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Acting out ideas: Performative citizenship in the Black Consciousness Movement

01 Oct 2018-American Journal of Cultural Sociology (Palgrave Macmillan)-Vol. 6, Iss: 3, pp 455-498

AbstractThe research leading to these results has received funding from a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship, the Isaac Newton Trust, and the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under Grant Agreement no319974 (INTERCO-SSH).

Topics: European union (58%), Citizenship (51%), Performative utterance (51%)

Summary (2 min read)

Introduction

  • The paper makes an argument about the performance of counter-power, showing how whilst the apartheid complex retained its command over economic, military, and political power, it struggled to control the social drama that was unfolding on the cultural plane, therefore losing its grip on one key element of ideological power.
  • Before the authors begin their analysis however, they will first elaborate a little more clearly what they mean by ‘performative citizenship’.
  • In fact, on one level the BCM can be understood as a direct effort towards reshaping the habitus of Black political subjects so that the acts that sprung (rather than creatively broke) from such embodied structures, were not only perceived by those that witnessed them as authentic and spontaneous, but in a sense actually became such.

From Philosophy to Politics via Performance

  • The BCM was a characteristically philosophical resistance movement that emerged out of the lull in anti-apartheid activism following the banning of the ANC and PAC, and the arrest, imprisonment, or exile of their main leadership in the aftermath of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre.
  • According to the BCM, under apartheid Blacks experienced what Du Bois ([1903] 1996) had famously called ‘double-consciousness’.
  • Nevertheless, Biko was extraordinarily influential in both the founding and early development of the movement, and whilst in reality he may have done so imperfectly, his public persona symbolically personified (both at the time, and certainly in memory and myth) the principles of BC more fully than any other individual activist.
  • In general, treating court testimony as reflective of underlying realities should of course be conducted with care, since in a trial situation immediate tactical concerns often trump transparency.

Artistic Performances

  • Another way in which a relatively abstract philosophy was linked to the concrete concerns of the people to whom it aspired to speak, was through actual artistic performances.
  • In the case of BC, this included ‘relevant theatre’ (Kavanagh, 1985: 145-196; Desai, 2013; Wilson, 2011: 45; Kruger, 1999: 129-154) and poetry performances by evocative troubadours such as Ingoapele Madingoane, Lefifi Tladi, and Mafika Gwala, held in the universities, or later the YMCAs, community centres, or church halls scattered throughout the townships.
  • Such images drew strongly yet innovatively upon pre-existent socialist and Black Power symbolism, such as the pervasive image of the single darkskinned fist, or the two raised fists breaking the shackles that bind them.
  • It is also important to note that the most popular forms of artistic endeavour within the BCM were collective ones.
  • PET’s leader, Sadecque Variava, recalls for instance entering busses with a co-actor under the pretence that they were strangers to one another.

Embodied Performativity: I Act How I Like

  • The title that Biko used for his pseudonymous column in the newsletter of the South African Student Organisation (SASO)—‘I Write What I Like’—perfectly captures the spirit of embodied performative citizenship that the authors wish to identify here.
  • Whilst these formation schools and training seminars may have helped shape an emboldened cadre of young Black leaders (many of whom now hold prominent leadership roles in post-apartheid South Africa), parrhesia appears to be a slightly ill-fitting concept for capturing the nature of Biko and his fellow activists’ public performances of confidence.
  • 20 Wilson reminds us that whether ‘Biko defended himself with the chair on which he sat without permission—if this was not itself a fabrication […] is not of major significance in the face of the violence of his death’ (Wilson, 2011: 139-140).

Performative Polarisation

  • Performativity was also at the heart of the BCM’s terminological innovations.
  • The terminological redefinition of the category ‘Black’ to include all those ‘discriminated against as a group in South African society’ was therefore performatively aimed at the goal of drawing non-White audiences ‘out of demographic and subcultural niches’ (Alexander, 2004: 565) and into a more unified collective identity and subjectivity.
  • Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly in terms of constructing a compelling script for the BCM’s political role, adopting the term ‘Black’ and opposing it not only to ‘White’, but also to ‘nonWhite’ (which will be explained below), allowed for the performative enactment of symbolic polarisation.
  • Not dissimilar to French anti-fascists during WWII, Biko himself was confronted with a situation where it was illegal for him to speak out, hence his writing in the SASO newsletter under the pseudonym ‘Frank Talk’.

