The Drill Hall Forum, Very Real Time 2, 2006
This series of online and live forums were organised in collaboration with Dorothee Kreuzveld and Joubert Park Project in 2006.
The main subjects of discussion were : 
The value of 'socially engaged' art, Love, sex and intimate relationships, and Personal rituals of self-preservation. Speakers included : Lisa Vetten, Jill Magid, Dr Achille Mbember, Stephen Hobbs, Gerald Raunig and many others. Below are a selection of statements : 

Dr Achille Mbembe
Fables of Responsibility
(Transcription from live event at the Drill Hall, Johannesburg, 4 February 2006).
First of all I would like to apologise because I will have to leave after my presentation. Gregg was talking about real time, I have to write a weekly column for a number of newspapers in Franco-phone Africa. And the topic I have to write about this week is the African cup of nations going on in Egypt right now. And I have to indeed watch those games in order to talk about them. So I apologise about that. I would like to thank Gregg and Dorothee for inviting me here tonight.
I will speak rather indirectly to the two issues picked for our conversations tonight. On the one hand the question of ‘intimate rituals of self-preservation' and on the other ‘love sex and intimate relations' … why is it that I speak to them indirectly? I speak to them indirectly because it seems to me that these two questions are raised in a context we need to pause a little bit and reflect on. They are raised in a context in which world wide, here in South Africa , else where in the continent, in Europe , Latin America , in the Arab world, world wide there seems to be an urgent need for a new combination of aesthetic creativity and political activism. This is a discussion that is going on, as I said world wide. We live in a time when this need emerges…at a time when the rhetoric of human emancipation, human redemption or what we used to call liberation, when that rhetoric is, if not in question, at least discredited. Or in any case the faith in that rhetoric is diminishing world wide. It's also a time in which very clearly it appears that we cannot rely any longer on the old concept of the avant-garde to reanimate what we would call the project of emancipation. Third, it is a time when therefore we are forced to produce art (when I say art, I mean thought, so for me art and thought go to together) in the absence of a political or social utopia. And in an intellectual and cultural atmosphere in which the dream of absolute beauty, which is after all central to artistic creativity… appears as such, meaning a dream in face of the ugliness of our world. It's also a time when for millions of people, faith in the present and future appear to be diminishing, at the same time the past doesn't seem to be providing any stable referent for identity or for action.
So what does it mean to use a term like ‘very real time' in such a context? It seems to me that the term ‘very real time' might mean, if we agree that is part of the context I have described, in fact, how do we reanimate the possibility of radical art, radical thought and radical politics in an age of uncertainty. So, what I would like to share with you are some general reflections on this. How do we reanimate the possibility of radical art and thought in an age of uncertainty, and at times, of radical uncertainty? I think that, and that's the hypothesis I would like to put here, the first step to reanimating that project is to revisit a mode of conceptualising our current political and cultural situation. In other terms we have to understand not only what is real time, but what is our present made of. What is our present… that we are living in and experiencing in such a way that we can say we are our own contemporaries? In what consists our contemporaneity if you wish. So it seems to me to do that, this means at least three things and I would like to go through them briefly.
I think to do this we need to reinvent a way of deciphering the signs of times that we live in, which implies that those signs are not automatically legible, and they might not be automatically transparent and therefore the question is how to bring them to their full clarity. What does it mean to walk here, or drive here coming from Melville, driving along Bree Street, looking into the changes that have occurred through the history of that place, from the formation of the city of Johannesburg until, what time is it, a quarter to seven. How do we begin to identify what's going on? Who is there? What is being written on the walls? What is the meaning of the garbage we see along the pavement? What has been consumed in that garbage? That is what I mean by deciphering the signs of the time, but in very specific circumstances: in the lives of people, who move around, go back and forth and so on.
Second, it seems to me to respond to that question ‘what are the times that we live in?' this means to make a judgement, to pronounce a verdict on those times. It also means that we need an archive, because it is indeed very difficult to theorise in the absence of an archive or to decipher anything in the absence of an archive. An archive that is contradictory or if you wish a set of archives set against each other, the archive is what you would call a mediation in this process.
What I mean by those three steps that might appear to you to be terribly abstract is that the present is a matter of accountability and there is no way in which as artists or as thinkers, we will escape that duty of accountability. We can not produce an art that is meaningful, neither at the level of the personal, the level of the intimate or the political level, if this is not somehow accountable to something else, because even in intimate relationships we are accountable to each other. It seems to me one way of reinvigorating the project of emancipation both in art and thought in the place in which we live in today is to place very squarely at the centre of both our thought and practice what I would call the question of the ethical order of human proximity. Because it's the question of human proximity that is indeed at the centre of love, sex, rituals of self-preservation, which are themselves unthinkable without out the rituals of preservation of the other. So bringing all of this, bringing the question of the ethical order of human proximity at the centre of our thought and practice today seems to me to be one way in which we can account what Gregg and Dorothee you call ‘very real time'.
