Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Social Anthropology, University of Bergen

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
Living Politics: New Practices and Protests of the "Poor" in Democratic South Africa

My dissertation examines new practices and protests by the "poor" in South Africa over a decade after the fall of apartheid. Through twelve months of multi-sited ethnographic research in South African townships and shack settlements, I will consider how the "poor" come to inhabit political roles and practice politics under a liberal democratic state. I will study how residents collectively identify with each other, how they articulate their demands as political, and how this emerging understanding of politics is transforming long-standing relationships between civic organizations and the state. The methodology for this research has three primary components: (1) participant observation of events, activities and everyday life with residents of-townships and shack settlements; (2) interviews with residents, state officials and professionals in non-governmental organizations {3) analysis of documents, including relevant news media, legislation and government reports, as well as texts produced by residents. My research will draw from three bodies of literature: democratic theory, studies of global slums and research on 'new' social movements. At the nexus of these interdisciplinary literatures, my research in South Africa will contribute to a reexamination of slums, as sites that illuminate the relationship between the liberal democratic state and its citizenry. A study of how and under what conditions "the political" is demarcated around slums in a developing democracy like South Africa will contribute critical insights into theories of popular sovereignty, democratic governance and state transition.