Legacies of liberation: the careers and changing worldviews of former UDF activists

Seminar date: 
18 November 2008
Speaker(s): Ineke van Kessel (African Studies Centre)

In this research, I revisit three locations in South Africa where in 1990-1992 I did research into local affiliates of the United Democratic Front: a youth congress in Sekhukhuneland, a civic association in Kagiso and the community paper Grassroots on the Cape Flats. The UDF, launched in 1983, was a broad umbrella movement for hundreds of community, student, church, women, youth etc organisations. The UDF identified with the banned African National Congress, but developed its own organizational culture that provided ample space for diversity of cultural expressions.
In tracing the careers of former activists, I try to understand how their involvement in the liberation struggle has shaped their subsequent lives. Which career options were open to them? Are they still politically active? How important were the networks of struggle solidarity post-1994? How do former activists look back on the liberation struggle and how do they make sense of contemporary South African society? Secondly, which changes have occurred in these three locations and what is the present state of social movements? The research is very much work-in-progress.