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'Grass in the cracks': Gender, social reproduction & climate justice in the Xolobeni struggle - 5 May 2023

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Seminar: Conversations on Social Reproduction

Speakers: Prof. Beth Goldblatt, University of Technology, Sydney and Prof. Shireen Hassim, Carleton University

Beth Goldblatt is a Professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia and a Visiting Professor at the School of Law at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She works in the areas of feminist legal theory, equality and discrimination law, comparative constitutional law, and human rights with a focus on economic and social rights, and the right to social security in particular. Her recent work concerns climate change, inequality, law and rights. She is author of Developing the Right to Social Security - A Gender Perspective (Routledge, 2016) and co-editor of The Right to the Continuous Improvement of Living Conditions - Responding to Complex Global Challenges (Hart, 2021), Women's Rights to Social Security and Social Protection (Hart, 2014), and Women's Social and Economic Rights - Developments in South Africa (Juta, 2011).

Shireen Hassim is Canada 150 Research Chair in Gender and African Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, and Visiting Professor, WiSER, Wits University. She has written and edited several books including No Shortcuts to Power: Women and Policymaking in Africa; Women’s Organisations and Democracy: Contesting Authority and Go Home or Die Here: Violence, Xenophobia and the Politics of Difference in South Africa. Her interests lie in feminist theory and politics, collective action and histories of mobilization of women in Africa, and social policies and gender. Her most recent book was an archival recuperation of the work of the South African sociologist, Fatima Meer.

Abstract: The presentation examines the opposition by members of the Xolobeni community in South Africa to proposed mining on their communally-occupied land, including through litigation. While only one strategy amongst many, the use of law is notable and has thus far been effective in challenging the mining company and the government. The Xolobeni struggle points to important links between efforts to overcome gendered structures of production and reproduction and environmental destruction that offers insights for feminist struggles for climate justice. We draw on Silvia Federici’s gendered framing of the commons to tease out the key tensions in the long drawn-out opposition to mining in Xolobeni: the involvement of women as the main producers of food and custodians of the land, their movement to the centre of the struggle in the context of violence against activists, and their assertion of new forms of temporality that engage the responsibilities of the present generation to the future.

The Laws of Social Reproduction project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (under grant agreement No. 772946). For more information about the project, please email

At this event

Prabha Kotiswaran

Prabha Kotiswaran

Professor of Law & Social Justice

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