'Born Free' ? Affective citizenship and acting decolonially in Angola and South Africa
(LAM | CNRS)
Paper short abstract:
This paper unravels how the so-called 'Born Frees' are inventing new forms of citizenship. Youth collectives observed in Cape Town and Luanda since 2014 show that politics is an affective engagement, mixing fun and violence, friendship and resentment, immediate mobilisation and structural awareness.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores how young adults interpret and practice politics in times of disenchantment. On the one hand, the South African paradox: despite the romantic attachment to a political culture rooted in 'The struggle', practices of 'insurgent citizenship' inherited from anti-apartheid movements have been largely reinterpreted through a model of 'active citizenship' that insists on the duties of good citizens rather than on their critical thinking. On the other hand, the Angolan "culture of fear" where political domination and indoctrination tightly constrain the construction of political subjectivities. In the wake of the Arab Spring, burgeoning youth movements have tried to challenge the silence of civil society without leading to a radical rupture so far. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Cape Town and in Luanda since 2014, the paper unravels how the so-called 'Born Frees' experience and navigate these norms of citizenship. Rather than focusing on spectacular mobilisation, the research follows various youth collectives across both cities and questions the possibility of civic engagement between 'civil' and 'political' society. Through in-depth interviews and participatory methods, it documents the fine grain of political subjectivities in the making. Neither post-political subjects nor revolutionary champions, the young people involved in this research invite us to look beyond archetypes of 'good citizens', 'party footsoldiers', 'social entrepreneurs' or 'rebels' in order to reframe citizenship as a matter of sentiment mixing fun and violence, friendship and resentment, immediate engagement and structural awareness.
Affective connections and the formation of new African citizens