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Complexity in Community 
Relationships 
KhulumaniWater for Dignity 
21 August 2014
Jo’burg Man: A flaneur 
A flaneur – urban, individualistic, a solitary stroller. 
A sauntering ‘botanist of the asphalt’ w...
What if the tables were turned? 
• Nakasa adroitly & humorously tells tales about incidents that illustrate the 
subversiv...
Thriving on Adversity: The Art of Precariousness 
• The emergence of grass-roots movements can be attributed to a loss 
of...
Tactics & Strategies 
• Tactics enable people to survive. 
• Do tactics challenge peoples’ oppressibility? 
• Are new coal...
The dominant order & the dominated 
• de Certeau explores how the dominant order is limited in its exercise 
of power by t...
“That's just how it is”, Submission and victimhood in coping 
with violence: Claudia Seymour, SOAS 
• Agency involves ‘act...
What alternatives? 
• Defeat and powerlessness: “Inside we are destroyed.... We’re losing our morale. 
We are unable to de...
Becoming Citizens 
• In moving beyond victim tactics to empowered citizenship, we need to link 
historical consciousness, ...
Possibilities of Empowerment 
• Empowerment is a continuous process; it provides people with 
choices and the possibility ...
Skills for Engaging Citizenship 
• Being able to continuously upgrade the ability to analyze & understand a 
situation thr...
Some tools & examples for ‘acting from 
below’ 
• Embracing the Citizen-Based Monitoring Proposals of the Presidency 
• Ge...
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Complexity in community relationships

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The monthly Transdisciplinarity Seminar held at the Environmental Learning and Research Centre was led by the Khulumani team in Makana Municipality on 21 August 2014.

The topic was 'Complexity in Community Relationships' and focused on the requirements for 'the dominated' to act to change their circumstances through making organised and effective demands through asserting a tactical agency. This is defined as 'discerning and making use of possible opportunities to find a way or to use one's own means.'

Moving from victimhood to empowered citizenship (Khulumani's mission) requires that the dominated link historical consciousness, critical thinking and emancipatory behaviour.

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Complexity in community relationships

