Original Articles 

Managing belief in a hostile world: experiencing gifts of the Spirit at a small Pentecostal Charismatic Church in Pretoria

Jim Pieterse
pages 1-13

This article focuses on the infrequency with which “gifts of the Spirit” are experienced during services at a small Pentecostal church in Pretoria, attended mostly by Afrikaans-speaking men who self-identify as homosexual. It aims to shed some light on the ways in which pastors work to shape churchgoers’ perceptions of the world, their place in it, as well as how experiences of marginalisation and suffering relate to spirits (and their absence) that are understood to mediate between heaven and earth. I argue that difficulties related to the cultivation of faith, on which relationships with the divine are constructed, frustrate direct experiences of spiritual gifts. I also show that certain steps are taken in this church, with varying degrees of success, to try and render the invisible corporeally present. An analysis of sermons is folded into a broader discussion of spiritual self-fashioning and the roles of technologies of the self within the church in an attempt to provide an inclusive, broad-based analysis of “gifts of the Spirit” in a Pentecostal Charismatic Church (PCC) that engages with religious belief on its own terms.

Subjects: anthropology of religion, homosexuality, masculinity, Pentecostalism, sexuality, South Africa


The familiar labyrinth: practicing urban disorientation in post-apartheid Cape Town

Giovanni Spissu
pages 14-30

In this article, I discuss how urban disorientation can be used in ethnographic research as an investigative tool to explore the city. In particular, I examine how urban disorientation can be taken as an ethnographic tactic with the purpose of investigating the relationship between the memories of the city's inhabitants and its urban spaces. I argue that, through urban disorientation, we can generate a process of reterritorialisation of a city's places through which we can better explore how inhabitants relate their memories to the urban territory. In 2011, I went to Cape Town with the goal of investigating the processes of signifying the urban territory in this post-apartheid South African metropolis. Taking inspiration from different sources from the arts and social sciences, particularly Walter Benjamin's Berlin Childhood around 1900, I developed a research methodology based on urban disorientation aiming to explore the relationship between the memories of the people of Cape Town and the urban spaces of the South African metropolis. Wandering aimlessly through Cape Town's streets with its inhabitants, I observed how they explored new pathways in their memory through the city's places.

subjects: Cape Town, post-apartheid, reterritorialisation, urban disorientation, Walter Benjamin


Sex in troubled times: moral panic, polyamory and freedom in north-west Namibia

Steven Van Wolputte
pages 31-45

In Namibia, early missionaries among the Herero were intrigued by the important role of the matriclan, as it did not fit their ideals of a pastoral society. Despite their obsession with female sexuality, metonymically expressed in concerns over political organisation and kinship, female agency did not feature in their considerations. At first sight, contemporary public discourse on “traditional” sexuality in north-western Namibia is characterised by an opposite tendency, informed by genuine and justified concerns over gender equality. However, by concentrating on exotic practices such as “wife-swapping” and by embedding them in a normative and moralising discourse on marriage and sexuality, this discourse threatens to fall into the same trap as that of the erstwhile missionaries, namely of essentialising categories of gender and desire. This paper provides an ethnography of polyamorous practices in north-west Namibia, arguing they provide women with a great degree of freedom and space for agency. Women in present-day Namibia who engage in these polyamorous relationships thus find themselves in the paradox of having to choose between political emancipation and sexual liberty.

Subjects: colonialism, feminism, gender, Herero, Himba, intersectionality, marriage, polyamory, postcolonialism


(Dis)empowered whiteness: un-whitely spaces and the production of the good white home

Christi Kruger
pages 46-57

This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork in a white informal settlement in South Africa, to explore the ways in which poorer whites with perceived notions of whiteness and blackness negotiate living in informal settlements. In doing this, I argue, they deliberately identify as informal settlers, or squatters, while consciously displaying normative forms of whiteness. It is specifically through the organisation of their informal houses and homes that white informal settlers seek to construct a whiteness which mimics that subscribed to by poorer Afrikaners in the 1930s. In this way, they differentiate their living space from that of other — black African — informal settlers in South Africa while not completely abandoning the idea that they, too, are informal settlers. I argue that white informal settlers negotiate these different social identities by constructing the concept of a whitely squatter camp and are thus able to negotiate perceived contradictory identities.

Subjects: home, informal settlements, poverty, South Africa, space, whiteness



Johnny Clegg: a shadow man

Marguerite de Villiers
pages 58-63

Johnny Clegg has been given many labels — White Zulu, academic, activist, performer. In the context of apartheid South Africa, his deliberate interaction with Zulu-speaking migrant workers and street musicians in Johannesburg helped shape his performance style. His training in anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand provided an interpretative framework with which he could further share this knowledge and experiences with an audience. This paper is based on a conversation with Clegg on January 26, 2016, regarding his role as an anthropologist and musician in South Africa, as well as his perspective on the role that anthropology plays today.

Subjects: belonging, communication, identity, Johnny Clegg, music, performance


Photo Essay

Thermal optimum: time, intimacy and the elemental in the first thousand days of life

Fiona C. Ross & Nicholas Eppel
pages 64-73

“Thermal Optimum” is a collaboration between photographer Nicholas Eppel and anthropologist Fiona C. Ross. Focusing on pregnancy and early childhood, we sought a way to open questions about how the “hard facts” of biology are given force and presence through “soft” actions of care. Thermographic imaging, initially developed for military use, allows one to trace a subject’s “heat signature,” making visible aspects of the world that are ordinarily undetectable to the human eye. The resultant images disrupt visual expectations and accustomed modes of interpretation. An experiment in seeing, we are interested in thinking about what these kinds of images enable and unseat for us, an artist and an anthropologist.

Subjects: care, “first thousand days of life”, infancy, reproduction, thermographic imaging


Original Articles

Visual interruptions: a reflection on “Thermal optimum: time, intimacy and the elemental in the first thousand days of life”

Kharnita Mohamed
pages 74-75

In this commentary, Kharnita Mohamed critically assesses Fiona C. Ross and Nicholas Eppel’s photo essay, “Thermal Optimum: Time, Intimacy and the Elemental in the First Thousand Days of Life.” The essay is published alongside this commentary.

Subjects: “first thousand days of life”, self-reflexivity, thermographic imaging, viewer ethics, visual expectation


Book Reviews

Having people, having heart: charity, sustainable development, and problems of dependence in central Uganda

Mary Ejang
pages 76-78


National culture in post-apartheid Namibia: state-sponsored cultural festivals and their histories

Godwin Kornes
pages 78-81