Indeed, just following on those lines, the question of the ethical order of human proximity, what is it? It is the question of the encounter with the other. It seems to me that radical art, radical thought, radical politics is losing that edge because the question of the encounter with the other has been somewhat displaced. The encounter with the other meaning what? Meaning the act of making the other's death my business. My encounter with the mortality of the other speaking to my own mortality. It seems to me in the world in which we live in today there are three haunting figures around whom the questions I have just raised are coalescing. There is the figure of the enemy. We live in a time when the question of the enemy has become absolutely central to the ways in which we relate to each other. Which raises another question: how to be human in times of terror? (Being those times in which politics… are reduced to identifying who your enemy is, going after your enemy, killing your enemy). So the figure of the enemy is indeed that point of coalescence of the question of the ethical order of human proximity.
The other figure is the figure of the neighbour, what do I do with my neighbour... in the full knowledge that my neighbour might have been my enemy very recently. How do I live with my enemy who has turned out to be my neighbour? This is a typical South African question. In the aftermath of apartheid, the question is today how do we rebuild a society in which there is a mutuality of recognition in our shared humanity. It is a very powerful utopia, I would think, which has been dealt with in many many ways, in art, in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in a dream of building a world beyond race. How do we reactivate all of those things in such a way as to indeed counter that other politics in which the enemy becomes indeed dear? And in so doing, seeing that from Johannesburg we speak from Africa, how do we build indeed a modern African society we can call ‘Afro-politan', meaning sure of itself and its identity and embracing the world without fear, because it has something to contribute to human universal questions.
The third haunting figure in this trilogy is the figure of the stranger. It seems to me that we are all aware of questions of migration, the rebuilding of walls fifteen years ago the Berlin wall was demolished. If you travel from North Africa to Spain you will see new walls being built. You go Palestine , new walls are being built. Some of them are material walls, many others are invisible: we don't see them until we hit them. And what those walls are aiming at separating, we see it in our very city, the way in which Johannesburg is built, gated communities, questions of security, the fact that many people don't want to live together. People want to live with those who look like them. When we bring all of that at the centre of our thought in this world we live in, the question of the stranger becomes absolutely central.
So, I will end it there, because I only have 15 minutes and can go on and on. It seems to me then that we cannot really say the age of politics has evaporated now let's go to the personal, or let's go to the intimate. The problem is to read: what are those signs of the times we live in which are questioning in a very radical manner the very possibility of being human. So there is a new question of being human which I think, those of us who live in societies like this, those of us who live far away from the old civilisations who think they have resolved it long ago. We have an opportunity to produce around those issues a proposition that is new and radical enough so that when it is heard people stop and listen to it. And as far as I'm concerned that is what is at stake when we begin to think about this concept of real time. So I'll stop it there.
Achille Mbembe was born in Cameroon, obtained his Ph.D in History at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1989 and a D.E.A. in Political Science at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques (Paris). He was Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University, New York, from 1988-1991 , a Senior Research Fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., from 1991 to 1992, Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania from 1992 to 1996, Executive Director of the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (Codesria) in Dakar, Senegal, from 1996 to 2000.  Achille was also a visiting Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001, and a visiting Professor at Yale University in 2003. He has written extensively in African history and politics, including La naissance du maquis dans le Sud-Cameroun (Paris, Karthala, 1996).
Gerald Raunig
Thurs, Feb 16 2006 12:37 pm
Welcome to the discussion forum, The value of 'socially-engaged art.' The discussions will be inititiated by three texts which have been comissioned as responses to this theme. We begin with a text by Gerald Raunig, entitled:
Art and Politics: The great divide
In my central-eurocentric view of the art field, an old figure comes up again and again: the rigid division between art and politics. On the one hand, moody commentaries stress pleasure as the primary aspect of the reception of art; for the field of politics, on the other hand, there is a call for the earnestness of "real rationality". Fun and creativity here, uncreative yet politically efficient political work there. In the case of documenta 10 and 11, for instance, there are recurrent references to the allegedly exaggerated austerity, an overly heavy emphasis on politics and discourse. At the same time, the new documenta director Roger Buergel stresses the "special character of art" "in contrast to … political propaganda". Underlying these kinds of needs for separation, there are often class-specific interests and the mechanisms of the art market, but also a current development that could be described as a paradoxical mix of neo-conservative and neo-liberal tendencies. They are  neo-conservative to the extent that they still or again seem to defend the purity of art against uncontrollable political swarms, to defend an understanding of art that stems from a Bildungsbürgertum that has passed away; they are neo-liberal in the sense that the ideology of freedom of art is transformed in affirming a spectacular exhibition business that has little use for the "earnestness" and the "austerity" of the political.
