Democracy Disputed: the Politics of African Protest

Monday, 15 October 2018, 4:00pm - 5:30pm, IWM library
Africa is said to be experiencing its ‘third wave’ of mass protest. This follows a first wave that concluded with liberation from colonial rule and a second wave that responded to structural adjustment and ended in numerous multi-party elections. The new wave, seen by some authors as ‘an African uprising’, in contrast to a discourse of ‘Africa rising’, can be understood as a reaction to heightened inequality and disappointment with ‘fake democracy’.  However, evidence for this thesis is based on a few major events occuring in a minority of countries. Are these exceptions or the tip of an iceberg?
While Africa shares the common experience of international borders defined by foreign powers, it has more countries than Europe and almost double the population, so any generalisation is problematic.  The paper poses more questions than answers, but it shows a very high level of popular unrest in a limited number of countries and, in contrast to some theories, considerable resistance among workers (as distinct from the urban poor). The picture is messy, one of substantial unevenness, though one that presses us to rethink the first and second waves, and similar movements elswehere in the contemporary world.

Lexi Alexander holds the South African Research Chair in Social Change. She is Director of the Centre for Social Change and Professor of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg. Currently she is a Visiting Fellow at the IWM.

Comments by Jakob Krameritsch (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)

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