The Lived Experiences of Place Severing and Decolonial Resurgence in Vhembe District, South Africa


epistemic violence
epistemic justice
land dispossession


Globally, environmental degradation has reached unprecedented levels. In South Africa, indigenous forest have been lost to mass land conversions under previous colonial and apartheid administrations. These changes have affected social ecologies, engendering experiences of place severing and giving rise to grass-roots community struggles in response. This case study aimed to explore and describe participants’ psychological experiences of place severing in South Africa’s Vhembe District. Thirteen individual and three focus group interviews were conducted between May and July 2019. Thematic data analysis was performed, revealing that epistemic violence and material severing lead to dialogical disruptions that, in turn, contribute to intergenerational community-level distress. In response, the community-based organization Dzomo la Mupo offers alternatives that resist and transcend the coloniality that underpins place severing.

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