Advertisement

Performative Activism and Activist Performance: Young People Engaging in Decolonial Feminist Community Psychology in Contemporary South African Contexts

  • Tamara SheferEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Community Psychology book series (COMPSY)

Abstract

The last few years of widespread protest and activism initiated by young Black South Africans within a project of decolonization have been critical for the larger context of social justice in the post-apartheid democracy. Importantly student activism has reminded not only higher education, but the country more widely, that the challenges in the ‘new’ democracy need to address the complex intersections of racial capitalism and patriarchy, the long heritage of the violences of colonization and continued white, male and Eurocentric dominance and privilege. Young people have deployed a powerful intersectional and decolonial discourse that brings the inequalities of race, gender, sexuality, age, dis/ability to centre stage through a range of creative, performative modalities that also engage the body, affect, materiality and subjective experience. Significantly, these efforts reinvigorate a role for a critical, feminist and community psychology in the acknowledgement of the psychosocial demands of social change. The chapter argues that the proliferation of what I term performative activism and activist performance by young people through both activist and artistic interventions provide an important example of what Boonzaier and van Niekerk (2019) term ‘modes of engagement, research, dialogue and reflexive practice that espouse principles of an emerging decolonial feminist community psychology’ in the introduction to this volume. Drawing on a proliferation of such activism and art over the last few years in South Africa, which specifically engage materiality, bodies and affect, I argue for the generative impact of such disruptions to current orthodoxies and practices in higher education and in patriarchal racial-capitalist inequalities and injustices more generally. Through these examples, I explore the way in which transgression, bodies and the ‘taking of space’ is deployed to disrupt, disturb and destabilize normative patterns of intersectional gender and sexual inequality, injustice and violence in South African higher education and society more broadly. Such examples will also be drawn on to unpack the way in which counter-hegemonic identities, practices and performances claim public space to disturb continued marginalisations and exclusions. The chapter argues that a critical, decolonial feminist community psychology is already there/here, and urges in line with Haraway (2016) to ‘stay with the trouble’ by acknowledging, promoting and learning lessons in dialogue with the activist and artistic actions and imaginaries of young South Africans.

Keywords

Activism Performance Community psychology Decolonial feminisms Youth Gender justice 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgements to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for funding the New Imaginaries for Gender and Sexual Justice Project. Thanks to the editors of this volume for their patience and support, and to Karen Graaf for assistance with literature. My appreciation to the inspiring work of activists and artists in South Africa, on the continent and elsewhere.

