The Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University (UHURU) will host a one day colloquium on 17 April 2014 entitled, “The Marikana Moment and the Post-apartheid state: migrant-worker subjectivity and state violence”.
The colloquium aims to address a number of pertinent questions that include the following:
- How is the subjectivity of the striking miners to be understood?
- Were they simply strikers for a higher wage or were they rebellious workers threatening state power?
- How are we to understand the role of women and community members in the strike?
- What does the state action tell us, if anything regarding the character of South African democracy?
A number of academics and students will attempt to answer such questions by presenting their papers. Those presenting will include the University of the Western Cape’s Professor, Suren Pillay whose paper is entitled: “Citizen and Migrant: Rethinking Political Violence Then and Now”; a paper from Dr Paul Stewart from the University of Witwatersrand entitled: “The Rock Drill Operators and worker consciousness on the South African platinum mines: 1985-2014” and “The Marikana Moment: worker rebellion, state massacre and the failure of politics as representation” by Prof Michael Neocosmos.
The massacre of 32 migrant workers at the Marikana mine in August 2012 has raised and continues to raise important questions of an analytical and political kind in the post-apartheid South Africa.
Prof Neocosmos, the Director of UHURU, says the reason is arguably because both the miners and the state did not react according to theoretically expected ways.
“The workers insisted on representing themselves and seemed to reject trade union representation while the state did not pursue its response through corporatist structures, something a liberal democratic state would be expected to do, but rather reacted with intense violence,” he says.
“Yet the dominant accounts see the Marikana moment either as a criminal act or as a simple effect of the conflictual relations between labour and capital. But other questions also arise due to the displacement of migrant labour from official discourse and not least because the idea of ‘migrant labour’ has been replaced in state discourse by other terms such as ‘illegal immigrant’.”
Prof Neocosmos says the rationale for UHURU rightly insists that there has been in South Africa a separation between intellectual concerns in the humanities and social sciences and popular politics since the 1900s.
The mission of UHURU, a research project funded by Andrew W Mellon Foundation, is to come up with new paradigms and approaches for a critical engagement with present conditions.
The humanities in South African universities are facing a crisis. The crisis was highlighted by two reports released by the Department of Higher Education and Training (Charter for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the other from the Academy of Science of South Africa (Consensus Study on the State of the Humanities).
The two reports led to the formal establishment of SAHUDA and, at Rhodes, the new Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University (UHURU).
“The Uniqueness of UHURU lies in the direct manner in which it has understood the reasons for the decline and the ways in which it plans to make a contribution to reversing this trend. It is a bold and ambitious step towards generating knowledge directly connected with the challenges of our society,” says Dean of Humanities Prof Fred Hendricks.
Prof Neocosmos says that UHURU aims to produce young critical intellectuals who would take such debates and thinking forward into the future. “After all, if the prime concern of the humanities and social sciences is not with thinking human emancipation then it becomes quite difficult to justify their existence,” he added.
Programme: Click here
Photo: Prof Michael Neocosmos
By Zamuxolo Matiwana
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