Shaping a township: self-connecting as ‘counter conduct’ in Umlazi, Durban

by Shauna Mottiar

06 Dec 2021
Journal of the British Academy
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Abstract: South Africa has high levels of protest. Protest actions are frequently linked to demands for ‘service delivery’, specifically the lack of access to housing, water and electricity in poor neighbourhoods. As a result, residents in these areas have resorted to informal, self-service provision in the form of illegal water and electricity connections. These self-services have assumed two narratives: the first, in official circles, as criminalised activities; and the second, by protestors and social movements, as gaining basic social rights. This article examines the various methods of ‘illegal’ water and electricity connections in the township of Umlazi, situated in Durban, South Africa. It draws on ‘counter conduct’ to understand illegal connections as ‘diffuse and subdued forms of resistance’. Techniques of counter conduct by Umlazi residents resist both forms and quantities of service provision through the act of self-connecting. Self-connections use the government’s own techniques against it while adopting its own governmentality. The article is based on a qualitative study comprising interviews with householders of Emhlabeni, Umlazi Section D.

Keywords: Protest, counter conduct, governmentality, resistance, service delivery, self-connections, illegal connections.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 11 (Citizenship, Marginality and Urban (In)security in Contemporary Africa)

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