  On the other hand, in other realms of the art field – such as in the conference Klartext that was organized a year ago in Berlin – a hunger for activism is noted. However, this seems to be more of a hunger for a form of “soft activism” that is about controlling and integrating what used to be the audience, than about radical social criticism and change: here art is supposed to help transform the boisterous multitudes into a manageable group in and around museums. Undifferentiating critics all too quickly equate this tamed “art activism” in the form of community art, participative art and relational aesthetics with certain very different practices of intervention art, communication guerrilla and activist approaches that apply fundamentally different methods. Whereas the former impel identitary and communitary strategies, seeking to redistribute and apportion space, the latter tend to distribute themselves in space without fixing the space as antecedent, stable and hierarchical. When these two completely different policies are blurred, whether out of ignorance or maliciousness, this lays the foundation for carrying out an all-encompassing criticism of every form of activist art, whether it is soft or hard, structure- or machine-like, striating the space or producing it. On the basis of this reduction and confusion, it becomes easy to criticize activist art practices on the whole and revoke a (re-) turn from the process to the object, partly with the rehashed conceptual tools of the aesthetics of the 18th and 19th century (autonomy, beauty, aesthetic experience, etc.), partly with the brute force of the PC hammer: today's political (art) practices are said to be "politically correct" and hence without humor or pleasure.
  Where does this lead, this rigid division into an art that has to be fun and only fun, and politics whose effectiveness is allegedly only reached by earnestly following a straight line to achieve an objective? It leads to a depoliticization of both fields. The rigid division of the fields, setting a border that is as solid and insurmountable as possible, is not only to be understood as a false description, but it also has a normative function in the respective contexts. Politics in the sense of organs of representative democracy have every reason to instrumentalize art for beautification, rather than drawing on the critique of representation; actors in the art field may profit from distinction with a superficial political enrichment of their practices, but then they are generally satisfied with themselves. So there are quite strong tactical reasons for sticking to rigid divisions of political and artistic practices as well as for bashing concrete forms of radical art activism and
 activist art that create overlaps of the political and the aesthetical.
  On the other side there is the pathos of crossing borders, of exodus to the other side, transgression in the sense of a transcendence into another world, analogous to the fantasy of the separation dissolving in something beyond power relations, beyond capitalism, etc. Overcoming the border, eliminating it or simply crossing it may sound seducing at first. Yet the cathartic practice of carnivalesque, Dionysian transgression results in the hangover of integration, and when the Gesamtkunstwerk comes into play, then the total state is not far away.
  Nevertheless, i think it is worth while to take a closer look at overlapping forms of art and activism that overcome simplistic ideas of transcendent transgression. But how could transgression be imagined as both a non-totalitarian and non-transcendental phenomenon, as transgression in the plane of immanence? How could a kind of immanent transgression be imagined, in which masks cover nothing other than more masks, in which transgression is not a matter of a prefigured border separating two identities from one another, nor a matter of destroying that border, but rather of changing its quality?
Gerald Raunig is a philosopher is an art theoretician, living in Vienna. He is co- director of eipcp (European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies), Vienna; co-ordinator of the transnational research projects /republicart/ ( , 2002-2005) and /transform/ ( , 2005-2008); lecturer on political aesthetics at the Institute for Philosophy, University of Klagenfurt/A and at the Department of Visual Studies, University of Lüneburg/D, member of the editorial board of the Austrian journal for radical democratic cultural politics, /Kulturrisse/ ( ) and (co-)editor of two series of books at Turia+Kant, Vienna: "republicart. Kunst und Öffentlichkeit" and "es kommt darauf an. Texte zur Theorie der politischen Praxis"; numerous lectures, essays and publications in the fields of contemporary philosophy, art theory, political aesthetics and cultural politics.
Recent books: /Kunst und Revolution. //Künstlerischer Aktivismus im langen 20. Jahrhundert/, Wien: Turia+Kant 2005; /PUBLICUM. Theorien der Öffentlichkeit/, Wien: Turia+Kant 2005 (ed. by Gerald Raunig and Ulf Wuggenig).

Thurs, Feb 16 2006 6:28 pm
 My name is Jill Magid and I am an artist presently based in New York City.
  In my work I seek intimate relationships with impersonal structures, and prepare for our seduction.
  To be seduced is to challenge the other to be seduced in turn. Seduction is an engagement; it is neither a representation, nor an interpretation. It is a cycle, to be played back and forth, against an end. Once seduced, a system moves from an exercise of power to a form of exchange.
  Systems and technologies are created based on need, real or imaginary. I am interested in the appearance of this need, and how a system or technology is invented and inserted to deal with it. My attraction to new technologies is their ability to highlight what we think we need now, and their impossible task to full this:
  Surveillance systems for the feeling or appearance of security; diamonds from human cremains to preserve a life and a love; systems of identification to locate a subject(ivity).
