound up in patriarchy and neoliberalism which are so common in Southern Africa. Liberalism, Neocosmos insists, is simply not capable of making the leap to social justice. He reflects upon the ideas of Alain Badiou to unveil 'the highly limited and limiting nature' of liberal political thought: '[I]f the concern is to conceptualise a genuinely popular form of democracy in which popular institutions are sovereign, in which politics is truly emancipatory, then an intellectual effort needs to be made to think politics in a different manner.'
Neocosmos argues for an explicit recognition of 'a popular or subaltern domain of politics beyond the immediate purview of the state.', which is precisely the point of the Research Report series and indeed nearly all the work of the Centre for Civil Society. Whether these Reports and future publications of the Centre are up to the challenge, only you the reader - and civil societies, in all their diverse practices - can judge.
Patrick Bond, Durban, February 2005
For the CCS Publications Collective