Academic update

Last week, I had the great pleasure of meeting and throwing ideas around with Michael Hardt, the author of, among other things, Empire, Multitude and Commonwealth all written with Antonio Negri. I once had some unkind things to say about Empire, which I wince to read now – being a graduate student brought out the worst point-scoring debater in me. But the reason that Empire kicked off a trilogy of books is because Hardt and Negri were also unsatisfied. To my mind, the trilogy has worked. Their thoughts have been honed over their collaboration and certainly have shrugged off the criticisms I lobbed a decade ago. You can watch our conversation at the Taft Center at the University of Cincinnati when it’s uploaded, likely in the next few weeks. It has been a long time since I had a discussion in which ideas whizzed around so freely, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

All of this is preamble to a piece that I’ve just posted on my academic page, with a title that very few could love: Fairytale Violence  or Sondheim on solidarity, from Karnataka to Kennedy road. I wrote this in 2003-4, and it has been ‘in process’ ever since. The version just out is part of a collection edited by the excellent Shereen Essof and Dan Moshenberg entitled Searching for South Africa (UNISA Press, if you’re looking). It’s largely unchanged from its original form, and I’m unsatisfied. Events have overtaken the stories that I reported back then. The Abahlali baseMjondolo shackdweller movement is, for instance, now a national force in South Africa. As South Africa goes to the polls, their activism is cropping up all over the country. Meanwhile, the Durban settlement where much of the action takes place in my original article was attacked by a mob that, it is emerging, was fomented by the ANC. So I’ll be writing a follow-up piece. Look out for that within the next year or so.