  A system is slowed down when it is engaged on a personal level. This is a system's loose end, and its open invitation. The challenge to its promise is built in. I choose to take this up.
  This being said, I do not think the work I make changes the system at its infrastructure, but at the level of its appearances. I use the system, via of its latent qualities, for an intimate and poetic experience, in an overlap of my needs and its promises.
  My initial encounters with public systems of surveillance appeared as interventions. I made performances using localized CCTV systems, without their authorization, inserting myself into them by overriding their signals with my own.  I used the system to reconstruct my representation, for myself and for those in the space of the action. ( )
  My desire grew for the system to respond. I wanted to instigate seduction, a game to be played out between us.
  An institution is a body. I imagine it as a singular body or being, and this is always personal. Cities are the same. Each institution, each city, has a personality with qualities, character traits and moods. I want to have a relationship with this body. For me it's a sensual experience. I cannot relate to an institution in general terms. I make it a person or a lover in my mind and relate to its body with my own.
  I am attracted to the disproportionate scale of my body to their body, and provoked by the exclusive barrier that divides us: their closed system verses my position outside of it. I look for a way to cross over, to get incorporated, to shrink them down to my size. I like the fact that we form a connection, and that our connection is inherently fragile.
  The systems I choose to work with function at a distance, with a wide-angle perspective, equalizing everyone and erasing the individual. I seek the potential softness and intimacy of their technologies, the fallacy of their omniscient point of view, the ways in which they hold memory (yet often cease to remember), their engrained position in society (the cause of their invisibility), their authority, their apparent intangibility- and, with all of this, their potential reversibility.
  I enter the system in a role I have invented: as Head Security Ornamentation Professional of System Azure ( ) in the ornamentation of police headquarters, as the subject of Log #2887 in the Liverpool Police department's Evidence Locker, as the Consultant for Personal Data at Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service.
  …I recognize my image as a sign and change my image in order to signify…
  This is a social engagement.
  It is a beautiful thing when a tool transcends its assigned function. The expectation of the tool creates the ground for its subversion, and in doing so, the symbolic order or ‘truth' of the system is permanently exposed.
  As for the presentation of this experience in the context of art, the viewer is a witness. and a potential player. But if the viewer wants to play he or she must start a new game. I do not give them the game to play, but distill my game for them to see.
  If the viewer is asked to engage, it is to start a new seduction (ex. As the Benefactor in Auto Portrait Pending ).
  To make my projects realities, they often must be funded. The art world, when considered as a commercial space, is limiting if the artwork is not something inherently sellable- if I am not creating representations but enacting social engagements. The contract (real or implied) for another to engage with me is a material of that work; i.e. work made with permission is a condition of the work. Perhaps this can be true of money. I am attempting to develop this in my practice, to design the exchange of money as a material of the work, so that ‘support' is not blind, but produces a meaning of its own. Perhaps in a seduction, the exchange of money can be a way to raise the stakes.
  I realize this can backfire.
  When the system or institution engages with me- if it furthermore exchanges with me, it makes itself accountable for what happens between us.
  Public funding should support social engagements that propose new relations, and thus new meanings, within existing social and public systems of authority. This includes their subversion.
Stephen Hobbs
During our activities as public art researchers and commissioning agents for the Johannesburg Development Agency, we conducted numerous site visits, city walks, and scripto-visual mapping workshops, towards a better understanding of the manner in which public art can contribute to place making solutions in the inner city.
On one of our site inspections at the boundary between Braamfontein and Hillbrow, we were confronted by a Senegalese man, who recognizing our cameras must have presumed we were tourists. Speaking to us in French he advised us not to enter Hillbrow. Able to understand and respond we info rmed him that we were Joburger's and that we were very aware of the no-go aspects of Hillbrow.
From the perspective of our mapping activities, we thus received first hand evidence of the potentially charged divide between these two neighbourhoods and in addition a sense of strangeness following the realization that ‘others' from the continent might have a stronger foothold of areas of the city that we had previously traversed freely.
This sense of territoriality within the inner city, the evidence of a ‘new' African user and so on had become a reality even before the abolition of the Group Areas Act in 1990.
As an artist whose body of work to date is predominantly dedicated to investigating the transformations and visual discourses within Johannesburg , I have come to realise that Johannesburg holds remarkable value as a laboratory for studying and immersing oneself. It is also home to both myself and Marcus Neustetter and because we have chosen to remain in South Africa , we understand that our memories of home under apartheid for example are now radically challenged at all levels. For us, remaining here means embracing that change and using our skills as creative people to participate in, produce and influence perceptions.
Referring back to this idea of immersion in the city, we identify Johannesburg as perhaps the best example of a South African city's conversion from an apartheid identity to a multiple African identity. In this transformation process our sense is that the city itself is catching up to the rapid reclamation strategies adopted by the new city users be they local or from the continent. The high impact change within the urban fabric of Johannesburg leaves traces of human interaction, socio- economic and even cultural endeavour. As artists and curators there is so much opportunity to use the language of exhibition practice within public or private space to reflect on this transformation and what it means for creative interventions to play a role in reporting on this change or facilitating a seeing-ourselves approach to audience growth and development.
