SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

South Africa's Rebellion of the Poor

Peter Alexander
Peter Alexander, University of Johannesburg

Date: 11 November 2013Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 11 November 2013Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Kamran Djam Lecture Theatre (DLT, formerly G2)

Type of Event: Seminar

Alexander argues that the massive wave of local political protests that has developed in South Africa since 2005 amounts to a Rebellion of the Poor. Many of the protests are insurrectionary, and until the recent uprising in Egypt, South Africa probably had more protests per capita than any other country. This rebellion has occurred alongside a level of strike action that is also, arguably, the highest in the world, but this workers' movement hardly ever connects with that of the poor. Why? Alexander posits that the existence of 'different relationship to the means of protest' may provide part of an explanation. But why - in contrast to mass movements in Egypt, Brazil and elsewhere - does the rebellion exist as a series of discreet protests, with no city-centre demonstrations? And what are the implications of the rebellion and the strikes for the hegemony of South Africa's ruling party in the wake of the Marikana Massacre?

Peter Alexander is a professor of sociology at the University of Johannesburg where he holds the South African Research Chair in Social Change. He was president of the SOAS Students' Union  (1975-76). His books include Racism, Resistance and Revolution (1987), Workers, War and the Origins of Apartheid (2000) and Class in Soweto (2013). He is lead author of Marikana: A View for the Mountain and a Case to Answer, which first appeared last year in South Africa (Jacana) and has since been re-published in the UK (Bookmarks) and the US (Ohio University Press). He is also the author of three publications on South Africa's Rebellion of the Poor and is presently writing a book on the subject based on quantitative as well a qualitative research.

Organiser: Professor Gilbert Achcar

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