Exorcising the Demon Within: Xenophobia, Violence and Statecraft in Contemporary South Africa

The UCLA African Studies Center presents a talk by Loren B. Landau, Director of the Forced Migration Studies Programme at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Monday, November 09, 2009
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall (10th Floor)
Los Angeles, CA 90095

In May 2008, South Africa witnessed two shocking weeks of deadly attacks on foreigners and other suspect outsiders. This talk makes sense of the violence by focusing on an extended history of South African statecraft that both produced the conditions for the violence and hamstring efforts to address it. Decades of discursive and institutional efforts to control political and physical space have generated an enemy within: an amorphously delimited group of outsiders that is inherently threatening, often indistinguishable from others, and is effectively impossible to spatially exclude. However, current discourse and practice—buttressed by past dispensations and principles—maintain the imperative to alienate and help dictate the means of that exclusion. For many behind the attacks or empathising with them, controlling the movement of people within the country or across its borders is essential to security, prosperity, and South Africa’s national self-realisation. Political leaders are now faced with a dilemma: by embracing non-nationals as part of a collective endeavour they will be seen as betraying the national project by the demonic and visibly violent society they and their predecessors have helped create.

He has published widely on human mobility, development, and sovereignty in the academic and popular press. He is currently co-directing a comparative project on migration and urban transformation in Southern and Eastern Africa. He also serves on the executive committee of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), a national advocacy network, and has consulted for the South African Human Rights Commission, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNDP, the French Development Agency (AFD), and is a member of the South African Immigration Advisory Board. He holds a Master’s in Development Studies from the London School of Economics and a Doctorate in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Special Instructions

Pay-by-space and all-day ($10) parking available in lot 3.

Cost : Free and Open to the Public

For more information please contact:

James S. Coleman African Studies CenterTel: 310-825-3686



Sponsor(s): African Studies Center