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Xenophobia, National Belonging & the Techniques of Difference

Summary & Comment: Agenda is inviting contributions from feminist and gender scholars, activists, researchers, policy makers, professionals, educators, community workers, students and members of women’s organizations and organizations interested in and concerned with gender issues. MM

Author: AgendaFM Date Written: 21 September 2015
Primary Category: Southern Region Document Origin: Agenda
Secondary Category: Gender Source URL: http://www.agenda.org.za
Key Words: Xenophobia, gender, national, women

African Charter Article #25: States shall have the duty to promote and ensure through teaching, education and publication, the respect of these rights and freedoms. (Click for full text...)



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http://www.agenda.org.za/xenophobia-national-belonging-the-techniques-of-difference/

Xenophobia, National Belonging & the Techniques of Difference

Contributors are invited to write on the topic above from either a research or an activism perspective. Abstracts and contributions must be written in English and in a style accessible to a wide audience. Please submit abstracts to leverne@eject.co.za or admin@agenda.org.za

No later than 10th October 2015

GUEST EDITORS: Danai Mupotsa, Mpho Matsipa and Dorothee Kreutzfeldt

Conceptual Rationale:

The images of Alfabeto Nhamuavhe’s body burning, or Emmanuel Sithole’s broken skull on the street provoke disgust and fear. While records of discrimination against foreigners have been recorded in South Africa’s post-apartheid history, it was not until May 2008 when 62 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced that we came to speak of xenophobic violence. Again, in April 2015 we saw a return of spectacular forms of its enactment. The term is hotly contested, partly because many who are subject to the violence also happen to be South African citizens. It is contested also because the victims are black. While xenophobia more generally refers to a fear or hatred of the stranger and in relation to the nation-state it is the foreigner who is this figure. Yet the case in South Africa reveals instead a figure of an Other that is relationally and affectively constituted outside.

The dimensions of feeling elicited by images of xenophobic violence demanded explanation and as Pumla Gqola suggests, it has often been with ease that we try to interpret, conclude and offer narrative closure to acts that we find incomprehensible and out of step with broader social attitudes. There are three versions we rehearse about the young men we read as perpetrators:

• They are the face of the masses disgruntled by lack of service delivery
• They are anti-social criminals ruining the international image of a reconciled, transformed nation
• They are not all that unique in fact, this is part of a global wave of xenophobia that always has to do with scarcity (Gqola 2015:13)

In this special issue, we wish to include thoughtful and thorough engagements on the subject of xenophobia that resist the urge to treat it as a phenomenon distinct from the everyday business of institutional and affective state making.

“Xenophobia” and “xenophobic violence” “stick” as words used to variously describe a range of scenes and experiences, albeit with limited imagination. We are interested in meditations that address this “stickiness” and provoke questions in excess of these terms. We emphasize the place of emotion as institutional and affective, creating “others” by “working through signs on bodies to materialise the surfaces and boundaries that are lived as worlds.” (Ahmed 2004: 191) The nation as a site of belonging that relies on boundaries between insiders and outsiders and feelings like fear, hate and love generate those very boundaries.

More specifically, if the boundaries of inclusion national and otherwise are made in relations between people, what are the technologies, vocabularies and grammars of this boundary making? What are the technologies, vocabularies and grammars of difference? If national belonging is a spatially mediated set of relations that police, order and control who can be considered inside or outside, what is the relationship between ordinary every instances of this and the more spectacular instances of violence witnessed during these particular incidents? What relations do the aforementioned questions bear in relation to sex and gender difference, and is there anything particularly different about this kind practice of difference its violence, and gender based violence more generally?

We invite papers and responses to consider the following, but not limited to issues, themes, questions or provocations:

• How is national belonging broadly understood? What are the signs, objects and feelings we attach to it?
• How does gender inform or frame the question of national belonging?
• Why is it images of young men that “stick” as signs of spectacular violence?
• Who feels like a “proper” citizen in South Africa, or other countries and on what basis?
• What would a history of women’s access to citizenship and national belonging look like, and what kinds of questions might it provoke as a point of orientation?
• Women, black lesbians and queers continue to be prone to large scale forms of violence, how can we place this in discussions concerning national belonging?
• How can violence be read structurally and symbolically as a set of constitutive relations the produce certain kinds of bodies?
• What kinds of vocabularies about bodies and people, “proper” and “strange” inform or shape how we understand difference?
• How do the incidences of “xenophobic violence” of 2008 and 2015 mobilize solidarities and attachments to ideals of the nation and/or the self?
• In what ways can thinking about sexual and racial difference better orient our understanding of national belonging?
• What feelings are attached to the nation?
• How are everyday forms of intimacy, attachment and belonging attached to the spectacular forms of violence?
• How are technologies of difference aestheticized?
• How does space and the ways persons and relations are made in space shape the making of difference?
• What strategies or modes of relating and making self do people practice as they pass through spaces to which they may not necessarily belong?
In this issue we also ask authors to pay attention to space and place making as important dimensions for careful analyses of xenophobia. We also wish to attend to images as one technology or attachment that the sentiments of national belonging move through and encourage contributors to consider some aspects of visual analysis.

About the Guest Editors

Danai Mupotsa is lecturer in African literature at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her research is oriented towards reading everyday intimacies.
Mpho Matsipa is an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University and a lecturer in SoAP, at Wits University. Her research interests are rooted in an interdisciplinary approach in Architectural theory and urbanism, with a focus on Southern African cities, race and representation.
Dorothee Kreutzfeldt is an artist whose work over the last years has largely been defined by collaborations, often within specific urban contexts.

If you have specific questions concerning your submission to the special issue you may address them directly to the guest editors: danai.mupotsa@wits.ac.za; mpho.matsipa@wits.ac.za; dorothee.kreutzfeldt@wits.ac.za

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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s) and not do necessarily reflect the views of the AfricaFiles' editors and network members. They are included in our material as a reflection of a diversity of views and a variety of issues. Material written specifically for AfricaFiles may be edited for length, clarity or inaccuracies.

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