Saturday, 1 December 2018
Paret, Marcel. 2018. “Critical Nostalgias in Democratic South Africa.” The Sociological Quarterly 59(4): 678-696.
Evidence suggests that some black residents in South Africa experience nostalgia for the racist and authoritarian apartheid regime. What dynamics generate apartheid nostalgia, and what work does it do? This article draws on in-depth interviews with black residents of impoverished urban townships and informal settlements. I argue that by eliminating formal racial discrimination and redirecting popular aspirations towards the state, South Africa’s democratic transition encouraged apartheid nostalgia, which residents deployed to criticize the post-apartheid state and imagine alternative possibilities. Far from uniform, nostalgic expressions focused on four objects: social protection, migrant exclusion, bureaucratic integrity, and white governance. Each object represented an aspect of the apartheid state that residents sought to resurrect. The analysis calls for a shift from a politics of regret, focused on shame for past atrocities, to a politics of nostalgia, which understands idealized projections of past objects as a terrain of struggle.
Paret, Marcel. 2018. “Migration Politics: Mobilizing Against Economic Insecurity in the United States and South Africa.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 59(1): 3-24.
From the mid-2000s, the United States and South Africa, respectively, experienced significant pro-migrant and anti-migrant mobilizations. Economically insecure groups played leading roles. Why did these groups emphasize politics of migration, and to what extent did the very different mobilizations reflect parallel underlying mechanisms? Drawing on 41 months of ethnographic fieldwork and 119 interviews with activists and residents, I argue that the mobilizations deployed two common strategies: symbolic group formation rooted in demands for recognition, and targeting the state as a key source of livelihood. These twin strategies encouraged economically insecure groups to emphasize national identities and, in turn, migration. Yet, they manifested in different types of mobilization due to the varying characteristics of the groups involved, and the different national imaginaries and organizing legacies they had to draw upon. The analysis demonstrates the capacity of economically insecure groups to make collective claims. It also shows that within the context of anti-migrant nationalism, economic insecurity amplifies the significance of national belonging, citizenship, and migration as important terrains of collective struggle.
Paret, Marcel. 2018. “The Politics of Local Resistance in Urban South Africa: Evidence from Three Informal Settlements.” International Sociology 33(3): 337-356.
Between 2009 and 2014, South Africa experienced widespread protests. In contrast to prominent examples of global protest during the same period, they were localized and did not push for broad political and economic transformation. To explain these features, this article draws from three ethnographic and interview-based case studies of local protest and organizing within informal settlements in and around Johannesburg. The author argues that urban poverty and the experience of market insecurity, on the one hand, and democratization and the experience of state betrayal, on the other hand, gave rise to specific political orientations. Residents responded to market insecurity by demanding collective consumption for place-based communities, and they responded to state betrayal by demanding fulfillment of a national liberation social contract through administrative fixes. Both strategies confined activism to the local level and limited broader challenges. The findings have implications for research on both the urban poor and social movements.
Paret, Marcel. 2018. “Citizenship and Work in Global Capitalism: From Domination to Aspiration.” Sociology Compass 12(8): 1-13.
The sociology of citizenship emerged during an exceptional period in which workers benefitted from economic growth and gains in productivity. Yet the field grew against the backdrop of a market‐oriented global capitalism defined by high levels of precarious work, surplus labor, and economic insecurity. Tracing the evolution of global capitalism in the wake of World War II, and across the unequal regions of the world, I outline three different perspectives on the relationship between capitalism and work. These include an outdated and untenable perspective of citizenship as workplace product, a critical perspective of citizenship as worker domination, and an optimistic perspective of citizenship as aspiration and agency. The analysis suggests that citizenship represents an important terrain of struggle within global capitalism, simultaneously enabling patterns of domination and inspiring movements for liberation.