Contentious politics and contentious scholarship: challenges researching social movements in South Africa

Evans, Matthew (2019) Contentious politics and contentious scholarship: challenges researching social movements in South Africa. The International Journal of Human Rights. ISSN 1364-2987

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Abstract

This article explores challenges associated with conducting research on social movements in South Africa (and beyond). Scholarship and commentary on South African social movements is a contentious and contested field. This article reflects particularly on carrying out research relating to land and housing rights and on the relationships between scholars, activists and activist-scholars working in this area. There is a particular difficulty with regard to identifying and analysing the political biases present within various opposing accounts of the social movements taking action on land and housing issues and their relationships to other actors. The article argues that there are three main pitfalls which researchers should attempt to avoid. First there is the danger of taking the claims made by social movements and by their academic advocates at face value. The second pitfall, on the other hand, relates to the danger of dismissing the praxis of these social movements altogether. The third danger surrounds the risk of the debates and disagreements between academics and commentators overshadowing discussion of the issues upon which movements work. The article suggests that it is necessary to apply a critical lens to all knowledge produced about social movements taking action on land and housing issues in South Africa and, consequently, a number of questions remain unresolved when attempting to put together an accurate picture of the relationships between and praxis of groups and organisations working in this area.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Social movements; South Africa; housing rights; activist-scholarship; human rights
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Law
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Centre for Human Rights Research
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0481 Theory. Method. Relations to other subjects
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0711 Groups and organisations
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM0831 Social change
J Political Science
J Political Science > JC Political theory. The state. Theories of the state > JC337 Civil society
K Law
Depositing User: Matthew Evans
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2018 10:49
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2019 09:57
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/80673

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