Exorcising the Demons Within: Xenophobia, Violence and Statecraft in Contemporary South Africa


Sample Chapter
  • Edited Loren B. Landau

    ISBN-10: 92-808-1215-7,
    ISBN-13: 978-92-808-1215-2
    United Nations University Press
    April 2012

    On 11 May 2008, residents of Alexandra Township near Johannesburg turned violently on their neighbours, launching a string of attacks that, two weeks later, left 60 dead, dozens raped and over a hundred thousand displaced. Most of those killed were from beyond South Africa’s borders, but at least a third were citizens who, for reasons of ethnicity or political affiliation, failed to protect their space in the country’s urban core. Although not the most severe political violence in South Africa’s turbulent past, the 2008 attacks reflect an important moment in the country’s post-apartheid, post-authoritarian existence: a moment when the government’s legitimacy and the post-apartheid order were called into question. This xenophobic violence made evident cracks in the cohesion of law and society while helping to redefine both.

    It is these events and subsequent consequences for the ordering of power, population and place that this book explores. Exorcising the Demons Within makes sense of recent antioutsider violence by situating it within an extended history of South African statecraft that both produced the conditions for the attacks and has been reshaped by it. Drawing on an interdiscip linary team of expert scholars and on new research, this is the first academic text to fully theorise the events that made global headlines in 2008.

    About the Editor

    Loren B. Landau is director of the African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

    Table of contents:

    Introduction: Exorcising the Demons Within: Xenophobia, Violence, and Statecraft in Contemporary South Africa by Loren Landau
    Media Memory: A Critical Reconstruction of the May 2008 Violence byTamlyn Monson and Rebecca Arian
    People, Space and Politics: An Exploration of Factors Explaining the 2008 Anti-Foreigner Violence in South Africa by Christine Fauvelle-Aymar and Aurelia Wa Kabwe-Segatti
    Disorder in a Changing Society: Authority and the Micro-Politics of Violence by Jean Pierre Misago
    Xenophobia’s local genesis: historical constructions of ‘insiders’/‘outsiders’ and the politics of exclusion in Alexandra Township by Noor Nieftagodien
    Citizenship, Xenophobic Violence and Law’s Dark Side by Jonathan Klaaren
    ‘Separation Anxiety’: The Historical Origins of Xenophobia in the SAPS by Darshan Vigneswaran
    Making the Law; Breaking the Law; Taking the Law into Our Own Hands: Sovereignty and Territorial Control in Three South African Settlements by Tamlyn Monson
    From Defending Migrant Rights to New Political Subjectivities: Gauteng Migrants’ Organisations After May 2008 by Tara Polzer and Aurelia Wa Kabwe-Segatti
    Postscript: Demons and Democracy: Positive Values and the Politics of Outsiderness in Contemporary South Africa by Loren Landau

  • “By placing the demons within both migration and violent citizenship and in a longer historical perspective, this book succeeds in surpassing current interpretations of the 2008 violence against immigrants in the townships as just resulting from xenophobia. The authors masterfully show that the politics of statecraft – notably the African National Congress’ (ANC) language of multicultu ral dominance – inspired a fatal depolitisation of difference. The very coherence of this collection offers a challenging analysis of struggle over belonging and denial of difference that is of much broader relevance than South Africa alone.”

    Peter Geschiere, Department of African Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

    “This book is critical of the policies, practices and politics of containment that continue to frame belonging in post-apartheid South Africa in an era of flexible mobility. The dominant logic of ever diminishing circles of inclusion informed by hierarchies of humanity within and between states is productive of the sort of narrow articulation of belonging that easily results in the rationalis ation of difference, demonisation, xenophobia and violence such as that of May 2008 – the key event that ties together this richly crafted, well documented and empiricall y grounded collection of essays.”

    Francis B. Nyamnjoh , Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town