Conclusion

  • In this paper the authors have used the historical case of the Black Consciousness Movement to reveal a mode of citizenship they believe has too often been neglected in the literature.
  • Performative citizenship can, and usually does, exist alongside formal recognition of citizenship, yet in contexts where formal recognition is denied (such as 1970s South Africa), the acting out of performative citizenship automatically becomes a mode of social protest.
  • The authors have shown how within the BCM performance acted as a vehicle to link the abstract philosophy initially developed by the movement’s early leadership with the concrete political praxis that was necessary for initiating social change.
  • This matter of cultural reiteration taking place from a pre-existent reservoir of symbolic forms is also linked to the relative lack of boundedness in social drama.
  • The authors agree with other studies that have highlighted the centrality of social movements in providing the context for innovations of thought and ideas (Eyerman & Jamison, 1991), but in studying both the circulation and development of ideas, sociologists must expand their gaze beyond the written and spoken word.

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Morgan, M., & Baert, P. (2018). Acting Out Ideas: Performative
Citizenship in the Black Consciousness Movement.
American Journal
of Cultural Sociology
,
6
(3), 455–498. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41290-
017-0030-1
Peer reviewed version
Link to published version (if available):
10.1057/s41290-017-0030-1
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This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online
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Page 1 of 53
Acting Out Ideas:
Performative Citizenship in the Black Consciousness Movement
Marcus Morgan
1
University of Cambridge, UK.
Patrick Baert
University of Cambridge, UK.
ABSTRACT: This paper introduces the concept of ‘performative citizenship’ to account for the
manner in which the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), and in particular its charismatic
leader Steve Biko, transformed a collection of relatively abstract philosophical ideas into concrete
political practice. We outline how the BCM challenged the psychological internalisation of white
supremacy and asserted citizenship claims through a variety of performative techniques, many of
which explicitly and implicitly reiterated earlier rights-based claims both in South Africa and
abroad. We show how this took place within a remarkably restrictive context, which on the one
hand constrained performances, but on the other augmented their dramatic efficacy. The paper
makes an argument about the performance of counter-power, showing how whilst the apartheid
complex retained its command over economic, military, and political power, it struggled to control
the social drama that was unfolding on the cultural plane, therefore losing its grip on one key
element of ideological power. Finally, the paper also makes a methodological contribution to
reception studies by showing how researching the reception of ideas exclusively through the
spoken or written word neglects other modes through which ideas might find expression,
especially in contexts of pervasive censorship and political repression.
Keywords: citizenship; social movements; apartheid; performativity; South Africa; Steve
Biko
[for publication in the American Journal of Cultural Sociology]
1
Marcus Morgan, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB23RQ,
UK, mm2014@cam.ac.uk.

Page 2 of 53
people more frequently act their way into a new way of thinking than think their way into a
new way of acting
- SASO Leadership Training Programme, 1972.
Much has been written about citizenship in apartheid South Africa, and for good reason, since
the topic offers an unsettling case study in the annexing of citizenship rights for the exclusive enjoyment
of a privileged and racially-determined minority. Fanon had spoken of the Arab in colonial Algeria as
‘an alien in his own country’ (1969: 53), and his phrase aptly describes the predicament of the Black
population under apartheid. Although racialised laws preceded apartheid proper, after 1948 when
apartheid became official policy with the coming to power of the National Party, and up until the early
1980s, a whole raft of segregationist and discriminatory legislation was introduced, the majority of
which was only gradually repealed during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
2
A great deal of what had
previously been de facto became de jure during this period, and additional laws restricting the rights of
the non-White population even further were also brought into effect. The quantity of discriminatory
legislation introduced was staggeringly large and differentially regulated almost all aspects of South
African life, from one’s ability to vote and buy property, to one’s freedom to move throughout the
country unabated, or have sexual relationships with whom one desired. This mass of legislation may at
first glance appear to demonstrate the totality of the power structure of the apartheid state, yet it might
also be read as a successive set of legal defences aimed at protecting the notion of ‘separate
development’ from the multitude of everyday challenges that South Africans brought against it.
3
In this
sense, the abundance of repressive legislation might be taken as an indicator not of the monolithic
nature of state power in South Africa during this period, but in fact of the ongoing resistance to such
2
The ANC’s 1943 proposed Bill of Rights demonstrates how citizenship demands had become the key focus of
resistance even before apartheid became official policy.
3
This is not to suggest that the state was unwilling to continually introduce new legislation as and when repression
demanded it. Indeed, as the so-calledSobukwe Clause(a clause in the General Law Amendment Act no. 37 of
1963) makes clear, the government were prepared to change legislation simply to suppress a lone individual
identified as posing a threat. This specific clause was contrived with the sole purpose of extending the Pan
Africanist Congress leader Robert Sobukwe’s prison sentence indefinitely, whilst the broader detention law of
which it was a part was introduced in order to, in the infamous words of B J Vorsterthen Minister of Justice, later
Prime Ministerkeep dissidents locked up untilthis side of eternity’.

