#Feesmustfall, de-colonisation and the (de)construction of solidarity
(Sol Plaatje University)
Paper short abstract:
The paper explores how, when, why and the context in which solidarity was (de)constructed drawing from an ethnographic exploration of the Wits #Feesmustfall movement.
Paper long abstract:
The #Feesmustfall movement when it emerged in 2015 characterized by black and white academics putting themselves on the line as human shields defending students from police brutality. When the movement re-emerged in 2016 it was a coalition of black academics who made a similar line of defence. A black caucus emerged as a collective to advance interests of black academics and to support the students' movement. In addition, another coalition, Academics for Free Education also emerged in support of the movement. At the same time some academics signed two opposed petitions. The first petition was covertly against the student movement strategy and way of claim making and was also pro-the position of university management whilst the second took an opposite position. The students were also joined in the protests by outsourced workers at different moments who were active on the picket lines and in the shutting down of gates and lecture halls. The official voice of the academics, ASAWU took an ambivalent position on students demand for free and decolonized education. These events raised questions about solidarity. Solidarity is about mutual attachment, responsibility, community of interests and obligation to help each other when in need and ethic of reciprocity. The paper explores how, when, why and the context in which solidarity was (de)constructed drawing from an ethnographic exploration of the Wits #Feesmustfall movement. Solidarity evoked in this context on one hand and its dissipation was about (re)claiming and (re)defining relations and reflected a strong or lethargic commitment to the project of decolonization.
Democracy, decolonisation and political contestation: the South African case