Sacrifice After Mandela: Debts of Liberation Among South Africa’s First Post-Apartheid Generation

Monday, 24 July, 2017 - 15:00

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On 14 Jul, 2017, the police officer who shot seventeen-year-old schoolgirl Nqobile Nzuza during a 2013 street protest was convicted of “murder beyond a reasonable doubt.” The discussion of this article will be framed in terms of this conviction, and ongoing protests over land and housing in Durban, South Africa. The article examines sacrifice in a post-Mandela South Africa. Twenty years since the fall of apartheid, South Africa remains one of the world’s most unequal societies. From street protests to labor strikes to xenophobic pogroms, dissatisfaction with current socio-economic conditions is being expressed through urban unrest, particularly in townships and shack settlements. This article analyzes an emerging idiom of “sacrifice” among youth activists in response to deaths and injuries sustained during recent street protests. I argue that this idiom draws from understandings of liberation and liberalization, from popular imaginaries of the anti-apartheid struggle, and from processes associated with South Africa’s democratic transition. Broadly, I suggest that sacrifice under liberalism reveals the blurring boundaries between “the gift” and “the market” in political life. [Keywords: Sacrifice, violence, policing, race, class, liberalism]

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