The politics of knowledge : case study of the management of beach quality in Durban, South Africa.
Van Heerden, Paul.
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Whatmore (2009: 588) suggests that knowledge controversies surface when the “rationales of environmental science and policy fail to convince those affected by what is at issue” and force a variety of actors to be included in the policy processes around these issues These situations are increasingly commonplace in the socio-economic context of the ‘network society’ which requires a form of governance able to accept and process a diverse array of knowledge inputs to arrive at robust policies and decisions. Increasing emphasis is placed on the demand for inclusion of varied knowledge claims, policy-making, and knowledge production processes. In Durban, a knowledge controversy surfaced when the public questioned eThekwini Municipality’s reasoning, position, and knowledge regarding the unsuitability of the Blue Flag Programme for its ‘Golden Mile’ beaches. This thesis aims to provide a social science understanding of a marine science issue: the faecal contamination of urban coastal waters, by using the case of Durban’s involvement with the Blue Flag Programme between 2002 and 2014. A qualitative methodology, discourse analysis, is utilised as a tool for exploring meaning bound up in language. It is proposed that numerous environmental discourses were used by a variety of Durban residents to understand and argue about eThekwini Municipality’s decision-making around its beach management policies. Furthermore, evidence collected in the research illustrates that the absence of a formal public engagement process created an environment in which the media, primarily the popular press, was the primary source of information for the public. This gave rise to a situation which resulted in an ever-evolving political debate in which public opinion was galvanised against the Municipal authority’s decision-making through informal establishment of a discourse coalition comprising varied actors from Durban’s civil and professional societies. It also created an enabling environment for co-production of knowledge although this ideal was not fully realised as the Municipal decision to re-join the Blue Flag Programme sated widespread public antipathy for Municipal decision-makers by effectively resolving the knowledge controversy.