  1. 1. Complexity in Community Relationships KhulumaniWater for Dignity 21 August 2014
  2. 2. Jo’burg Man: A flaneur A flaneur – urban, individualistic, a solitary stroller. A sauntering ‘botanist of the asphalt’ with a magpie collection of anecdotal vignettes, exploring public rather than private space. (Heather Acott ) Nat Nakasa: Fortunately, like most young men from the smaller towns in South Africa, I was thrilled by simply being in Johannesburg. While others made for their homes hurriedly at the end of the day, I took long leisurely walks from one end of the city to another. (1975:4) The image: A working class man asserting a sense of ownership within a city that excludes him. Artist Arlene Amaler-Raviv, Photographer Dale Yudelman Inner-city renewal project, Johannesburg
  3. 3. What if the tables were turned? • Nakasa adroitly & humorously tells tales about incidents that illustrate the subversive survival tactics of the weak (de Certeau). He engaged the city not seeking a market as a consumer so much as supplying it with a commodity - his views on Johannesburg. • Writing on Soweto: ‘People live haphazardly, in snatches of a life they can never afford to lead for long, let alone for ever’. • To those who had eyes to see, and ears to hear, he significantly and clearly whispered a very important message – blackman, you are being lied to. And to whites, he put a mirror before them. • From: Tactics of the Habitat: the Elusive Identity of Nat Nakasa (MA Dissertation, Nat Nakasa: an African Flaneur, Heather Acott, Unisa, 2009)
  4. 4. Thriving on Adversity: The Art of Precariousness • The emergence of grass-roots movements can be attributed to a loss of faith in the willingness or ability of governments to do anything about major problems. (Anna Dezeuze, 2006) • de Certeau suggests that practitioners of everyday life constantly tinker ‘within the dominant cultural economy in order to adapt it to their own interests and their own rules.’ • Precariousness exists at the junction of crises and reactions, of adversity and coping strategies with people struggling to make it through another day, with little possibility of making organised and effective demands.
  5. 5. Tactics & Strategies • Tactics enable people to survive. • Do tactics challenge peoples’ oppressibility? • Are new coalitions possible between ‘a symbolic class’ (Zizek) & the precariat, based on empathy, not voyeurism? • Working across these divides means learning how people have coped, how they have made do, how they have escaped without leaving, how they have in fact resisted repression, deflected and deformed it by operating within it. • Seeing how the day-to-day procedures of the repressed have helped to transform the place of the dominant into a habitable space for the dominated. • Remembering to dream because when ‘[y]ou lose sight of your dreams, you die.’[Potrc]
  6. 6. The dominant order & the dominated • de Certeau explores how the dominant order is limited in its exercise of power by the very fact that it operates strategically while the dominated order, however, exercises its power anywhere it chooses because it operates tactically. ('Writing the wrongs of history: de Certeau and post-colonialism', Ian Buchanan)
  7. 7. “That's just how it is”, Submission and victimhood in coping with violence: Claudia Seymour, SOAS • Agency involves ‘acting within and influencing established social structures & relations, constructing & determining one’s own life outcomes.’ (Bourdieu 1977, Boyden 2000, Arnfred and Utas 2007) • Tactical agency (de Certeau 1984, Marriage 2012): Finding ‘ways of using the constraining order’ (de Certeau 1984:30) • Making use of and discerning possible opportunities ‘to find a way’ or ‘to use one’s own means’
  8. 8. What alternatives? • Defeat and powerlessness: “Inside we are destroyed.... We’re losing our morale. We are unable to defend ourselves. It’s the authorities who have become our enemy... We have realised that power is not ours, that there is nothing we can do to protect ourselves… We have learnt that anytime we try to defend ourselves, we’ll be punished by force.” • Victimhood: Using an assumed weakness as a tactic to access patronage – with the consequence of generating dependence. • Embracing victimcy (Utas 2003): Presenting oneself as a victim to access assistance while discerning differentials in power & resources; feeding an international political economy of violence in which vulnerability invokes an assumed humanitarian duty to provide material assistance. • Blaming others for an individual lack of advancement, reinforcing a conflict dynamic
  9. 9. Becoming Citizens • In moving beyond victim tactics to empowered citizenship, we need to link historical consciousness, critical thinking and emancipatory behaviour. • Historical consciousness is understanding who I am I the context of how others have made me. (Sartre) • Critical thinking is the political act of stepping beyond common-sense assumptions to evaluate them in terms of their genesis, development and purpose to discover that "I am able, (through my individual capacities & collective possibilities) "to go beyond the created structures in order to create others“; that I can escape my history (the place designated to me by the existing powers) to work with others to actively shape history. • Emancipatory behaviour is acting to overthrow structures of domination.
  10. 10. Possibilities of Empowerment • Empowerment is a continuous process; it provides people with choices and the possibility of asserting a choice; it expands the ‘political-manouvering-space’ in and of a community. • Empowerment through developing human rights advocacy capacity involves social mobilisation to address the delivery of services. • Community representatives must be involved in decision-making & in the delivery mechanisms including their management, to ensure that beneficiaries cease to be passive recipients of services.
  11. 11. Skills for Engaging Citizenship • Being able to continuously upgrade the ability to analyze & understand a situation through collecting, interpreting & using information for action. • Being equipped with practical skills that lead to community ownership of the interventions undertaken. • Being able to carry out decision audits about who currently makes what decisions. • Being able to create new employment opportunities with democratization of access to income and credit. • Learning which persuading methods to use when dealing with different duty-bearers.
  12. 12. Some tools & examples for ‘acting from below’ • Embracing the Citizen-Based Monitoring Proposals of the Presidency • Generating citizen participation in meeting water needs – Khulumani Water for Dignity Walls of Hope • Engaging school communities in building dignity through access to dignified sanitation • Exchanging experiences of struggles for & with water through direct exchanges (Eastern Cape Water Caucus) & through monitoring the media

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