Page 3 of 53
authority, and the state’s struggle to quiet it. One key area in which this struggle was occurring during
the late 1960s and 1970s was within the arena of ideological power, in which conflicts over the the
symbolic meanings of South African racial politics were being fought.
Weber’s political sociology is the most obvious source for arguments over the manner in which
different forms of power and authority have evolved alongside the development of social complexity
and differentiation (Weber, 1946: 77-128; [1922] 1978: 215-216), and in a strongly Weberian manner,
Michael Mann has more recently provided a global history of power on the basis of a fourfold ideal-
typical schema of ideological, economic, military, and political power (2012: 1-33). Although the forms
of struggle outlined in this essay were concerned ultimately with winning political recognition, the
battles themselves were in fact fought within the realm of ideology, expressing themselves through an
assortment of performative means. Various theorists have focussed upon the way in which power is
performed, and perhaps most prominent among them has been Clifford Geertz. Geertz offered thick
cross-cultural descriptions of power as a performed spectacle, in which authority is maintained through
its being routinely dramatised to those over whom it is exerted (e.g. 1980; 1983: 121-146). Paying
attention to these dramatised aspects of power is clearly important since it demystifies a central
mechanism through which powersuch as the ‘charismatic authority’ that Weber had earlier
describedoperates and is sustained. It also draws our attention to the common manner in which power
is wielded in practices as diverse as religious ritual, royal pomp, and staged political spectacle,
revealing how the ‘gravity of high politics and the solemnity of high worship spring from liker impulses
than might first appear’ (Geertz, 1983: 124). A growing literature in recent cultural sociology has also
been interested in the performance of power, offering even more autonomy for the cultural element
than Geertz himself allowed, and often using this perspective to better explain the fortunes of
enormously powerful and iconic political leaders (e.g. Mast, 2012; Alexander & Jaworski, 2014).
Much of this concern with the performance of power has, however, so far been directed towards
dominant power, with less acknowledgement of the fact that that there is ‘no power without potential
refusal or revolt’ (Foucault, 1979: 253). Whilst theorists of the performance of power often
acknowledge the performative significance of resistance in passing (e.g. Geertz, 1983: 122-3), with
certain notable exceptions (e.g. Alexander, 2006; 2011), less attention has been paid to how this

Page 4 of 53
dynamic of counter-power is performed,
4
and especially when this performance takes the specific shape
of citizenship claims. This paper contributes towards correcting this oversight, through an analysis of
the performative counter-power harnessed by the Black Consciousness Movement in 1970s South
Africa. Before we begin our analysis however, we will first elaborate a little more clearly what we
mean by ‘performative citizenship’.
The concept of citizenship is often claimed to have emerged some time during the sixth century
BC under the reforms of the Athenian statesman Salon, and it seems important to note that from its
inception, and in fact throughout its subsequent developed, the idea has carried with itone might even
argue, relied uponthe concomitant idea of exclusion. This exclusion has not only been about the
barbarians outside the city walls or across the river, mountain, or sea but has also been directed towards
internal residents; as is often noted, in ancient Athenian democracy, the citizens ruled not only over
themselves, but also over women, children, slaves, and metics.
In T. H. Marshall’s classic lecture on the emergence of ‘social citizenship’ he stated that ‘I
shall be running true to type as a sociologist if I begin by saying that I propose to divide citizenship
into three parts’, which he then proceeded to label ‘civil’, ‘political’, and ‘social’. In the case of
apartheid, all three of these notions of citizenshipeven the ‘civil citizenship’ that Marshall claimed
emerged earliest, and which he identified as ‘the rights necessary for individual freedomliberty of
the person, freedom of speech, thought and faith, the right to own property and to conclude valid
contracts, and the right to justice’ (1950: 10)were to a greater or lesser extent, and via more or less
formal means, denied to the racially-circumscribed majority of the population. As a state, apartheid
South Africa can therefore be accurately described as embodying ‘white supremacy’ understood as the
‘systematic and self-conscious efforts to make race and colour a qualification for membership of the
civil community’ (Fredrickson, 1981: xi).
In this paper we focus on a mode of citizenship that lies outside of Marshall’s purview, and
which was actively laid claim to by black anti-apartheid activists, rather than officially granted to them
by the state. Working with a definition of citizenship as meaning a status of specific rights and duties
4
This is partly a consequence of the fact that the dominant Anglophone approach to the kinds of insurgent social
movements that might embody counter-power was originally formed in a relatively structuralist mould (Goodwin &
Jasper, 1999), even if some of its most celebrated proponents did eventually turn to the centrality of performance
(e.g. Tilly, 2008).

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  • ...Leaving aside the more general performative means through which members of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) enacted forms of citizenship formally denied them under apartheid (Morgan and Baert, 2017), this article focuses on a particular dramatic scene in the biography of the BCM’s most celebrated charismatic leader, and one of its eventual martyrs, Steve Biko....

