Seminar by Dr. Lyn Ossome

Event Information
Event Date: 
Wednesday, 9 March 2016 - 2:15pm

Dr. Lyn Ossome, a Research Fellow at MISR, will be giving a seminar on wednesday, 09 March 2016, starting at 2:15pm to 5:15pm in MISR seminar room 1.

Topic: Limits to Democracy and Emancipatory Politics in South Africa Post-1994.
Speaker: Dr. Lyn Ossome, MISR Research Fellow.

Abstract:  Who is the subject of democracy? For whom does it hold out promise, and how does the existential condition of those who aspire for freedom through democractic practice impose conditions upon the very practice of democracy? In this paper I seek to show how possibilities of an emancipatory politics in South Africa have become increasingly circumscribed by inward-looking logics expressed in recent reforms of anti-immigration legislation and xenophobia, and by implication, by the validation of a reactionary identitarian and exclusionary regime of rights. Such exclusionary politics rely fundamentally on the de-radicalization of popular politics, along lines that reconstitute political subjectivity as a libability. Therefore, beyond the abstract affirmation of itself as a substantive democracy (that is, functioning in the interests of the governed) through its constitution, it becomes necessary to interrogate the ways in which the South African state actually conceives of the subject of its democratic project. In a state still suffused with notions of its own exceptionalism, how may we understand the nature of power that is, at present, arrayed against the oppressed and excluded, and what is the nature of the power that the oppressed have necessarily to summon in their struggles for freedom? In thinking contemporary South African politics through W.E.B. DuBois’s poignant question regarding what it means to be a problem, we might ask too, what it means to confront the structures, conditions and institutions that continue to construct the dispossessed there, as the problem.

About the Author: Lyn Ossome holds a PhD in Political Studies from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). Her research specializations are in feminist political economy, land and agrarian studies and political theory.
Her current work in democratic theory deals with ideas of emancipation through a critical engagement with histories of women’s political activism, contemporary politics of representation, popular movements, queer histories, and human rights. In the area of land and agrarian studies, her current research is concerned with the agrarian question of gender equity, subsistence political economies, women’s work and reproductive labour regimes in the process of agrarian change.

The seminar paper will be available from MISR Library, a week prior to the seminar date.

Attendance is open to the public. Pre register with MISR Library.


Event Venue
MISR Seminar Room 1

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