Since the end of my doctoral research, I've begun to publish articles in academic and scholarly journals. On this page, I've summarised my arguments and linked to the site of their original publications.
I wrote this article with Stuart Wilson about a community in Tumahole, the township on the edge of Parys - a small city in the Northern Free State.
This community organised themselves around a primary school called BopaSetjhaba - and when the school was faced with the threat of closure by the provincial Department of Education, the community set out to challenge the Department's decision through petition, protest, and the use of the courts.
We argue that this school's experiences of engaging with the state provide an insight into the evolving nature of politics in post-apartheid South Africa. In particular, we draw upon the ideas of Jacques Rancière to suggest that the community's presumption of their own ability to engage with the Department's bureaucracy and political leaders as equal - rather than as subservient petitioners - disturbs the possibilities of politics in this period.
This article is about a set of public rallies held to celebrate the victory of Frelimo's revolutionary forces in neighbouring Mozambique, and organised by the South African Students Movement and the Black People's Convention in Durban and the University of the North in September 1974.
In it, I argue that these rallies have been underestimated by most other writers on the period. They've been seen as the inciting cause for the legal repression of the main spokesmen and organisation of the loose Black Consciousness movement at the time - and it is true that they provided the state with the excuse to arrest the leaders of SASO and the BPC. But this has obscured the revolutionary political potential of the rallies themselves - which represent one of the most significant moments in which anti-apartheid politics erupted in the public sphere in the fifteen years after the Sharpeville Massacre and the banning of the ANC, PAC, and other liberation movements.
I wrote this article in response to the judgment of the Equality Court in a matter between Afri-Forum (a somewhat specialised non-governmental organisation that 'works to ensure that the basic prerequisites for the existence of Afrikaners are met') and Julius Malema (then the leader of the ANC Youth League, and now the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters). In this case, Malema was accused of committing an act of hate speech by singing a protest song that translates, approximately, to the slogan "Kill the Farmer."
In the judgment, the presiding judge relied heavily on a highly contentious - and, in my opinion, unsustainable - version of South African history, dependent on essentialised notions of ethnic identity and a simplistic account of the country's twentieth century political struggles. This history then created the context within which the judge considered whether or not Malema's utterances could constitute hate speech.
I argue that this history is misleading, and inaccurate - and if this is the case, then the context within which the legal matter (whether or not the speech act was itself 'hate speech') was determined was compromised.
This is the first article I published from my doctoral work, and it sets out one of the key arguments of my thesis: that the South African Students' Organisation (SASO) was far more cautious in its approach to political activism than has generally been realised by most scholars of the Black Consciousness movement and its organisations.
Reading the correspondence and private documents of the leaders of SASO and its allies, including Steve Biko, I argue that black students were highly conscious of the political consequences of their actions and chose to refrain from public protest at first. White students in NUSAS (the National Union of South African Students), by contrast, sought to push their activism into the public realm. This was the cause of much tension between the organisations - but not because, as is often assumed, NUSAS was cautious and SASO radical. In fact, in the early years, this relationship was reversed.
SASO did come to embrace public forms of protest (including - as I discuss in another article - organising mass rallies) - and their later public prominence has overshadowed their early caution.
Julian Brown, "The Durban Strikes of 1973: Political Identities and the Management of Protest," in William Beinart and Marcelle C. Dawson (eds.), Popular Politics and Resistance Movements in South Africa (Wits University Press, 2010), pp. 31-51.
I have a chapter in Popular Protest and Resistance Movements in South Africa, edited by William Beinart and Marcelle C. Dawson.
My chapter is a study of the Durban Strikes of 1973 - a spontaneous wave of industrial action that shook the port city, and paralysed industry for almost three months. The strike wave was one of the first signs of the crumbling of the apartheid state's hegemonic control over public politics, and one of the first moments in a history of a revitalised labour movement. In my article, I try to understand why - despite its obvious, and immediate, significance - the strike wave was allowed to grow as it did.
I argue that the apartheid state did not recognise the actions of the striking workers as political, but rather imagined them to be the result of a confluence of cultural factors and socio-economic need. As such, the state hesitated to use its armed might to suppress the strikes - and, in so doing, inadvertently permitted the development of a new political force that would eventually challenge it.