n Critical Arts : A Journal of South-North Cultural and Media Studies - Problematising the making of good and evil : gangs and PAGAD

Volume 16, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0256-0046



In late 1995 a movement emerged from the Cape Flats called the People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD). It emerged from neighbourhood watch groups and although it claimed a diverse support base, it had an overwhelmingly Muslim face. Its stated aims were to remove gangsters and end the sale of drugs in communities on the Cape Flats. The dramatic killing of one of Cape Town's most notorious gang leaders by a group of PAGAD supporters immediately catapulted this organisation, and the presence of gangs, into the public space. This paper is an attempt to problematise representations, of both PAGAD and gangs, in the media and academic studies that had been done thus far. It seemed to me that the representations and studies were based on a set of politico-philosophical assumptions that led to the generic categorisations of these phenomena. From these categorisations derivative discourses offering programmatic solutions arise. The argument of this paper is that, firstly, the identity of the gangster in Cape Town - as derivative of poverty, as anti-social, as a result of the Group Areas Act - and that of PAGAD - as representative of a homogenous Islam and as the local incarnation of a global 'Islamic threat' - obscures their particularity and specificity. I argue that a richer grasp of their constitutive dynamics will be obtained if we explore their identities as non-static 'processes'. These processes involve locating identity formation within the interface of globality and locality: the symbolic borderlands of contingency, which bring to the fore constitutive conditions of ambiguity and hybridity1 . The paper is an argument in three movements. Firstly, I explore the relationship between globalisation and culture and between the local and global, which informs my argument. The paper thereafter takes as its focus the 'construction' of the gangster in Cape Town. The third part of the paper problematises the 'construction' of PAGAD that has emerged.

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