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Researchers: popular economies and citizen expectations in South Africa

Deborah James

I am a specialist in the anthropology of South and Southern Africa, where much of my fieldwork has been conducted in Mpumalanga and Northern Provinces and their urban hinterland, the Witwatersrand. My most recent book, Gaining Ground? "Rights" and "Property" in South African land reform, (Routledge, 2007) shows how mutually constitutive discourses about the ownership, use, and governance of land reveal contradictory understandings of custom, community and citizenship. My interest in the contestations between state- and market-driven ideologies also encompasses issues relating to reproductive health and HIV-AIDS. My earlier research focused on ethnicity, migration, and musical performance: in Songs of the Women Migrants (Edinburgh, 1999) I examined how women migrants from the Northern Province defined themselves as ethnic subjects through song and musical performance. 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 called "Apartheid of Souls" which brought together scholars on Indonesia and South Africa.

Fraser McNeill

I have been conducting ethnographic research in the Venda region (Limpopo Province) of South Africa for over 15 years. I received my PhD. from the LSE in 2007, with a thesis concerned primarily with ethnographic accounts of HIV/AIDS peer education projects and the political economy of traditional leadership in South Africa. As a recording musician, I have worked with several South African groups, and my thesis was also concerned with the relationship between performance, knowledge and experience in the context of the current crisis of social reproduction in southern Africa.

Ilana van Wyk

My first fieldwork in 2000-2001 was conducted among Zulu-speaking people in Maputaland, a rural corner of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province. As part of a former apartheid ‘homeland’, the area’s inhabitants were economically and politically marginalised and as such became the focus of a new government’s multi-billion Rand Spatial Development Initiative. During my eighteen month research project, I focused on issues of land, local ideas of nature conservation, re-traditionalisation, gender conflict and the commercialisation of ethnicity in the face of tourism development.

In 2004 I returned to KwaZulu-Natal to do more fieldwork. This time I spent eighteen months in the bustling metropolitan city of Durban doing research on a Pentecostal-Charismatic church (PCC) of Brazilian origins. The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) opened its first branch in South Africa in 1993, one year before the country’s first democratic elections. Post-apartheid, large numbers of marginalised black people streamed to the church to claim luxury houses situated in previously whites-only suburbs, BMW’s, and designer clothes. The UCKG quickly became one of the fastest growing churches in South Africa. It is in this context that I paid attention to the church’s spectacular prosperity gospel, churchgoers’ understandings of their bodies, local ontologies, witchcraft, rumours, and money.

Lizzy Hull

I am currently writing my PhD thesis, to be submitted in March 2009, at the London School of Economics, which is based on fieldwork carried out in a public hospital and its surrounding area, in a rural region of KwaZulu-Natal, in 2006 - 2007. My thesis investigates the bureaucratic structure of the hospital in historical context and its effects on the daily activities of work, as well as the life histories and career strategies of nurses, and the migration of staff to and from the hospital. I explore in particular how the historical emergence of a specific kind of nursing ethos geared towards professional development and middle class aspiration has helped to create the specific set of career choices that nurses face. My fieldwork for the ESRC project, based in the same area, will explore how the idea of state responsibility towards its citizens, and of their entitlement to state resources, is created and reproduced: and how expectations of ‘government’, and government employment, link to people’s sense of their own responsibility for life and livelihood.

Detlev Krige

I hold an MA in Ancient Near Eastern Studies from University of Stellenbosch and an MSc in Anthropology and Development from the LSE. I joined the Rhodes University anthropology department as lecturer in 2007. I am in the process of completing a PhD in social anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand. My field research was among informal money lenders, gamblers, ritual healers and saving clubs in the townships of Soweto and my work contributes to understanding of the production of trust, identity and risk-taking in the institutions and practices of informal economies. My fields of specialisation include urban and economic anthropology, ethnography and research methodology.

David Neves

I hold a Masters degree in Research Psychology from Rhodes University. I bring a theoretical interest in human development and the microdynamics of social change to issues of poverty, rural/urban livelihoods, and informal economy. I previously lectured at Rhodes University, the University of Fort Hare and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and was a founder member of the Centre for Applied Social Research and Action at Rhodes University, in 2000. I have completed research projects for a number of bodies including the National Research Foundation (NRF), provincial and local governments and the Water Research Commission (WRC). Currently I am one of the lead researchers in the “Vulnerability, labour markets and social protection project”, which seeks to better understand the determinants, mediators and trajectories of poverty in South Africa.