Accepted paper:

The Trade Unions of Nepal and South Africa: The global contexts of the national movements resisting neoliberalism


Mallika Shakya (South Asian University, Delhi)

Paper short abstract:

Developing a more nuanced picture of the historical and materialist roots of the ’new Left’, I situate how the trade union movements in Nepal and South Africa are embedded in their national histories of crypto-colonialism. Enlarging the scope of the embeddedness concept, I then juxtapose these findings with presumptions of anthropological studies of global neoliberalism.

Paper long abstract:

Michael Herzfeld (2005) argued that 'crypto-colonies' are doubly victimized. Not only have they suffered the effects of colonialism itself until the 1940s, their exposure to the rise of neoliberalism in the 1990s could not be challenged by reliance on the discursive and material socio-economic achievements of anti-colonial struggle. What then does the renewed global interest in Marxian thinking mean for these countries? In this paper, I offer a comparative analysis of the trade union movements in Nepal and South Africa to discuss what Kozloff (2008) called 'new Left' for the distinctively different context of South America - a fusion of indigenous rights movements, revived trade unions and resistance to hegemonic neoliberalism. A defining feature of both the Nepali and South African movements is a more pronounced recognition of the different and possibly overlapping social and cultural identities that shape economic, political and social realities. Both of these movements are much more explicitly concerned with addressing the inequalities and exploitation associated with social attributes such as race, caste and ethnicity. In its heydays, neoliberalism prominently spoke the language of development in both Nepal and South Africa. As national trade union movements increasingly spoke out against such policies -- through anti-Panchayat movement in Nepal and anti-apartheid movement in South Africa -- their actions became embedded in a changing global context of movements which were much more diverse than is often acknowledged.

panel PE39
Capitalism and global anthropology: Marxism resurgent