An example of our approach can best be described in our project (by invitation of the French Institute of South Africa ) for the Dakar Biennial in May 2006.
During the conceptual phase of the project, the first questions we asked ourselves were; what does Dakar / Senegal look like? How does it behave as a city? And are there comparisons we can draw between Dakar and Johannesburg 's newly formed African city?
An answer to these questions would require establishing a process that was born out of the encounter with the ‘Senegalese man'.
Our proposal acknowledges the following:
There is a Senegalese community in Joburg, migrant, legal and illegal, engaging with the City of Johannesburg in a particular way.
From a city comparison perspective we need to have an encounter with Dakar and this encounter should be relevant to our work in Johannesburg and other African cities.
The language of mapping through video, photography, drawing and found materials will form the key visual documentation processes.
The outcome of the project should have a form particular to the Dakar exhibition and a form particular to a return exhibition in Johannesburg .
Our concept proposes the following.
We establish a forum within which we can interview a small number of resident Senegalese immigrants. Through the interview dialogue we hope to extract info rmation about Dakar , hand drawn maps, photographs and other info rmation that we could use to navigate Dakar without reliance upon traditional maps or guide books. An added layer to this navigation process is that we offer to deliver something of importance to a friend or family member in Dakar .
This process is documented and forms the basis upon which we design our own route map, from the airport or main transport arteries to the city.
The culmination of documentary material is then processed in Dakar through a media lab that is partnering with us to produce an exhibition result.
Upon return to Johannesburg we will recontextualise the Dakar Exhibition in Hillbrow, with a view to engaging the resident Senegalese audience.
In both my own artistic practice and the collaborative partnership between myself and Marcus Neustetter, I think that our socially engaged processes began years ago out of notions of adding or extracting value within the set of relations accountable to the project or intervention. We realise today that our interventions are directly linked to issues of audience development, access and interpretation. That in a fragmented society like that of South Africa ; audience is site or context specific and that in this sense we purpose and condition our projects to this end.

Hilde de Bruijn
Dear all,

My name is Hilde de Bruijn, and I am a freelance curator based in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Recently I have organised Hidden Rhythms, a contemporary art project in which 15 artists participated. The project looked at the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion from the perspective or ritual and ritualizing. You can find more info on this project at (under the archive button). At the moment a public programme of lectures, performances and screenings that I have organised for the MA Fine Art programme of the Piet Zwart Institute is taking place in Rotterdam, NL under the title Ritualizing (see

When I started working on the Hidden Rhythms project it soon became clear that the terrain of Ritual Studies is a heavily contested one. There is no concensus on the definition of the term ritual, nor on its function or meaning. To me, this makes it an extremely interesting but also extremely difficult subject to speak about. Since from a curatorial perspective the artisitic quality of the Hidden Rhythms project was likely to benefit from a more open and exploratory attitude, works have been included that relate not only to ritual but also to ritual-like activities and ritualisation, and there has been no attempt to come up with an over-all definition of the term ritual - although I tend to agree with those who state that ritual becomes a term devoid of meaning if it can include everything. The content of Hidden Rhythms eventually got more focused because of a growing interest in deconstructing ritual as a static and authorless phenomenon that naturalises things and by an interest in exploring what ritual actually does, especially in relation to the performing of boundaries. Here, the notion of ritualisation played an important role.

In his lecture for the Ritualizing series in Rotterdam Dr. Nick Couldry efficiently summarised anthropologist Catherine Bell’s description of ritualisation in her publication Ritual – perpectives and dimensions (1997)as:

“the mass of processes across private and public life that, if you like, form the background, hinterland to the specific moments of ritual, as the processes that generate the terms around which rituals are organised, that prepare our bodies for ritual performance, that already, as it were, give us a sense of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ in ritual action.”

In his lecture, Couldry then pointed at another aspect of Bell’s concept of ritualisation which links it to questions of power. He quoted:

“Fundamental to all strategies of ritualization . . . is the appeal to a more embracing authoritative order that lies beyond the immediate situation. Ritualization is a generally a way of engaging some wide consensus that those acting [in ritual] are doing so as a type of natural response to a world conceived and interpreted as affected by forces that transcend it” (Bell, p. 169).

He continued his lecture by asking how ritual performance then actually works, and drew on the French sociologist and anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu who, returning to one of the founders of ritual theory, Emile Durkheim, emphasised how ritual is based on boundaries: “all rites tend to consecrate or legitimate an arbitrary boundary by fostering a misrecognition of the arbitrary nature of the limit [they involve].” (Pierre Bourdieu (1990) Language and Symbolic Power Cambridge: Polity, p 118).

