New Stories of Resistance: The Right to Say NO, Extractivism and Development Alternatives in South Africa

Despite growing interest in movements, mobilisations and communities rising up against extractivism, little research has focused on the radical political potential these mobilisations bear for envisioning just and sustainable futures. Taking the Right to Say NO in South Africa as a case study and point of departure, this thesis examines development alternatives envisioned within anti-extractivist resistance. Through interviews and participatory mapping in Amadiba and Mpumalanga, it explores research questions concerning (1) activists’ understandings of development and extractivism as systems of exploitation, (2) imagined and lived development alternatives, and (3) the value in imagining alternatives within resistance. Postcolonial theory and environmental justice form the theoretical base for this qualitative analysis. Findings suggest that activists understand extractivism and development as closely related and intertwined with colonial, racist, patriarchal and capitalist oppression, rendering self-determination contingent on access to capital and power. Ranging from agroecology to eco-tourism, worker’s-cooperatives and businesses, prefigurative alternatives exhibit commitments to social justice, self-determination and the protection of (access to) natural environments, suggesting nothing less than a radical re-imagination of development. Imagining alternatives and post-extractivist futures holds strategic value for transformative change. This project stands in solidarity with struggles in South Africa and seeds optimism for just and sustainable futures.