Politics at Home and Abroad

Naomi Runder
August 15, 2017
Crosses on UCT campus with a sign reading "We Are All Marikana"

I keep hearing that it’s interesting times to be in South Africa. That much is definitely true. Last Tuesday marked the 8th no confidence vote on President Jacob Zuma. This Wednesday marks the fifth anniversary of the Markina massacre by the South African Police Service. On the UCT campus, the Fallist movement and other forms of student activism remain strong and active. Since coming to South Africa, I am surrounded by conversations regarding land reclamation, decolonization of education, and worker’s rights that of course have parallels to the United States, but are deeply rooted in a South African history and context that I am not entirely familiar with.

I’m trying my best to get a handle on everything that’s going on here and learn as much as I can. My South African politics course should help me get a grounding in some of the political context here. Or at least that’s the goal. The rest I’m hoping to pick up by talking to people and getting involved where I can. Before applying to study abroad at UCT this semester, I followed the developing Fees Must Fall protests and student activism across South Africa, which in turn influenced my decision to come to UCT. There’s I a lot I think could learn about politics and activism here that I can then bring back and apply to a U.S. context. It’s only four months, but I’m trying to get as much out of it as possible.

It’s interesting times to away from the United States too. (Or is interesting the right word for any of this? Definitely not). I’m trying not to let news apps consume the entirety of my ten gigs of wifi, but still the alerts keep rolling in. It’s difficult in some ways to follow news stories like my own president’sdealings with North Korea and the events in Charlottesville while outside of my home country. It’s not as though I would be in the thick of it simply by being back in the United States, but I feel even more removed than usual. A tiny selfish part of me is of course relieved to have an entire ocean of comfort between me and the problems of the United States. But for the most part I remain a bit uncomfortable with this growing disconnect. Even within the U.S., it is far too easy to disengage and I don’t want to backslide. Effective democracy requires continual interest, involvement, and action from the people. I am still figuring out how maintain that level of engagement and move beyond passively receiving the news from home while I'm abroad.

But however that process turns out, I’m excited to growing more connected and engaged within South Africa. I feel like I've learned so much from my peers here and it's only been two weeks; I can only imagine what the next four months will bring. 

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Naomi Runder

<p>Hello! I'm a current junior at Grinnell College, studying sociology and planning to go into public health policy. Outside of classes, I stay busy by volunteering to help (and play with!) dogs at the local animal shelter and organizing around national issues with other on-campus student activists. This semester in Cape Town will be my first time out of the United Staes, and I'm beyond excited to see where it takes me.</p>

Home University:
Grinnell College
Nashville, TN
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