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Tradition's Desire

The Politics of Culture in the Rape Trial of Jacob Zuma

Thembisa Waetjen and Gerhard Maré

This article examines the recent trial of ANC president Jacob Zuma, and how gender power was framed in respect to, and within, the politics of culture. The trial centred on allegations of rape by Zuma of an HIV positive woman many years his junior, who was also the daughter of a former anti-apartheid struggle comrade. All of these details were considered pertinent, not only to the legal debates about whether a crime had been committed, but also to the political debates raging around the nation's key challenges of high rates of sexual violence and the 'denialist' state response to devastating levels of HIV infection. Many Zuma supporters saw the accusation of rape as politically motivated and as evidence of an anti-Zuma conspiracy. In visibly smaller numbers, women's rights groups were present on the streets as well, trying to draw attention to the general problem of the nation's extraordinarily high rates of sexual violence and the general failure of the justice system to address cases of rape. The article argues that the fervour surrounding this trial, the burning political question of women's status was continually cast as a private matter: debates about relations between men and women came to be focused on issues of propriety, behaviour and etiquette rather than on questions about rights and power. In short, the privatisation of gender was effected through the politics of culture. As culture is politicised as a legal and secular 'right', gender is de-politicised to become a normatively 'private' and 'customary' domain. This is not merely a South African dilemma, but a dilemma which is con-concomitant to the social conditions of modernity itself.

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Ex Aqua

The Mediterranean Basin, Africans on the Move, and the Politics of Policing

P. Khalil Saucier and Tryon P. Woods

Within the annals of black studies, analyses of state power begin with a well-trod premise that policing is not a response to criminal behaviour; nor is it an extension of a criminal justice apparatus whose operations can be accounted for by political economy alone. Rather, the police power is foremost a cultural phenomenon irreducible to materialist conceptions of social control in a capitalist world system. More to the point, policing is a methodology for social organisation premised on antiblack sexual violence. We consider several recent events of state power in the Mediterranean basin – as in the Lampedusa boat victims – in order to ascertain the erotic authority governing the police power of state and civil society. By using the Lampedusa case and others, we highlight that police power in the Mediterranean is more than the interpersonal and the event, but instead manifests as a methodology of violence by the state and its regimes, as history, as legacy. The policing and murder of hundreds of Africans in the Mediterranean we contend are not single and episodic events or moments in time, but are situated in the accumulated violence against black people globally. Without an analysis of antiblackness in relation to policing as methodology, events such as Lampedusa can be seen and understood as moments of exception (i.e. bad FRONTEX policy) rather than a practice that fully follows racial slavery. Without understanding policing from this standpoint, the political reaction to Lampedusa and other events has the danger of promoting 'reform' and 'revision' rather than a more radical vision: a future where black lives matter.

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Resist and Revivify

Democratic Theory in a Time of Defiance

Jean-Paul Gagnon and Emily Beausoleil

currently widespread. Indeed, even those that turn to “deplorable” responses of scapegoating, aggressive fundamentalisms, and racial and sexual violence seem to share something of the experience of scarcity, anxiety, and vulnerability with a far wider public