Home > Anthropology > People > Professor Deborah James

Professor Deborah James

JamesI am a specialist in the anthropology of South and Southern Africa, and have recently begun research at some sites in the UK. My work is broadly political and economic in focus. I am currently directing an ESRC-funded project entitled  An ethnography of advice: between market, society and the declining welfare state. Click here for the project website and for earlier relevant publications.

My new book Money from Nothing: Indebtedness and Aspiration in South Africa (Stanford University Press, 2014) explores the dynamics surrounding South Africa's national project of financial inclusion—dubbed "banking the unbanked"—which aimed to extend credit to black South Africans. It shows the varied ways in which access to credit by people in these newly-included sectors of society is bound up with identity and status-making, and draws out the precarious nature of both the aspirations of upward mobility and the economic relations of debt which sustain the newly indebted, revealing the shadowy side of indebtedness and its potential both to produce new forms of oppression and disenfranchisement in place of older ones, while also helping realize projects of upliftment. It was one of the publications emerging from an ESRC-funded project entitled "Investing, engaging in enterprise, gambling and getting into debt: popular economies and citizen expectations in South Africa". Some of the other results were published in a special issue of Africa in 2012.
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayIssue?iid=8477176 
https://www.facebook.com/MoneyFromNothingSUP

For others, including a dissemination workshop held in Johannesburg, see http://www.lse.ac.uk/anthropology/research/popular_economies/workshop3_sept2010.aspx

A previous monograph, based on ESRC-funded research in 2002-3, shows how mutually constitutive discourses about the ownership, use, and governance of land reveal contradictory understandings of custom, community and citizenship:2007. Gaining ground? "Rights" and "property" in South African land reform. London: Routledge.
http://www.routledge.com/books/Gaining-Ground-isbn9780415420310

A related book, with a comparative remit, is  Fay, Derrick and James, Deborah (2008) The anthropology of land restitution: an introduction. In: Fay, Derrick and James, Deborah , (eds.) The rights and wrongs of land restitution: 'restoring what was ours'. Routledge, London, UK, pp. 1-24. ISBN 9780415461085
http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/21398/

Exploring the relationship between anthropologists' ethnographic investigations and the lived social worlds in which these originate, I was co-editor with Christina Toren and Evie Plaice of  2010 Culture Wars: Context, Models and Anthropologists' Accounts. Berghahn Books.
http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title.php?rowtag=JamesCulture

My earlier research focused on ethnicity, migration, and musical performance: it showed how women migrants from the Northern Province defined themselves as ethnic subjects through song and musical performance.1999. Songs of the women migrants: Performance and identity in South Africa. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
http://www.internationalafricaninstitute.org/publishing/library.html or http://www.eupjournals.com/book/9780748613045

I am also interested in comparative insights into the state, law, civil society, and religion in postcolonial settings, and was co-editor of a volume exploring these topics in Indonesia and South Africa.2003. (with Albert Schrauwers) An Apartheid of souls: Dutch and Afrikaner colonialism and its aftermath in Indonesia and South Africa: an Introduction. In An Apartheid of souls: Dutch colonialism and its aftermath in Indonesia and South Africa, D. James and A. Schrauwers (eds). [Special issue, Itinerario: European Journal of Overseas History27(3/4).]
http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/3001/1/An_apartheid_of_souls_(LSERO).pdf

Share:Facebook|Twitter|LinkedIn|

Fieldwork Photos

James
Jan Masina, squatter leader and spokesman

James
Angel tombstone, Doornkop

James
Doornkop group picture with Pentecostal missionaries

James
SK Alex women drummer and solo singer in performance

James_fieldwork_5_238x164

Men's Kiba: the regimental song Monti, Alexandra Township, Johannesburg

James_fieldwork_5a_238x169
Women's Kiba: Ditshweu tsa Malebogo performing at Funda Centre, Soweto