Today’s generation of activists often hold up the anti-apartheid movement in the UK as an ideal example of how solidarity should function. It was organised and coordinated with direct reference to the ANC, with a clear view of the strategic role of the movement in the UK focused on UK institutional complicity with apartheid. However, the movement was often fraught with difficult questions about how best to support South African freedom fighters as well as internal struggles over issues of voice and representation.

Social movements, and particularly when solidarity is evoked, are spaces where questions of identity and representation come to the fore. Social movements are vehicles for marginalised voices, however, they can also be tools through which existing hierarchies can also be invoked for the sake of “unity” and “the cause”. This session will explore these dynamics, with a specific focus on how issues of nationality, race, gender, and class were negotiated in movement politics.


  • To examine the anti-apartheid movement in its wider local and international political context.
  • To think critically about how bonds of solidarity are forged.
  • To think critically about race, class, and gender hierarchies within movements for social justice.
  • To model constructive and respectful forms of intra-movement critique.

Essential Questions

  • How did questions of representation and identity come up within the leadership and grassroots/rank and file of the anti-apartheid movement in the UK?
  • What were the structures or practices within the movement that allowed for wider representation? Which ones were used to shut down wider representation?

Event Details

Date: 21 February 2019

Location: BG01 (Brunei Gallery), SOAS, University of London

This event is open to the public, but booking preference will be given to students who register with a university email and show ID at event.

Time: 7.00pm – 8.30pm


Suresh Kamath

Suresh Kamath joined the anti-apartheid movement as a student organiser. He was the vice chairman of the Anti-Apartheid Movement from the mid-1980s until 1994 and played a key role in organising the momentous Mandela tribute concerts at Wembley in 1988 and 1990.

Rafeef Ziadah

Rafeef Ziadah is a Lecturer in Politics and International Studies at SOAS, focusing on the political economy of war and humanitarianism, racism and the security state. She is also a world-renowned poet and performer, and has worked on a number of campaigns on refugee rights.

Gargi Bhattacharyya

Gargi Bhattacharyya is Professor of Sociology and co-director of the Centre for Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London. Her recent work includes Rethinking Racial Capitalism (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018) and Crisis, austerity and everyday life.

Nicholas Grant

Nicholas Grant is a lecturer at the University of East Anglia. His research has focused on the history of the global anti-apartheid movement. His writing has appeared in the Radical History Review, Palimpsest: A Journal of Women, Gender and the Black International, and the Journal of American Studies. His first book, Winning Our Freedoms Together: African Americans and Apartheid, 1945-1960 was published in 2017 with UNC press. Follow him on Twitter @nicholasggrant.

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