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Social media activism and simulated democracies: a comparative exploration of #FeesMustFall (South Africa) and #Jallikattu protests (Tamil Nadu, India)

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2024

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Social media's transformation into public spheres has influenced activism and shifted protests and social movements into digital spaces. The #FeesMustFall movement (2015) campaigned for free education in South Africa. #FMF was precipitated by the #RhodesMustFall movement (2015) which called for the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town, which represented colonialism. #RMF called for the decolonisation of education and #FMF reiterated the same. In parallel, the #Jallikattu protests (2017) in Tamil Nadu was against the Supreme Court's ban of 'Jallikattu’ a 2000-year-old cultural sport with bulls. The protests were triggered by the cumulative grievances of the people of Tamil Nadu against India's union government. The temporal proximity, student-led activism, social media influence of the protests and the nations being post-colonial democracies invoked the interest for this inter-continental comparison of protest cultures. This study explores a unique comparison of democracies via protest movements in South Africa and India. The researcher has collected data from blogs, e-newspapers, e-magazines, online news aggregators, e-editions of mainstream media, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and personal interviews to compare the discourses, which emerged from both these social campaigns. A snowball sampling method and open-ended interviews were used to collect data from student protestors, university faculty, media persons and the general citizenry. Foucault's discourse analysis and Yin's explorative case study analysis were used to analyse the collected data. Gidden's structuration theory provided a theoretical lens to how colourism, police brutality, racism, casteism, sexism, centres of protests, media bias, and diaspora support affected the social movements. Baudrillard’s simulacra and simulation theory afforded further analysis of the levels of democracies in both these nations. Drawing from the above events and narratives the researcher posits a simulation of democracy in South Africa and India disrupting normative ideals.

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Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.

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