I would understand ‘rituals of self-preservation’, and the ritualisation processes that enable their existence, as rituals in which these boundaries play a vital role as well. I would connect these rituals to the performing of those boundaries that establish or try to preserve (existing) perceptions of the self – always in relation to others, - understanding the ‘self’ not only in terms of individual identity but also in terms of collective identity.
Over the last couple of years the struggle with this sense of the (collective) self and the preservation of this has intensified in Dutch society (some have declared the multicultural society a failed project). Being able to deconstruct ritual, and being aware of ritual’s capacity to naturalise doesn’t make the boundaries less arbitrary but does allow using (or instrumentalising) ritual in a much more conscious manner in order to shift these boundaries. This way, one could consider ritual a potential dynamic and creative tool for change, as well as an even more effective political instrument then it already is and always has been.

In 2004 the Dutch Labour party (PvdA) seemed to have understood this really well when they altered the annual remembrance service for the commemoration of the victims of war on May 4th. That year, for the first time, (certain) groups of youth with a Moroccan background were involved in the commemoration – the same group that had heavily disturbed the service the year before. In 2004 one of their tasks was to read out the names of 64 Moroccans who had lost their lives in the Dutch province of Zeeland. In the run up to the remembrance service I guess what you could call a ‘ritualisation process’ had taken place: the youths and even some of their parents had been given a great deal of information about the Second World War (including a visit to the Anne Frank House) and what it means for the Netherlands. The now shifted boundary, between who is included or excluded from that ceremony, who is or is not part of a history that the Dutch identify with, served to bridge the gap between what has become the reality of the ‘collective’ self (heterogeneous groups that resist homogenising to a greater extend then expected) and the (ideal of) the collective self treasured by the Dutch Labour Party: a multicultural society.

Best regards,
Lisa Vetten
Transcription from live event at the Drill Hall, Johannesburg, 4 February 2006.
Thanks, what I really want to focus on in my presentation is to look at crime, violence, space and place. It comes very much from a sociological perspective rather than an art perspective so it's a different set of jargon and ideas I think to what most people in the room would be familiar with. And I think in a way, to pick up on Achilles point, how does one make the personal political, I think it goes back to in some ways, what I want to close with, to go back to the old feminist slogan of how the personal is political. And I'd like to illustrate that in some of the research findings I'm going to present, about how women look at keeping themselves safe from rape and domestic violence in a city like Johannesburg.
At the very minimum, what we need for violence to happen is a victim, a perpetrator, a place and a space. And I want to explore some of these ideas a little bit further, looking particularly at space and place as a way of looking at how fear danger and safety are negotiated by women in inner city Johannesburg. In relation to this I want to draw from three different pieces of research that we have conducted here. The one was an analysis of gang rapes reported at 6 inner city police stations. The other was a series of interviews with women living in some of the squats in town or some of the homeless shelters. As well as the series of focus groups with women sex workers, waste management workers, homeless women, security guards, women living in the city, about their experience of safety and danger and how they negotiate that on a day to day basis.
The point about I think why it's useful to look at place and space as not just abstract concepts, its that I think one finds power and politics being expressed in time and space. And I think ‘place'is a means of ordering relationships in many different ways between people in the world both on a gender dimension between men and women, but I think being in South Africa, also across racial lines and of course the numerous other divisions that I think has divided us as a society. So place is a way of capturing where we fit into South African society and violence is in some ways a means of keeping people in their place, putting people back into their place and reminding people of what their place is. So I think in a very concrete way you can see something quite political being expressed. One can also see just I think from the way people respond, to use a very obvious example, how you behave in a church. It's very clear that we understand, perhaps at an unspoken level that some rules apply in some spaces that do not apply in other spaces. And that particular spaces make some behaviour legitimate and in other areas illegitimate. To give another example drawing from some of the women we spoke to, is for example to be a women, to walk on particular streets in Hillbrow at a particular time of night is to make perhaps a particular statement about a sort of occupation you might be engaged in. And it is I think very often, for particularly men, for those of us who have had that experience of being ‘curb-called', it's for people to draw particular conclusions about who you are because you occupy that particular space in time. So I think that's why space and place can be useful in terms of understanding how it is that they can play a role in shaping how violence comes to take place.
