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State racism and biopolitical struggle: the evasive commons in twentieth-century Durban, South Africa

Chari, Sharad (2010) State racism and biopolitical struggle: the evasive commons in twentieth-century Durban, South Africa. Radical History Review, 2010 (108). pp. 73-90. ISSN 0163-6545

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Identification Number: 10.1215/01636545-2010-004


How might we understand inclusionary rights to common means of life within landscapes of entrenched exclusion? This essay addresses this question through processes of racialized dispossession, segregation, industrialization, and activism, through the specific contradictory space of industrial-residential South Durban. Beginning with the colonial effects of Victorian expertise, intervention, and subjectivity with respect to vitality, variously construed, the article argues that biopolitical tools have been harnessed to divergent imperatives throughout twentieth-century South Africa. Within these contradictions, South Durban's segregated populations were provided segregated housing, access to industrial work, proximity to the city center, and, by the 1950s, exposure to toxic pollution. Differentiated biopolitics generated specific opportunities and frustrations. As apartheid entered a phase of deepening crisis, Durban's subalterns began to organize in new ways to demand their right to the city. Importantly, while actual commons may have been elusive, the idea of commons has remained politically vital.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2010 by MARHO: The Radical Historians’ Organization, Inc.
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 10 May 2011 08:27
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 01:08

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