Democracy’s Infrastructure, Apartheid’s Debris
This book examines how residents' administrative links to the state emerged as a central political terrain during the antiapartheid struggle in South Africa and the ways that this terrain persists in the postapartheid period. It explores the techno-politics underlying contemporary conflicts from the perspective of infrastructure by historically and ethnographically following the life of a small device: a prepaid water meter. Focusing on Operation Gcin'amanzi (“Save Water”) in Soweto, the book shows how, in the aftermath of apartheid and in a context of neoliberal reforms, many of the central questions of the antiapartheid struggle such as citizenship, social obligation, and the shape of democracy in the “new South Africa” were reframed as technical-managerial and procedural questions. This chapter provides an overview of the prepaid meter as well as the concept of techno-politics, along with the triumphalist rise of liberal democracy in postapartheid South Africa.
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