Linking Governance and Xenophobic Violence in Contemporary South Africa


By demonstrating that local governance facilitates the occurrence of xenophobic violence by providing what I term favourable micro-political opportunity structures, the article argues that governance is a key determinant of xenophobic violence in South Africa and of collective violence generally. Research evidence (from extensive comparative empirical data and the global literature) informing this argument sits incongruently with the common and widely accepted understanding of governance and its relationship with collective violence. It shows that some aspects of this relationship are misunderstood and others are yet to be examined. Indeed, theoretical predictions in this regard indicate that collective violence and other forms of contentious collective action tend to occur in societies where mechanisms of social control have lost their restraining power. This article challenges these predictions by illustrating that, in most cases, xenophobic violence occurs in areas where social controls are strong and actually a facilitating factor. Further, the article indicates that the biggest misunderstanding of the relationship between governance and collective violence lies in interconnections yet to be examined. Such an examination would reveal the predominant role of governance, not only as a determinant, but particularly because of the significant role it plays in the making of violence co-determinants.

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Author:  Jean Pierre Misago

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