Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > The Struggle for a Second Transition in South Africa: Uprising, Development and Precarity in the Post-Apartheid City
pdf

This dissertation explores the limitations of post-apartheid liberation in the specific environment of Durban, South Africa. It takes a social movement of shack dwellers, Abahlali baseMjondolo, as a looking glass into urban debates concerned with the wellbeing of some of South Africa's most marginalized communities. As the country struggles to deal with the ongoing crises of mass poverty, inequality, and unemployment, the government has responded with a range of developmental projects. At the same time, poor people around the country have protested injustice in record numbers, rivaling levels of unrest in any other part of the world. A mix of state repression and increased governmental redistribution of wealth has been the official response. This study explores these contentious issues by placing them in the context of South Africa's Second Transition. More broadly, the approach situates the study at multiple geographical scales of analysis from the global to the continental, and the regional to the city. In so doing, it tries to de-center the nation-state as a central unit of analysis without losing site of the specificity of South Africa's challenges. The dissertation begins by exploring national debates around the resurgence of social movements in post-apartheid South Africa, before moving on to approach to the issue of racialization as a central divisive factor within South Africa and in many of the global uprisings that have occurred since 2011. The study shifts to explore state responses to these moments of unrest and rebellion from below by thinking about the rise of a South African developmental state over the past decade. The developmental state in Durban is examined through one of the country's largest public housing projects. Finally, the dissertation explores the other side of the coin to the state's response to movements: beyond developmental initiatives too often lies naked repression. The violence that racialized communities living in slums throughout South Africa face is explored through a variety of debates around the peculiarities of precarity beyond the global North. The study closes by putting the findings into conversation with Mahmood Mamdani's seminal work on the legacy of African colonialism.