7 September, 2015: Antonádia Borges (University of Brasilia)

Title: NO SYSTEM, NO POLITICS? Iconoclastic disruptions in contemporary South Africa and their theoretical misrecognition. 
15:30-17:00h, room 1A21, Pieter de la Court building

About Antonádia Borges

Dr. Antonádia Borges teaches Anthropology at the University of Brasilia, Brazil. She conducts her research with ‘popular ethnographers’ who dedicate their lives to understanding policies on land and housing. In South Africa, her work with women and other social activists made her acknowledge how modernist and developmentalist machineries enhance racism and segregation. Her main effort is to teach and spread challenging perspectives and diverging political views from peripheral worlds and ontologies.

For a full CV, see: Antonádia Monteiro Borges 


Political protest in South Africa
Democratic South Africa has seen the rise of what I call coarse or granular political actions. By challenging the legitimacy of elections, diverse campaigns have unveiled a bargain element that undergirds the concept of a representative parliament either through charismatic personalities or strong party constituencies. The ground-breaking No Land, No Vote or No House, No Vote campaigns have led to the Toilet War. These campaigns staged persistent racism, inequality, and segregation on the margins of the well-established political arena.

In more recent times, iconoclastic disruptions have pierced the national parliament. While wearing the red aprons of domestic servants and the red overalls of mineworkers, members of the political party EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) have in one single movement (i) dismissed the inherited ways of good behaviour in the House of Representatives and (ii) revealed domestic servants and mineworkers as the slaves behind the persistent and deeply rooted structure of capital accumulation. The red mineworker garments and helmets worn by the male EFF politicians unequivocally alluded to an increasing granular political protest that has been cropping up around the country since the 2012 massacre of mineworkers by state police forces, supposedly to defend a private company. Since then the Never forget Marikana movement has been a constant presence in countrywide debates.

A persistent colonial approach of political actions
In a more recent expression of unease with the modern model of political representation, student protests have marred the pristine academic world with their revolt against the persistent colonial presence at the university that reproduces academic privilege and racism. The Rhodes must fall campaign has exposed unhealed wounds that the post-Apartheid generation was not supposed to be aware of.

Social scientists have been attentive to these political actions. But when they explicitly take the side of modern political representation most miss a point: a system is more a conceptual, analytical model than a representation of any intrinsic property of the real. When we as social scientists assume that the electoral system is the pinnacle of political participation, we risk undermining and scorning emerging granular actions that go against the idea and ideal of representation.  In short, a persistent colonial approach still drives us to deal with the so-called acephalous bodies as underdeveloped and threatening political formations.

This is a joint Research Seminar with the African Studies Centre (ASC). Chair: Erik Bähre.

Research seminars & workshops Fall 2015