"Nostalgia and Neoliberalism in Post-Apartheid South Africa"

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 - 12:00pm - 1:30pm
104 Cohen Hall

Amber Reed, University of Pennsylvania
What might cause historically oppressed South Africans to wax nostalgically for the days of apartheid? In this talk, I use twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork in the rural Eastern Cape province to demonstrate the ways in which many Xhosa-identified citizens express serious disappointments with the current democratic government and longings for the perceived stability of the pre-1994 state - despite its codified racism, violence and denial of basic human rights for the majority of the population. I examine the influx of democratic ideologies specifically in educational settings such as public school classrooms and non-governmental organization programs, showing that it is often those most dissatisfied with democracy as an ideological system who are tasked with teaching it to youth. I argue that these sentiments ought to be read as a reaction to South Africa's turn towards neoliberal capitalism and its attendant wealth inequality, privatization, and joblessness since apartheid's end.