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Harvard University

Publication Date

Fall 2005

Program Name

South Africa: Reconciliation and Development


Since 1994, a number of new community-based movements have risen in protest of the economic policies of South Africa’s new, African-led government. Among these is a movement of shack-dwellers in Durban that began at Kennedy Road with a defiant protest that recalled the protests of the “first struggle,” that against apartheid. The movement has embodied many of the characteristics of its predecessor in the United Democratic Front, including its democratic organization, consultative culture, songs and tactics. But the extent to which these similarities are conscious or connected is unclear, for the movement has created much culture of its own. This paper will lay out a “geography” of this movement through interviews with many of the people involved and around the struggle, trying as far as possible to analyze the movement and incorporate the analysis of the movement’s participants. This analysis will work on the base of social movement theory, assessing the oft-cited “political opportunities,” mobilizing structures and “framing processes” that the movement has exploited or employed. The paper will also situate Kennedy Road amongst social movements since apartheid, working as both a case study and offering comparative perspectives. The paper finds that the work and concepts of social movement theorists – the political opportunities, mobilizing structures and framing processes theses – are relevant here, but that the struggle at Kennedy Road offers more in human richness and expands theoretical insight in ways that scholars have yet to offer when writing on social movements, and the paper tries to capture this human angle as well. And as we find that the struggle is for service delivery – for housing, for electricity, and for water – connected to these things, it is very much a struggle for dignity where it has not been offered.


Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity


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