“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle”: Xenophobia in the time of decolonisation, eRhini, 2015

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Rhini (Grahamstown) in 2015 experienced xenophobic attacks at the very moment as the #RUShutdown student protests at the university currently known as Rhodes University (UCKAR). The students and supporters often referred to the popular Audre Lorde saying that “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle”. In so doing, the students affirmed intersectionality as well as the full participation of marginalised bodies in the process of decolonising institutional acts and practices of oppression in higher learning. In addition, the students in their efforts to decolonise institutions of higher learning (by, for instance, taking down symbols of exploitation and privilege) sought to connect what was happening at university campuses to larger social challenges, particularly around gender-based violence, inequality and xenophobia. In this briefing, albeit cognizant of the interconnectedness of student movements across the country, I focus primarily on the efforts of the Black Students Movement (BSM) at UCKAR. I narrate two key moments at UCKAR in 2015, these being: the #RhodesSoWhite moment exposing institutionalised racism at Rhodes, as well as #RUShutdown challenging fee increments and initial fee payments that exclude poor and low-income students. I narrate these moments through the microblogging site, Twitter. I tie these moments at UCKAR to the larger context eRhini which at this very same time was grappling with xenophobic attacks that displaced over 500 people. I look at what it means to have xenophobic incidences in a place where students are calling for the embracing of differences across class, geographical location, and social status through decolonisation. I argue that the student movements, as well as the xenophobic attacks, bring into question issues about otherness, disadvantage and inequality pervasive in socio-historical relations. Moreover, through the lens of gender (specifically #RapeAtAzania and more recently the #RUReferenceList), I contend that some of the intra-movement challenges the students have grappled with (including homophobia and sexual assault) show–despite the gains of the students–the limitations of the work of decolonisation occurring primarily in the higher education sector, and not reflected in wider South African societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-45
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • decolonisation
  • gender
  • rhini
  • transformation
  • xenophobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies


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