Just as a last dimension in terms of gender relations is that again, going back to the idea of place, I think both culture, religion and politics have created a distinction between the public and the private. What is women's realm and what is men's realm. Women's realm is usually the private while that of men is usually the public. And I think one can find that very clearly expressed, and its a theme I want to pick up at the end of the speech, when we look at what happens to women when they get raped in public places. And what the reaction is to that. Just to begin with, I'll start with some of the findings from the women we spoke to, which tell us a little bit about how they read safety and danger in situations and places and what are the strategies that they use to deal with those particular sets of experiences. I think for a lot of women, time, for them is important. There are some places you avoid at a particular time of day. Early in the morning, once dusk happens and as it progressively becomes darker. That is a cue for you to start avoiding particular places. In terms of spaces here one finds particular individuals signifying safety or danger. So for example for quite a few women, the sight of a woman who could be classified as a sex-worker or who looks like she might be homeless was for them an indication that a particular place was unsafe. Yet in talking to homeless woman and sex-workers, they had a very different ways of reading a lack of safety. I mean for a sex-worker, particularly those who worked on the streets it was how much time did you have before you got into a car with somebody, how could you guage in that moment whether or not they were safe. If they took you home, who else might be waiting…who might also be expecting free the sex, having been paid for one, the assumption is made that those particular women should now provide sex for all.
I think other examples that women gave as to how they negotiated their safety was also for instance for some women the fact that there was a disco nearby. These particular women would ask the bus driver for the stop (the stop used to be where the disco was) to please move the stop so they didn't have to get off there because they associated the drinking, the people, what was happening there as being a source of a lack of safety. The presence of men, whether alone or in groups is also associated with danger. So for example one woman's comment:
When you get in there to use the toilets you find a man standing on a hill near the bridge. He is just waiting there so that if you get inside the toilet he will jump you. Rape you and finish with you. If you are unlucky he will also stab you.
So I think her comment is also a graphic indication of how a public facility like a toilet can become very dangerous for women. And I think what came through quite often in the research as well was how public toilets, because they are obvious places of where women will go to at some point, become a place where you will find potential rapists or voyeurs hanging out. Another example:
Where I live I don't use the train station in front of my flat. I don't use it because it is usually deserted and quiet and most of the people who walk there are men. Women are very few. Most of the time if you go there, you are alone.
But at the same time women also specified that men also offered a sense of protection and so when they walked home at night they assured that they were accompanied by men. Another example: I mean, most of the women we spoke to all identified Court Street in Hillbrow as being a place of particular danger. Again because sex-workers were said to work there:
You are afraid because you do not know what could happen to you when these people are high…
[This is talking about drug dealers]
…because not only do they sell drugs, they also use them. The radio blares the whole night. When it is dark, they would not leave you alone, they could grab you. There is no safety also because there are prostitutes who live in the area.
But then looking at how fear was created all came about as a result of social processes. Women became afraid not only of particular places because of something that had happened to them there, but because of hearing about things that had happened. One example:
Sometimes it is gossip. Most of us haven't experienced rape. When people mention that something happened in Hillbrow, in your mind the whole of Hillbrow becomes unsafe.
And then possessing local knowledge of what has happened in particular spaces was also identified as important:
In the toilets on President and Delvers, a girl who had been raped was found inside the public toilets. There is also a street at the corner of Market and Delvers where there are public toilets. A girl was raped in that place and she was killed. So a woman who does not know may walk into that place not knowing that it is unsafe, but there are taxis and a disco in that area and so the place is not safe.
And then there were other methods that women used to protect themselves and some of these were about myths or misconceptions about who is raped, how rape happens and how you prevent rape. There is one particular example of this woman; this is how she decided this is what happened to women who got raped and if she didn't engage in these particular activities or doings, she would then be kept safe:
It is women who drink that get raped. They drink so much and in the end they do not even know where they are. The way I see it, a person who sits at the disco until 10 at night, she is dancing and has to go home around 11. At that time it is late for a woman to be outside. We also do not take care of ourselves. Like the woman who was found raped and dead at the toilets, she looked like she was a prostitute. They sit at the discos, drink with the men and then when they are drunk, they leave the disco these men rape them. It is alcohol, a lot of women drink too much. A woman should look after herself.
Or the other example:
Rape happens when you walk in a place where it is very quiet. You meet a person in that place and he overpowers you and takes you to another place where he rapes you. I think that to avoid that from happening, women should not walk where there are no people, they should walk where there are a lot of people to be safe.
So through starting to construct some of these ideas around who gets raped and what it is that contributes to rape this is a means that some women practice in order to try and keep safe. Some of the other women pointed out:
But rape doesn't only happen in quiet places, sometimes even people you know, or a colleague could rape you. So it can be anywhere, so you must be careful about everyone. If you have been raped by someone you know, the police won't believe you. If it is someone who you know who rapes you it is also dangerous because he could rape you and threaten you and let you go or he could rape you and kill you so that you do not tell anyone. People will also say, we saw her walking with a person who is known to her.
There are some women who realise that trying to localise and contain danger in particular individuals or in particular spaces or in particular sets of events doesn't always work. That rape was a risk they ran on a constant level.
