Resistance and representation : the organization of protest by subsistence and recreational fisherman during the FIFA World Cup 2010.
This study explores the ways in which a group of local fishermen in Durban understand and negotiate their categorical exclusion from a public space. Several months prior to the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa, three piers on the Durban beachfront were closed for upgrading. The fishermen had used two of these piers for nearly three decades, but when they were re-opened, access for fishermen was no longer allowed. Working in the constructionist paradigm and within the field of Cultural Studies, this study describes the fishermen as engaged in the politics of signification through the organisation of public action. To explore their understandings I applied a qualitative, mostly ethnographic approach, and focused particularly on those fishermen who fish on the beachfront and are active in the KwaZulu-Natal Subsistence Fishermen’s Forum (KZNSFF), a body that represents the fishermen in the public sphere. The study shows that the fishermen are a heterogeneous group who understand their exclusion in different ways. This variety and complexity of understandings in effect works against collective action and posed a challenge to the leadership of the KZNSFF who sought to construct a coherent collective action frame. Drawing on Social Movement theory, two public protests in which the fishermen negotiated their exclusion were among the central focuses of this study. The first was held during the World Cup and organised by KZNSFF. The other protest was less coordinated and held after the World Cup. Both protests are analysed through comparison, and indicate the importance of access to resources of leadership. The role of the media in effective Social Movement Organisation (SMO) is discussed in terms of ‘media standing’ and the legitimisation of actions and position of speakers. Further, it is argued that the presence of democratic institutions does not necessarily lead to democratic decision-making as civil society is often demobilised by political society. Additional to public protests, the fishermen negotiated their exclusion in the letters to the editor section of local press. Argumentative discourse analysis is applied in the analysis of a sample whereby strategies of othering are identified. The letter writers were engaged in an unequal contestation in which different sets of stake-holders sought to define what counts as truth in relation to access to the Durban beachfront.