Based on the photographic exhibition Aftermath, the book #FeesMustFall and its Aftermath was recently published by HSRC Press. It is subtitled Violence, Wellbeing and the Student Movement in South Africa, and is written by Thierry M. Luescher, Angelina Wilson Fadiji, Keamogetse G. Morwe, Antonio Erasmus, Tshireletso S. Letsoalo, and Seipati B. Mokhema.
The book documents the experiences of violence and wellbeing of 35 former student activists from a range of South African universities. Developed through the research method of “rapid photovoice”, the students’ reflections on their experiences are presented in 13 themed chapters that make up the photo exhibition of the book as well as 5 commentary chapters.
The exhibition chapters start with a set that focuses on the context and reasons for protesting, themed “A history of struggle”, “Oppressive spaces”, and “The violence of institutions”. Another set of chapters deals with the protesting itself, such as “Conscientise and mobilise”, “Protesting and violence” and “Fire”. The third set considers the dynamics of the student movement and the impact of the protesting on students: “Gender inside the movement”, “Fear and trauma” and “Outcomes of protests”. A final set of exhibition chapters then focuses on student wellbeing, wellbeing in the movement, and resources that help to restore student wellbeing in the aftermath of protests. They are thematised as “Unity and solidarity”, “Wellbeing”, “Escape and safe spaces”, and “Movement with a purpose”.
These four groups of chapters are framed by and interspersed with five chapters that deal with the research project. This includes the researchers’ reflections on the research problem, the goals of the research, key concepts, and methods they employed. They also analyse the contributions of the study with respect to creating awareness of the violence that accompanies student protests, and their advocacy of greater political responsiveness, democracy, and social justice. The final chapter highlights the important learnings that can be derived from the book, including student conceptions of violence and wellbeing implicit in their reflections.
The book has received great acclaim from reviewers:
“#FeesMustFall and its Aftermath makes a critical methodological contribution. [….] The book challenges higher education institutions to think seriously and creatively about what to do about violence, including structural, symbolic, and physical violence in and around institutions and the interventions needed to ensure the well-being and success of the students these institutions enrol.” Prof Relebohile Moletsane, JL Dube Chair in Rural Education and Pro Vice-Chancellor: Social Cohesion at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
“Ethnographically, [this book] is extraordinary. We don’t know enough about the lives of our students. We don’t have enough ethnographies about any of them. [This book] strikes one in the face. It provides a view of the student movement in South Africa which is fresh, grounded and forthright.” Prof Crain Soudien, Honorary Professor, formerly CEO: HSRC
“In this book, students tell their stories in grippingly and incontestably authentic narratives and show us images, taken by themselves; their cellphone cameras providing often alarming and shocking visual images of campuses as akin to war zones. I know not of another scholarly work making such effective use of personal thoughts and writing and these same people’s mobile phone images. […] This work … is of such an exceptionally high standard that it can reasonably be expected to garner major book awards, nationally and internationally.” Anonymous peer reviewer
“An exceptional book by socially committed scholars that is original, conceptually innovative, and creatively narrated and presented.” Prof Saleem Badat, University of KwaZulu-Natal, former vice-chancellor, Rhodes University
An interview with Prof Thierry Luescher about the #Feesmustfall photography project
Contact: Prof Thierry Luescher, strategic lead of research into equitable education in the HSRC’s Equitable Education and Economies division