Accepted Paper:

'There is a township growing in your backyard': exploring a chief's entanglements in processes of 'issue making'  


Eva Riedke (University of Mainz)

Paper short abstract:

How do semiotic and aesthetic qualities of infrastructures feature in processes of ‘issue making’? In South Africa, a chief who is said to have ‘lost his land’ becomes entangled in a variety of political practices, with other actors, aimed at defining matters of concern pertaining to land.

Paper long abstract:

In a chieftaincy on the peri-urban fringes of Durban, South Africa, a chief was said to have failed at preventing housing development projects from being built on 'his land', that he had been a mere bystander as shack settlements simply mushroomed - his land that had once been 'rural', was said to now be lost. Drawing on ethnographic field research, the paper explores these concerns around matters of land from an issue-centred perspective on politics. More specifically, foregrounding the pragmatist-inspired notion that publics form in a process of 'issueification', the objective is to concentrate on how practices of issue formation draw upon the semiotic and aesthetic qualities of infrastructures that have 'come to matter' (houses, water, electricity, sanitation). In what manner do infrastructures store within them desires, fantasies -partly autonomous from their material function - and come to serve as concrete vehicles oriented towards the articulation of particular issues? It is by focusing on these qualities, the argument goes, that we can come to understand how infrastructures draw actors together, and how they feature in the formation of issues and publics. At a stage, when 'a public' may still be in the process of being 'eventuated'. How do infrastructures come to reveal larger affectuated relationships, or simply logics of 'being in the world' - of rurality, tradition, of post-apartheid citizenship - that are themselves partly disjunctive? Said to be a chief 'who has no land', the paper explores his entanglements in a larger process of 'issue making' and what comes to mediate his involvement.

Panel T012
The Event of the Public: Convolutions of Aesthetic and Epistemic Practice