References

  1. Adams, G., Dobles, I., Gómez, L. H., Kurtiş, T., & Molina, L. E. (2015). Decolonizing psychological science: Introduction to the special thematic section. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3(1), 213–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bennett, J., Gouws, A., Kritzinger, A., Hames, A., & Tidimane, C. (2007). “Gender is over”: Researching the implementation of sexual harassment policies in southern African higher education. Feminist Africa, 8, 83–104.Google Scholar
  3. Blanco, M. (2017). Out of this world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AXWQT486_E Accesssed 5 Feb 2019.
  4. Boonzaier, F. (2017). The life and death of Anene Booysen: Colonial discourse, gender-based violence and media representations. South Africa Journal of Psychology, 47(4), 470–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boonzaier, F., & van Niekerk, T. (2019). Introducing decolonial feminist community psychology. In F. Boonzaier & T. van Niekerk (Eds.), Decolonial Feminist Community Psychology (pp. 1–10). Switzerland: Springer Nature Switzerland AG.Google Scholar
  6. Buikema, R. (2016). Academy, art and activism. Paper presented at RINGS (International Research Association of Institutions of Advanced Gender Studies) conference 2016: The geopolitics of gender studies (pp. 16–18). Cape Town: Cornerstone Institute. November 2016.Google Scholar
  7. Buikema, R. (2017). Revoltes in de Cultuurkritiek. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Campbell, R., Sefl, T., Wasco, S. M., & Ahrens, C. E. (2004). Doing community research without a community: Creating safe space for rape survivors. American Journal of Community Psychology, 33(3/4), 253–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins, A. (2014). Faceless bureaucracy?: The challenges of gender-based violence and practices of care in higher education. In V. Reddy, S. Meyer, T. Shefer, & T. Meyiwa (Eds.), Care in context: Transnational gender perspectives (pp. 282–304). Cape Town: HSRC.Google Scholar
  10. Dosekun, S. (2007). Defending feminism in Africa. Postamble, 3(1), 41–47.Google Scholar
  11. Dosekun, S. (2013). “Rape is a huge issue in this country”: discursive constructions of the rape crisis in South Africa. Feminism and Psychology, 23(4), 517–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Duncan, N., Bowman, B., Naidoo, A., Pillay, J., & Roos, V. (2015). Community psychology: Analysis, context and action. Cape Town: Juta.Google Scholar
  13. Gouws, A. (2016). Young women in the “decolonizing project” in South Africa: from subaltern to intersectional feminism. Paper presented at the Nordic Africa Days Conference 2016, Uppsala, 23–25 September.Google Scholar
  14. Gouws, A. (2017). Feminist intersectionality and the matrix of domination in South Africa. Agenda, 31(1), 19–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gqola, P. (2015). Rape: A South African nightmare. Auckland Park: MfBooks Joburg.Google Scholar
  16. Gray van Heerden, C. (2018). #Itmustallfall, or, pedagogy for a people to come. In Bozalek, V., Braidotti, R., Shefer, T. &., Zembylas, M. (Eds.), Socially just pedagogies in higher education: Critical posthumanist and new feminist materialist perspectives (pp. 15–30). London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  17. Hames, M. (2009). ‘Let us burn the house down!’ Violence against women in the higher education environment. Agenda, 23(80), 42–46.Google Scholar
  18. Haraway, D. J. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hubbard, P. (2009). The Zimbabwe birds: Interpretation and symbolism. Honeyguide, 55(2), 109–116.Google Scholar
  20. Huffman, T. N. (1987). Symbols in stone: Unravelling the mystery of great Zimbabwe. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Hussen, T. S. (2018). ICTs, social media and feminist activism: #RapeMustFall, #NakedProtest, and #RUReferenceList movement in South Africa. In T. Shefer, J. Hearn, K. Ratele, & F. Boonzaier (Eds.), Engaging youth in activism, research and pedagogical praxis: Transnational and intersectional perspectives on gender, sex, and race (pp. 199–214). New York/London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kessi, S. (2017). Community social psychologies for decoloniality: An African perspective on epistemic justice in higher education. South Africa Journal of Psychology, 47(4), 506–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kessi, S., & Boonzaier, F. (2015). All #Rhodes lead to transformation. Mail & guardian online, 28/05/2015. http://mg.co.za/article/2015-05-21-all-rhodes-lead-to-enlightenment.
  24. Kessi, S., & Boonzaier, F. (2018). Centre/ing decolonial feminist psychology in Africa. South Africa Journal of Psychology, 48(3), 299–309.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0081246318784507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lichty, L. F., Rosenberg, K., & Laughlin, K. (2018). Before there is a table: Small wins to build a movement against sexual and relationship violence in a university context. Journal of Family Violence, 33, 629–645.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-018-9986-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Macleod, C., & Barker, K. (2016). Angry student protests have put rape back on South Africa’s agenda. The Conversation, 26 April. http://theconversation.com/angry-student-protests-have-put-rape-back-on-south-africas-agenda-58362. Accessed 18 Apr 2017.
  27. Msezane, S. (2017). Artist statement, Kwasuka Sukela: Re-imagined bodies of a (South African) 1990s born woman, masters of arts (Fine Arts) exhibition. Cape Town: University of Cape Town.Google Scholar
  28. Naidoo, A., Duncan, N., Roos, V., Pillay, J., & Bowman, B. (2007). Analysis, context and action: An introduction to community psychology. In Community psychology in South Africa: Theory, context and practice (pp. 9–23). Cape Town: UCT Press.Google Scholar
  29. Patel, N. (2017). The significance of being seen. Mail and Guardian https://mg.co.za/article/2017-10-06-00-the-significance-of-being-seen. Accessed 2 Nov 2018.
  30. Ratele, K. (2013). Of what value is feminism to black men? Communicatio, 39(2), 256–270.  https://doi.org/10.1080/02500167.2013.804675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ratele, K., Duncan, N., Hook, D., Mkhize, N., Kiguwa, P., & Collins, A. (2004). Self, community and psychology. Cape Town: UCT Press.Google Scholar
  32. Reyes Cruz, M., & Sonn, C. C. (2011). Decolonizing culture in community psychology: Reflections from critical social science. American Journal of Community Psychology, 47(1–2), 203–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rúdólfsdóttir, A. G., & Jóhannsdóttir, A. (2018). Fuck patriarchy! An analysis of digital mainstream media discussion of the #freethenipple activities in Iceland in March 2015. Feminism & Psychology, 28(1), 133–151.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353517715876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rustin, C. (2018). Gender equality and happiness among South African women. Unpublished PhD, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa.Google Scholar
  35. Shefer, T. (2018). Embodied pedagogies: Performative activism and transgressive pedagogies in the sexual and gender justice project in higher education in contemporary South Africa. In V. Bozalek, R. Braidotti, T. Shefer, & M. Zembylas (Eds.), Socially just pedagogies in higher education: Critical posthumanist and new feminist materialist perspectives (pp. 171–188). London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  36. Spivak, G. (1988). Can the subaltern speak? In C. Nelson & L. Grossberg (Eds.), Marxism and the interpretation of culture (pp. 271–313). Urbana: University of Illinois Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Tsing, A. L. (2015). The mushroom at the end of the world: On the possibility of life in capitalist ruins. Oxford/Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Visser, M., & Moleko, A. G. (2012). Community psychology in South Africa (2nd ed.). Pretoria: Van Schaik Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Women’s and Gender StudiesUniversity of the Western CapeCape TownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations