On May 11, 2008, residents of Alexandra Township near Johannesburg turned violently on their neighbors. Over the following two weeks, a string of attacks left sixty people dead, dozens raped, and over a hundred thousand displaced. Most of those killed were from beyond South Africa’s borders, but at least a third were citizens who, for reasons of ethnicity or political affiliation, failed to protect their space in the country’s urban core. Exorcising the Demons Within explores these events and the subsequent consequences for the order of power, population, and place.
The book makes sense of recent anti-outsider violence by situating it within an extended history of South African statecraft that both produced the conditions for the attacks and has been reshaped by it. Drawing on an interdisciplinary team of expert scholars and on new research, this is the first academic text to fully put into context the events that made global headlines in 2008.
Although not the most severe political violence in South Africa’s turbulent past, the 2008 attacks reflect an important moment in the country’s post-apartheid, post-authoritarian existence: a moment when the government’s legitimacy and the post-apartheid order were called into question. This xenophobic violence made evident cracks in the cohesion of law and society while helping to redefine both.
* Please Note: This book is not available through Brookings in Southern Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe).