n Critical Arts : A Journal of South-North Cultural and Media Studies - Working for Water's 'AlienBusters' : material and metaphoric campaigns against 'alien invaders'

Volume 19, Issue 1_2
  • ISSN : 0256-0046



This article analyses aspects of the 'AlienBusters' campaign against 'invasive aliens', initiated in 2000 by Working for Water in an attempt to communicate to a broad South African public the urgent national responsibility for the control of invasive alien plants. The campaign was envisaged by the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry as a creative intervention in the government's management of environmental issues because it used strategies drawn from advertising and marketing in an attempt to persuade people to change attitudes and behaviours towards invasive alien plants. In addition, the campaign used fiction techniques and popular cultural references in order to attract its audience's attention. However, the discussion highlights tensions among the assumptions and methods that inform the campaign, situating design, image, narrative and characterisation in relation to volatile, often contradictory, forms of lived experience and symbolic meaning. Focusing on the key message platform of the campaign, the <i>AlienBuster</i> comic book, I argue that the campaign mistakenly emphasised metaphoric transcendence and formulaic narrative resolution over a recognition of material vicissitudes, and that this underplayed important aspects of Working for Water's existing social responsibility initiatives of Working for Water, rendering the campaign unable to accommodate the moral-experiential ambiguity associated with forms of environmental 'alienation' and 'belonging' in contemporary South Africa.

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