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Call for Applications

Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education invites applications for its first offering of a Foundation Course on Emancipatory Ideas and Experiences.  This course explores the links between ideas for social change, the complexity of the world under globalised capitalism, South Africa’s place in it and what it means to imagine an alternative to the world as it exists today. Participants will grapple with burning questions facing today’s generation of activists as well as reflect on and relate theory and concepts to experiences and ongoing struggles. Also built into the Foundation Course are critical reading, thinking and writing skills. The course will be delivered in an engaging and participatory style, with educators and guest lecturers using a combination of lectures, seminars, film screenings, debates, discussion groups and outdoor activities. The course is residential and has five components/modules that run over five blocks starting in March 2017, in Cape Town.
Who can apply?
Participants must hold a matric certificate or equivalent, occupy a leadership position in an activist organisation and display a strong commitment to social justice. In addition, participants will be expected to commit to attending the entire duration of the course, which runs over five blocks:
  • Registration and orientation: Wed 22 March
  • Module 1: Thurs 23 – Mon 27 March
  • Module 2: Thurs 22 – Mon 26 June
  • Module 3: Thurs 13 – Mon 17 July
  • Module 4: Thurs 07 – Mon 11 Sept
  • Module 5: Thurs 23 – Mon 27 Nov
Tuition fees, travel and accommodation will be provided by Tshisimani. Space is limited to 25 participants.
How to apply?
To apply, fill in this application form with a motivation letter and short bio and send it to Nominated applications should be accompanied by a nomination letter from their organisations.

The deadlines for applications is Monday 13 February.            



This module will explore how the complexity of today’s world requires ideas for change. With a focus on ideas that enjoy currency amongst activists today, the module will look at how throughout history, a range of ideas and social theories were used together with mass power to effect change. Using a number of theoretical traditions, the module will address the question of the role of ideas in social change. The theoretical traditions to be dealt with in the module are: liberalism, Marxism, feminism, Pan-Africanism, African nationalism, black radical traditions, black consciousness and ‘fallism’. The approach will highlight the manner in which the theoretical traditions develop, change and branch out. With a strong emphasis on context, the module will probe how ideas and knowledge systems are produced as well as how they are used to either challenge or maintain power relations. The module will look at how ideas that advocate emancipation and freedom lose emancipatory power as they become dominant discourses of the elite and ruling classes. At the end of the module participants should continue to develop their ability to utilise those ideas that are relevant to today’s struggles, discard blunt ones, as well as open up new areas of emancipatory thought.

This module aims to examine theoretically and empirically some of the critical issues confronting activists across the world today, and to understand how these challenges have emerged historically. Globalisation and its political, economic, social and environmental effects form the pivotal themes around which the module is organised. We will probe how inequality has emerged over time on a global scale, establishing extreme inequality between nations, and between social classes and groups within nations. Technological advances, the integration of financial and trade flows globally, the domination of these movements by multinational companies and the effects of these on the sovereignty of nation states will be considered, together with the effects on rising levels of unemployment, casualisation of workers and outsourcing. We will discuss how global capitalism results in environmental degradation and the deterioration of the quality of life, work and leisure of the poor. In a global environment of sharply increasing inequality, insecurity and increasing levels of violence, we will also try to make sense of the emergence of right-wing political movements, particularly in the Global North.

In this module we turn our attention to issues and realities that confront activists in South Africa today such as socio-economic inequality, racism, uneven patterns of land ownership, spatial segregation and endemic violence. The aim of the module is to ask questions about the persistence and continued presence of these five realities after the installation of a democratic government in 1994. We will deal with the history of poverty and inequality; and how race, class and gender oppression worked together and configured the economy and society we live in today. We will use different lenses to grapple with a history which has been profoundly shaped by colonial conquest and dispossession, slavery, violence, indentured and migrant labour, enforced segregation and the creation of a system of production relying upon cheap black labour. In delving into this history, the role of the South African state, as well as its genesis will be examined. Although tracing back inequality, poverty, land deprivation, spatial segregation and violence; the module will also look at political and policy choices that post-1994 governments chose and continue to take. Through this examination, South Africa’s negotiated settlement and transition will be under a microscope and a context given to growing demands for economic freedom and land redistribution.  The module hopes that in addition to understanding our current realities historically, participants will after five days have a deeper understanding of how our society functions, who rules South Africa today, different group interests and the nature of the post-1994 state.

The collapse of centrally-planned economies at the turn of the 20th century, and the authoritarianism associated with these societies, strengthened cynicism about revolution as a route toward social change and shifted the parameters of the debate on what is “historically possible”. Many people today believe that it is neither imaginable nor desirable to advance an emancipatory project that is founded on a state-centred and party-driven understanding of social change. In this context, questions are being raised about viable and achievable emancipatory alternatives to capitalist exploitation and domination. The emergence of 21st century experiments highlighted alternative ways of organising economies as well as placed ecological struggles, participatory and grassroots democracy at the centre of emancipatory politics. They also reignited optimism in anti-capitalist projects. However, with these experiments undergoing set-backs and displaying questionable characteristics, the optimism has been short-lived. This module traces left political thought and strategies historically and explores debates about what it would take to usher in social change today.  Taking centre-stage in this module are three questions (i) How do we envisage social change? (ii) Is it possible to transcend capitalist social and economic relations and distribution of wealth and power? (iii) What does it mean to be anti-capitalist today’s world?

Activists, academics and politicians on the left of the political spectrum are seized with the question: how to organise politically to challenge social and economic inequalities and continued environmental destruction evident today? While there may be agreement on the need for social change, there are varied ideas on how to get there. On the one hand, there are those who argue for radical breaks to change the structural inequalities and power relations in society. On the other hand, there is argument for a more gradual reformist stance to realise the goals of a more egalitarian society.  These debates have spilled over to larger questions of what is meant by “alternatives” as well as what a democratic, egalitarian society would look like. This module hopes to foreground questions around strategy and tactics for radical social transformation and hone in on real world cases such as attempts to build African socialism in Tanzania, the Bolivarian experiment in Venezuela, municipal participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, worker-led enterprises and cooperatives (Mondragon, Spain), as well as anti-austerity and indigenous movements. These experiments will be discussed alongside local case studies such as #FeesMustFall and the Treatment Action Campaign, in an attempt to advance a view that visions for the future and strategies to disrupt power relations are devised in struggles, not in abstraction from the context in which battles are waged.  
 For more details visit
Tel: 021 685 3516/8
Fax: 021 685 0799 
67 Main Road    
Cape Town, 7705
Copyright © 2017 Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education, All rights reserved.

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