Conceptualizing direct action as a form of participation in development: A South African case

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The scholarly focus on participation in development is highly biased towards analyses of 'invited' (Cornwall, 2004) participatory spaces, those that have been induced by governments or international agencies. However, there is a growing body of literature that investigates 'invented' participatory spaces-more autonomous spaces which have been created at the grassroots level. The available scholarship on 'invented' participatory spaces, however, has not sufficiently raised the application of direct action (violent or non-violent) as a means by which marginalized actors can claim power, thereby exercising citizenship from below. Direct action, it will be argued, presents distinct possibilities for creating the conditions in which a transformative approach to development can be achieved. This article draws primarily from interviews with and observations of the Alexandra Vukuzenzele Crisis Committee (AVCC) in the context of the flagship African National Congress (ANC) R1.3 billion Alexandra Renewal Project (ARP). In so doing, it highlights the limitations and possibilities posed by the AVCC's occupation of houses as a form of direct action that can transform the development process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-83
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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