Counter-conducts in South Africa: Power, Government and Dissent at the World Summit

Carl Death

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26 Citations (SciVal)


This article introduces Michel Foucault's concept of ‘counter-conducts’—‘struggles against the processes implemented for conducting others’—in order to rethink the relationship between power and dissent. It proposes an ‘analytics of protest’ to address forms of resistance, through which this article focuses on the mentalities, practices, and subjectivities produced at protests in South Africa at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development. These protests were some of the largest public expressions of dissent since the end of apartheid, yet the article illuminates the ways in which power and resistance are mutually reliant and co-constitutive. These summit counter-conducts both contested and reinforced existing power relations, and were disciplined by discourses of civility/violence, partnership/disruption, and local/foreign from state authorities and the media. They were also disciplined by internal discourses of liberal dissent and radical protest from within the movements themselves. The article concludes that, from a Foucauldian perspective on counter-conducts, forms of dissent that are strategic, reversible, and flexible are preferable to those that are sedimented and entrenched.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-438
Number of pages14
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2011


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