Then in terms of looking at some of the strategies that some of the women employed, they spoke about asking drivers to drop them off in different places, consciously going to different bus stops, train stops where they could get picked up, changing where they walked, asking men to walk with them, walking in groups, these were some of the strategies that they employed. Waste management workers before hand if they knew that had to work in a place that was unsafe they would file a report before hand so that in the event that anything happened to them it would have been registered that they had expressed fear or concern working in that particular area. And this was quite closely tied with some of the streets in Hillbrow which are used as part of the drug trade.
I think in terms of sex-workers they also use quite particular strategies. Many of them try to work from hotels rather than from the streets. Because at least from within a hotel you could force your client to pay upfront. You also had security guards who could protect you in the case of a client becoming difficult. Otherwise they also try to warn each other about difficult customers and try to ensure they always carry enough money for taxi fare so that if a client refused to pay for services, they wouldn't have to hitch or walk but could rather catch a taxi. As many women highlighted, the daily travel to and from work often exposed them to danger. Walking between work places transport terminuses and homes often after darkness had fallen, presented a number of opportunities that assailants took full advantage of.
This is something I want to pick up specifically in looking at some of the gang rape research. Because there are some quite interesting differences between rape perpetrated by two or more men, and rape perpetrated by single rapists. Just to give you some sense of that because it talks again to the important differences between place and space. The greatest proportion of women who were gang raped, which was 41%, were walking at the time of the attack. One in ten cases they were socialising, and in another 10% of cases waiting for transport. And in 4% of cases they were sleeping or at home. Where as if we look at the victims of single perpetrator rapes only 21%, that's half the number, were walking at the time that they were raped. By contrast very many more of them were either at home or socialising. In terms of looking where the location of the rape occurred again important differences between single and multiple perpetrator rapes. If we look at the multiple rapes, 36%, that's just over one in 3 occurred in a private space like a residence or less commonly a work place. Where as with the single rape, 66%, that's almost 2 out of three occurred in a private place. And further 16% of women that were raped by single perpetrators were attacked in their homes, were as only 7% of women attacked by multiple perpetrators were attacked in their homes. So one can see there's quite a close relationship between public space and gang rape which is very different to single perpetrator rape and private rapes. And then looking at where the greatest proportion of gang rapes happen these were in public places with 31% taking place in open spaces like parks, stretches of veld (open field)and parking areas. The gang rapes that took place in parks, 11 of these were situated within the 2 km radius in which we sit, bounded from the end by the park up at Harrow Road to the park a little bit further down. So one could actually find a localisation in some ways for some forms of gang rape.
What was also particularly striking about gang rapes in contrast to single perpetrator rape, this why we ultimately entitled our study “Urban Predators”, is the greater number of rapists involved the more likely one is to find a gun being used as well as a car. So seeing a situation where a woman is abducted off a street at gun point and taken somewhere where rape occurs. This is considerably more common with the gang rapes than with the single perpetrator rapes.
And then just to return to some of my initial points about space and place, when we released some of this data about gang rape in inner city Johannesburg the immediate response was ‘women stay off the street between the following hours, don't catch transport, don't go here, don't go there'. And I think that communicated a number of very problematic messages. Firstly what it was saying was that public spaces were not for women. And if women wanted to use public spaces and public amenities like parks like public transport, like public toilets, they need to restrict and alter their behaviour. And that in a sense women who disregard those injunctions to keep safe in public spaces are to some degree, asking for it or getting what they deserve because they didn't take proper precautions to keep safe. That where again, this division of the public and private space, women who occupy public spaces or behave in public spaces in ways that they shouldn't are in a sense contributing to their own misfortune.
The other problem with the contradiction that one runs dealing with place and space and the division between public and the private, is that by warning women to stay out and away from public spaces it again reinforces the notion that women are safest at home in private space. But I think once one starts looking at the statistics for domestic violence and rape that it would appear actually it is private spaces that pose the very much greater danger to woman than public spaces. So I think those messages about the public and the private and who may use what space and who must constrain their behaviour in what space, only tends to reinforce and perhaps add to that political dimension, a situation where women are not safe in public and sent right back into the private where they are even less safe.
So those are just some thoughts I want to leave with you about public and private and how personal attempts to keep oneself safe in public spaces are in a sense diminishing women's use and occupation of the public and driving them back into the private where they continue to face increased risks to their safety.
Thank you.
Lisa Vetten has, since 1996, specialised in the issue of violence against women. She has extensive counselling and training experience in this field and has also conducted research on this topic. In March 1998, Lisa was appointed the Gender Co-ordinator at the CSVR. She has conducted research into the policing of domestic violence, the sentencing of women convicted of killing their intimate partners, the relationship between HIV/AIDS and violence against women. Lisa regularly facilitates training and education workshops (especially for criminal justice personnel) on issues related to gender and violence against women. She is a consultant (on gender violence issues) to the South African education television drama series, Soul City. As an expert in the field of violence against women in South Africa, Lisa is regularly asked for comment by newspapers, radio and television, and has has acted as an expert witness for the state in two trials involving men who have killed their intimate female partners.
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