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Speaker: Dr Madalitso Zililo Phiri

Madalitso Zililo Phiri (Ph.D) is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS). He is currently working on a book manuscript building on his doctoral dissertation tentatively ‘The Colour of Inequality in South Africa and Brazil: Making Sense of Transformative Social Policy’ under contract with Brill Academic Press.

Chair: Dr. Refiloe Lepere, Tshwane University of Technology/ University of the Witwatersrand.

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Forty years have passed since the implementation of the pernicious neoliberal structural reforms on the African continent in 1981. If 2021 marked a 40-year commemoration of a diabolical neocolonial project such as neoliberalism, then the year 2020 signified another 40-year period of rebirth aborted, as the Lagos Plan of Action of 1980 was undermined in favour of the Berg Report of 1981. These two dates constitute contested ideas regarding social policy and development planning, one imperial the other liberatory. The dates also coincide with Thandika Mkandawire’s life’s strivings. How do Mkandawire’s ideas on social policy, inspired by radical African Nationalists, aid in the dismantling of contemporary forms of racialized neoliberal social policy making? In this seminar I recast Mkandawire as a prophetic theoretician of social policy for Africa’s liberation, transformation, and development. I critically engage with Mkandawire’s conceptualization of social policy as transformative, rooted in radical humanist pan-Africanist values, which challenge the commodification of state and society relations. I argue that Mkandawire’s scholarly corpus on social policy provides a programmatic approach to the unmaking of a hierarchical racialized neoliberal global order.

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