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The antinomies of political evidence in post-apartheid Durban, South Africa

Chari, Sharad (2008) The antinomies of political evidence in post-apartheid Durban, South Africa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 14 (s1). S61-S76. ISSN 1359-0987

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Identification Number: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2008.00493.x


Post-Apartheid South Africa has witnessed an outpouring of testimony to past and present inequities, using varied means and to varied effect. This paper addresses challenges faced by people engaged in social justice work as they devise evidence specifically for political ends. Political evidence poses several challenges to people consciously engaged in transforming their social conditions. I ask how various forms of political evidence and testimony to post-Apartheid racism are produced in the neighbourhood of Wentworth, Durban – a mixed industrial-residential landscape saturated with petrochemical pollution. People engaged in political work in Wentworth struggle to demonstrate evidence of environmental racism against official dissimulation. Wentworth's residents often face the limits of legal-juridical notions of evidence exemplified in compensatory disputes. I explore how evidence is mobilized in political work through specific tools and authorizing discourses that privilege compensation alongside other forms of activist witnessing of social inequality. Certain kinds of evidence are deemed more legitimate as political evidence, whether or not these kinds can help transform persisting inequalities after Apartheid. While official dissimulation points to the limits of narrowing the focus to compensation, official silencing also highlights emergent forms of witness to legal, racialized social inequality. Wentworth speaks to innovations in political evidence in the wake of a racially fragmented archive, and in relation to new forms of state-sanctioned racism.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2008 Royal Anthropological Institute
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 10 May 2011 11:07
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2024 04:39

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