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References
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Book
12 Oct 2017
Abstract: Most writing on sociological method has been concerned with how accurate facts can be obtained and how theory can thereby be more rigorously tested. In The Discovery of Grounded Theory, Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss address the equally Important enterprise of how the discovery of theory from data--systematically obtained and analyzed in social research--can be furthered. The discovery of theory from data--grounded theory--is a major task confronting sociology, for such a theory fits empirical situations, and is understandable to sociologists and laymen alike. Most important, it provides relevant predictions, explanations, interpretations, and applications. In Part I of the book, "Generation Theory by Comparative Analysis," the authors present a strategy whereby sociologists can facilitate the discovery of grounded theory, both substantive and formal. This strategy involves the systematic choice and study of several comparison groups. In Part II, The Flexible Use of Data," the generation of theory from qualitative, especially documentary, and quantitative data Is considered. In Part III, "Implications of Grounded Theory," Glaser and Strauss examine the credibility of grounded theory. The Discovery of Grounded Theory is directed toward improving social scientists' capacity for generating theory that will be relevant to their research. While aimed primarily at sociologists, it will be useful to anyone Interested In studying social phenomena--political, educational, economic, industrial-- especially If their studies are based on qualitative data.

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Abstract: Preface to the English-Language Edition Introduction Part 1: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste 1. The Aristocracy of Culture Part 2: The Economy of Practices 2. The Social Space and its Transformations 3. The Habitus and the Space of Life-Styles 4. The Dynamics of Fields Part 3: Class Tastes and Life-Styles 5. The Sense of Distinction 6. Cultural Good Will 7. The Choice of the Necessary 8. Culture and Politics Conclusion: Classes and Classifications Postscript: Towards a 'Vulgar' Critique of 'Pure' Critiques Appendices Notes Credits Index

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01 Jan 1980
Abstract: Outline of a Theory of Practice is recognized as a major theoretical text on the foundations of anthropology and sociology. Pierre Bourdieu, a distinguished French anthropologist, develops a theory of practice which is simultaneously a critique of the methods and postures of social science and a general account of how human action should be understood. With his central concept of the habitus, the principle which negotiates between objective structures and practices, Bourdieu is able to transcend the dichotomies which have shaped theoretical thinking about the social world. The author draws on his fieldwork in Kabylia (Algeria) to illustrate his theoretical propositions. With detailed study of matrimonial strategies and the role of rite and myth, he analyses the dialectical process of the 'incorporation of structures' and the objectification of habitus, whereby social formations tend to reproduce themselves. A rigorous consistent materialist approach lays the foundations for a theory of symbolic capital and, through analysis of the different modes of domination, a theory of symbolic power.

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Abstract: THE INTERPRETATION OF CULTURES CLIFFORD GEERTZ PDF Are you searching for THE INTERPRETATION OF CULTURES CLIFFORD GEERTZ Books files? Now, you will be happy that at this time THE INTERPRETATION OF CULTURES CLIFFORD GEERTZ PDF is available at our online library. With our complete resources, you could find THE INTERPRETATION OF CULTURES CLIFFORD GEERTZ PDF or just found any kind of Books for your readings everyday.

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Frequently Asked Questions (2)
Q1. What are the contributions in this paper?

This paper introduces the concept of ‘ performative citizenship ’ to account for the manner in which the Black Consciousness Movement ( BCM ), and in particular its charismatic leader Steve Biko, transformed a collection of relatively abstract philosophical ideas into concrete political practice. The authors outline how the BCM challenged the psychological internalisation of white supremacy and asserted citizenship claims through a variety of performative techniques, many of which explicitly and implicitly reiterated earlier rights-based claims both in South Africa and abroad. The authors show how this took place within a remarkably restrictive context, which on the one hand constrained performances, but on the other augmented their dramatic efficacy. The paper makes an argument about the performance of counter-power, showing how whilst the apartheid complex retained its command over economic, military, and political power, it struggled to control the social drama that was unfolding on the cultural plane, therefore losing its grip on one key element of ideological power. Finally, the paper also makes a methodological contribution to reception studies by showing how researching the reception of ideas exclusively through the spoken or written word neglects other modes through which ideas might find expression, especially in contexts of pervasive censorship and political repression. 

Social dramas, including those found in ritual, extend back into the past through fashioning their own scripts from preceding cultural forms and stretch forward into an unknown future in which they may be resurrected long after their original actors have died, and often after extended periods of dormancy. Understanding the way in which words and speech do things is therefore certainly key ( Austin, 1962 ; Butler, 1997 ), but if reception studies neglects the power of ideas in their non-verbal and non-written performative manifestation, it will fail to detect large elements of its purported object of study.