Performing a New Model of Active and Activist Citizenship in South Africa

A Seminar by YouCitizen Researcher Dr. ChloĆ© Buire

Studio 5, Environmental and Geographical Sciences Building, UCT Upper Campus

13 May 2015


In 2014, South Africa celebrated its "Twenty Years of Democracy". Official commemorations emphasized the pride in belonging to the Rainbow Nation, but commentators recalled the fragility of the national myth. Many of these commentators feared that young people who have not lived under apartheid could endanger democracy because of their unstable and conflicting political identities. In this context, this paper explores the kind of citizenship promoted in youth policies and curricula, and traces how citizenship has been reframed since the heyday of the democratic transition in the 1990s. Emerging from this analysis is an "active citizen" whose commitment to social justice is measured against her or his contribution to the national economy. Nevertheless, interviews with key actors from government and civil society conducted in Cape Town reveal that the definition of a self-sufficient, responsible, and caring citizen is contested, as projects developed to produce young citizens engage with critical thinking as well as with personal economic advancement. While academic education remains seen as the primary tool for building citizenship, many are exploring alternative pedagogies and experimental training to challenge the status-quo of a profoundly unequal society. The learning process of various actors involved in youth development suggests that South African citizenship is performed through this complex relationship between a model of economically active citizens and a model of politically conscious citizens.

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YouCitizen Via @NPR: Decrying Hair Rule, South African Students Demand To Be 'Naturally Who We Are' https://t.co/jXr1wttiXU

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