Kultuur, mag en ongelykheid in Suid-Afrika : die relevansie van die antropologie ontwikkeling en organisasies

Van der Waal, Kees (2003-07)

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ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Joseph Khosa, a young man from the Berlyn settlement in the Limpopo Province, died tragically in a motorcar accident at the end of 2001. I dedicate this inaugural address to his remembrance. Joseph was, as a 15 year old, the first person to reach out to me socially during my fieldwork in his settlement in 1986. From him and his friends I learnt endlessly during those months and during follow-up fieldwork periods - not only about the demanding circumstances of life in a rural settlement, via the gossip about the people of Berlyn, but also about the importance of ideas and social processes that made sense in daily existence in places such as Berlyn. The soccer team was, for example, an important social unit which tied the younger generation together in opposition to the conservative older people and from this source came the young members of the civic and the comrades. Joseph's life was a demonstration of the creative manner in which life was arranged amidst a lack of material security. Our lives were two contrasting points on the continuum of inequality in this country - the researcher representing the elite and the son of two farm-workers who could not afford to travel the 10 km to their children more than once a month. Joseph's world was larger than the farm and the settlement: he drew house plans, did not give up on getting his matric and he kept on looking for economic opportunities in Johannesburg by using his social network extremely creatively. However, he was on the lowest rung of the social ladder: the school where he matriculated could not prepare him for the world of work and modern skills. In the globalised economy of South Africa he and his friends would remain excluded from the benefits of international economic growth and free trade: condemned to remain unemployed or to do semi-skilled world. In the affluent part of society the stories of people like Joseph are not of much importance. Poor people need to know their place. Social categories are put in a ranking order according to the needs of the powerful. These categories are, however, not rigid units that are uncontested, as was recently discovered to their dismay by the house committee of Majuba residence at this university. When three masked students attacked two "daga- rokers" at night, they did this in line with their beliefs about hostel culture and its categories of inclusion and exclusion. What was included were those things about which "die manne" agreed, for example, to excel in sport and fun, but also to keep the stereotypical ideas about "the other" in place. Given that kind of group dynamics and related perceptions, it does not matter too much that you have a photograph on your hostel's website which celebrates the old South African flag. Another photograph indicates that it is not a problem to cover the wall at the urinal with photographs of pin-up girls. This emphasis on unbeaten white South Africanness and enjoyable sexism correlates well with the interests of a part of the professional white workers who are situated opposite the end of the continuum where Joseph Khosa was found. Such categories and their effects do not suddenly appear from nowhere and will not easily change as long as power relations in society coincide with extreme inequalities between the elite and the rest. In this address, I want to consider the question of the contribution of social anthropology to our understanding of aspects of social reality. I want to do this by looking at the way in which the subject is manifested in South Africa, take a quick look at the core concepts and methods of the subject and add some remarks about the way in which these insights and methods are applied in the anthropology of development and the anthropology of organisations. Woven into this discussion are some comments on the phenomena of culture, power and inequality.

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