Comparative digital protest cultures in South Africa and Tamil Nadu: #feesmustfall, #Jallikattu, and Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) - a case of surveillance and diasporic potential


  • Jabulani Nkuna University of South Africa
  • Kameshwaran Envernathan Govender University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Anusharani Sewchurran Durban University of Technology



Abahlali baseMjondolo, #feesmustfall, #jallikattu, diaspora, digital protest culture


This paper explores three protest movements differing in scale and scope in two regions in the world. #feesmustfall (2015-2016) was a social media movement in South Africa to protest against prohibitive hikes in university fees. #Jallikattu (2017) was a social media movement in Tamil Nadu (India) to lift a ban imposed by the Supreme Court of India against an ancient cultural sport with bulls. Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) is a South African social media movement to raise issues related to shack dwellers. While there is literature focusing on these movements individually (Bosch 2016, Kalaiyarasan 2017, Mdlalose 2014), a comparative approach offers some alternate insights into how state power manifests in the age of digital capitalism. Habermas (1987, 1989) theorised the transformation of the public sphere and key to understanding how these publics contest existing power structures is his explication of authentic communicative action. Using Fuchs’s (2016) and Zuboff’s (2019) analyses of social media activism, we examine police brutality and surveillance in these three movements. The classical model of diaspora (Harutyunyan 2012) is introduced to show how it manifests in two of the protest movements, and contemporary notions of diaspora (Grossman 2019: 1265) are explored to see what they could offer to diverse protest cultures.


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