The last few years have seen young South Africans intensely mobilised around decolonial, feminist and queer struggles in both public and online spaces. These protests, both activist and performative, have contributed to the larger contestatons around transforming the university and larger society in post-apartheid South Africa. It has been particularly significant that current activism and art, what I see as performative activism and activist performance, articulates a strong decolonial discourse that foregrounds intersectional inequalities of race, gender, sexuality, age, dis/ability. A range of creative, performative and activist modalities that also engage body, affect and materiality are being deployed in a wide range of initiatives. While the paper is located in South African local struggles, it speaks to transnational social justice projects in higher education, particularly in the light of the global corporatization of the university and recalcifying sright-wing political turns. The paper draws on a number of inspiring examples of activism, performance and art over the last few years in South Africa, which specifically deploy methodologies that destabilise, transgress and resist every day injustices. The generative impact of such challenges to normative practices in higher education and in patriarchal racial capitalist social contexts more generally, are explored. The paper reiterates the importance of engaging creatively and critically with pedagogies and research that challenge the recalcitrant binarisms of research and activism and scholarship and art/creativity within a larger project of re-imagining intersectional gender justice.
Tamara Shefer is professor of Women’s and Gender Studies in the Faculty of Arts at the University of the Western Cape. She has foregrounded youth, gender and sexualities in her scholarship, including a focus on HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, masculinities, memory and post-apartheid, gender and care, and social justice and critical, feminist pedagogies in higher education. Most recent books include: The International Handbook of Masculinity Studies (2019, with L. Gottzén & U. MellströmLondon: Routledge; Engaging Youth in Activist Research and Pedagogical Praxis: Transnational and Intersectional Perspectives on Gender, Sex, and Race (2018, with J. Hearn, K. Ratele & F. Boonzaier) and Socially Just Pedagogies in Higher Education: Critical posthumanist and new feminist materialist perspectives (2018, Bloomsbury, with V. Bozalek, R. Braidotti & M. Zembylas).