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Title: Knowing politics : knowledge and democratic citizenship in South Africa's education system
Author: Bell, Stephanie A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7228 9704
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis brings together democratic theory's calls for an understanding of the actually existing democratic state and anthropological work on innovative forms of citizen participation. Building on the work of Joao Biehl and Steven Robins, the research focuses on access to knowledge and claims of expertise as grounds upon which politicians and bureaucrats exclude citizen participation. It argues, using an ethnographic case study of South African student activist group Equal Education, that authors such as Max Weber, Michel Foucault, and James Scott are wrong to imply that citizens cannot train themselves in the technocratic manner frequently deployed by the state's representatives. It also argues, however, that the state's representatives are often not the technocrats they are hypothesised to be or that they claim to be, and their knowledge practices cannot be separated from politics. This makes the process through which citizens establish expertise and credibility with the government more complicated than simply training themselves in the government's knowledge practices. Drawing on the work of Danielle Allen and Francesca Polletta, the thesis thus also examines how questions of personal experience and identity on grounds of lived experience as well as claimed or perceived identity often interact with claims to knowledge, opening up or shutting down citizens' ability to participate. Even when citizens are able to leverage their technocratic expertise to successfully influence policy creation, they may still find it difficult to effectively participate in the implementation thereof beyond external monitoring and accountability enforcement. The thesis concludes that the current democratic theory ought not be so pessimistic about the spectre of a know-nothing citizenry, but nor ought it presume that education and expertise alone will be sufficient for democratic governments to take seriously an involved and engaged citizenry.
Supervisor: Alexander, Jocelyn Sponsor: Truman Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: South African education system ; Democratic theory ; Citizen participation ; Theories of knowledge ; Activism and advocacy movements