Original Articles

Democracy as technopolitical future: delivery and discontent in a government settlement in the South African countryside

Bernard Dubbeld

Pages: 73-84

This paper is concerned with how democracy is understood and experienced in a KwaZulu-Natal municipal administration and one of the settlements it governs. Considering that democracy has a range of popular meanings, and that in South Africa it has been tied to the promise of a better life, I explore how municipal officials have identified democracy with a technopolitical future in which experts evaluate poor communities and implement infrastructure as a mechanism of improvement. I also show how residents of the settlement have become disenchanted at what they experience as democracy’s inability to deal with their basic everyday needs. Their disenchantment is directed not only at state officials, but at democracy as an ideal, and they articulate it most forcefully with a growing antipathy towards democratic rights perceived as intruding into the domestic sphere. In order to understand both the municipal state’s approach to democracy and residents’ reactions to it, I draw on recent work by Partha Chatterjee and James Ferguson to consider whether concepts of “political society” and “the left art of government” are helpful in theorising democratic governance in the South African countryside.

Keywords: countryside, democracy, infrastructure, left art of government, municipality, political society, South Africa


The dynamics and digitisation of religious testimonies: a case of prophetic ministries in Botswana

Gabriel Faimau

Pages: 85-95

A major element in the religious practice of believers in prophetic Christianity is the sharing of religious testimonies. Focusing on prophetic ministries in Botswana, this paper examines the nature and function of religious testimonies and the dynamics of their digitisation and online circulation. It explores the ways in which religious testimonies mediate or extend the reach of prophetic ministries. Using data collected through fieldwork observation, in-depth interviews and digital ethnography, I argue that the sharing of testimony within Pentecostal Christian circles can be described as a system of institutional performance that aims to direct the spiritual development of believers, reinforce the central place and authority of a prophet and advance the institutional identity of a prophetic ministry.

Keywords: digitisation, identity, new media, prophet, prophetic ministries, religious testimony


“What else can we do?” Strategies and negotiations around place and space in the case of “undocumented” Zimbabwean migrant workers in Botswana

Treasa Galvin

Pages: 96-107

Restrictive immigration laws, enhanced border controls, the criminalisation of migrants, punitive deportation practices and a lack of respect for the right to asylum have become a common feature of the contemporary world. In the face of these increasingly restrictive state practices and intolerant local responses to migrants, rates of human mobility continue to grow and ever larger numbers of people experience daily life through an “undocumented” status. In the midst of prejudice and intolerance, those labelled “undocumented” shape their daily lives by living within but not as part of their host societies. Based on fieldwork among Zimbabwean migrant workers in Botswana, this paper examines the differential meanings they attach to borders and boundaries, the strategies they employ to negotiate daily life and the ways in which place and space are interconnected in their lives. The paper argues that undocumented migrants experience their state of existence as a dynamic, ever-changing world and a reality that is focused on negotiating the present, and that this is a normal rather than abnormal response to the context in which they live.

Keywords: boundaries, negotiation, place, space, strategies, undocumented Zimbabweans


Community acceptability of minimally invasive autopsy (MIA) in children under five years of age in Soweto, South Africa

Nonhlanhla Ngwenya, David Coplan, Susan Nzenze, Nellie Myburgh & Shabir Madhi

Pages: 108-121

This interdisciplinary study, using qualitative and ethnographic research methods, collected data from 330 men and women in Soweto, South Africa, in order to understand the community acceptability of minimally invasive autopsy (MIA) in children who died under five years of age. The study found that the acceptability of MIAs depended on people’s socio-cultural belief systems regarding death and afterlife; on power and gender dynamics within households; and on structural issues relating to the health care system and mortuary services.

Keywords: autopsy, children, death, mortuary customs, public health, Soweto


Photo Essay

All drag, all the time — one night in Cape Town with Lola Fine

Lindy-Lee Prince

Pages: 122-136

This photo essay discusses the ways in which a participant in a research project on the performance of gender embodies and becomes a performance character, as well as the different instantiations this takes in different contexts and situations. The photo essay discusses how Lola Fine, a drag performer, becomes the character of Lola Fine, and is solidified as such through the performative nature of getting into drag — applying makeup, putting on a dress and shoes, and so forth — as well as through interactions with different individuals in different contexts.

Keywords: characterisation, drag, embodied performance, LGBTIQ, performance



On reading about Lola Fine’s night on the town

Graeme Reid

Pages: 137-141

This is a commentary on Lindy-Lee Prince’s photographic essay about gender and drag featuring Cape Town performance artist Lola Fine.

Keywords: drag, gay, gender performance, gender roles, globalisation, sexual identity



Elizabeth Colson (1917–2016): reflections on a conversation

Anya Peterson Royce

Pages: 142-146

Book Reviews

Pioneers of the field: South Africa’s women anthropologists

Anjuli Webster

Pages: 147-149

The fires beneath: the life of Monica Wilson, South African anthropologist

Fiona C. Ross

Pages: 149-151

Sensational movies: video, vision, and Christianity in Ghana

Roger Horn

Pages: 152-154

#RhodesMustFall: nibbling at resilient colonialism in South Africa

Mohini Baijnath

Pages: 154-156