Research Articles (Sociology and Social Anthropology)

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    Karoo research update : progress, gaps and threats
    (ASSAf, 2021-01-29) Hoffman, Michael T.; Cowling, Richard M.; Petersen, Hana; Walker, Cherryl
    It has been more than three decades since the conclusion of the Karoo Biome Project (KBP).1 At its height in the late 1980s, the KBP coordinated the efforts of nearly 100 research projects across a range of mainly ecological and agricultural disciplines. In this brief update we examine the research that has occurred in the Nama-Karoo and Succulent Karoo biomes since then and describe the relative contributions made by different disciplines to this body of knowledge. We also highlight efforts to synthesise knowledge across the disciplinary divides. Finally, we identify notable gaps in the research, especially considering the major land-use changes that are occurring across the Karoo. We conclude that new questions should be asked and that significantly greater collaboration between disciplines should be fostered in order to address the pressing challenges facing the Karoo more effectively. This necessitates a far more coordinated response than has been the case to date. Institutional leadership and additional funding will also be required to achieve this.
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    Building resilience: the gendered effect of climate change on food security and sovereignty in Kakamega Kenya
    (MDPI, 2021) Liru, Pauline; Heinecken, Lindy
    Climate change is a global threat, affecting the food security and food sovereignty of many depending on agriculture for their livelihoods. This is even more pronounced in Kenya, given their over-reliance on rain-fed crops and the frequency of floods and droughts in the country. Through qualitative interviews, this study set out to establish how climate change not only affects the food security, production and consumption of rural women farmers in Kakamega County, Kenya, but their response to climate shocks. Using resilience theory as a lens, we established that women use different pathways to mitigate the effects of climate change on their livelihoods. The study found that initially women adopt coping strategies that are reactive and not sustainable, but soon adapted their farming strategies, using their indigenous knowledge to exercise some control over both their food security and food sovereignty. Besides this, they use their human and social capital to expand their networks of support. By linking up to other organizations and gaining access to government support, they are able to challenge patriarchal relations that perpetuate poverty and inequality and bring about more transformative and sustainable responses to climate change.
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    Liquid violence : the politics of water responsibilisation and dispossession in South Africa
    (Water Alternatives Network, 2019) Marcatelli, Michela; Buscher, Bram
    This article introduces the notion of liquid violence to explain structural and racialised water inequality in contemporary South Africa. Investigating the Waterberg region in Limpopo Province from a water perspective reveals a growing surplus population composed of (ex-)farm workers and their families. Following their relocation – often coerced – from the farms to the town of Vaalwater, these people have been forced to rely on a precarious water supply, while white landowners maintain control over abundant water resources. And yet, as we show, this form of structural violence is perceived as ordinary, even natural. Our biopolitical concept of liquid violence emphasises how this works out and is legitimised in empirical practice. The argument starts from the neoliberal idea that water access depends upon the individual responsibilisation of citizens. For the black working poor, this means accepting to pay for water services or to provide labour on farms. For white landowners, it implies tightening their exclusive control over water and resisting any improvement to the urban supply involving the redistribution of resources. Supported and enabled by the state, liquid violence operates by reworking the boundaries between the public and private spheres. On the one hand, it blurs them by transforming the provision of public water services into a market exchange. On the other hand, and paradoxically, it hardens those same boundaries by legitimising and strengthening the power of those who have property rights in water.
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    Households, fluidity, and HIV service delivery in Zambia and South Africa – an exploratory analysis of longitudinal qualitative data from the HPTN 071 (PopART) trial
    (Wiley Open Access, 2018) Hoddinott, Graeme; Myburgh, Hanlie; De Villiers, Laing; Ndubani, Rhoda; Mantantana, Jabulile; Thomas, Angelique; Mbewe, Madalitso; Ayles, Helen; Bock, Peter; Seeley, Janet; Shanaube, Kwame; Hargreaves, James; Bond, Virginia; Reynolds, Lindsey
    Introduction: Population distributions, family and household compositions, and people’s sense of belonging and social stability in southern Africa have been shaped by tumultuous, continuing large-scale historical disruptions. As a result, many people experience high levels of geographic and social fluidity, which intersect with individual and population-level migration patterns. We describe the complexities of household fluidity and HIV service access in South Africa and Zambia to explore implications for health systems and service delivery in contexts of high household fluidity. Methods: HPTN 071 (PopART) is a three-arm cluster randomized controlled trial implemented in 21 peri-urban study communities in Zambia and South Africa between 2013 and 2018. A qualitative cohort nested in the trial included 148 purposively sampled households. Data collection was informed by ethnographic and participatory research principles. The analysis process was reflexive and findings are descriptive narrative summaries of emergent ideas. Results: Households in southern Africa are extremely fluid, with people having a tenuous sense of security in their social networks. This fluidity intersects with high individual and population mobility. To characterize fluidity, we describe thematic patterns of household membership and residence. We also identify reasons people give for moving around and shifting social ties, including economic survival, fostering interpersonal relationships, participating in cultural, traditional, religious, or familial gatherings, being institutionalized, and maintaining patterns of substance use. High fluidity disrupted HIV service access for some participants. Despite these challenges, many participants were able to regularly access HIV testing services and participants living with HIV were especially resourceful in maintaining continuity of antiretroviral therapy (ART). We identify three key features of health service interactions that facilitated care continuity: disclosure to family members, understanding attitudes among health services staff including flexibility to accommodate clients’ transient pressures, and participants’ agency in ARTrelated decisions. Conclusions: Choices made to manage one’s experiential sense of household fluidity are intentional responses to livelihood and social support constraints. To enhance retention in care for people living with HIV, policy makers and service providers should focus on creating responsive, flexible health service delivery systems designed to accommodate many shifts in client circumstances.
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    Women and renewable energy in a South African community : exploring energy poverty and environmental racism
    (Bridgewater State College, 2018) Fakier, Khayaat
    This paper argues that the rights of women to be included in decisions about energy use and their experiences with energy use are ignored. Using an eco-feminist perspective this article explores how the rhetoric of ‘renewable energy for the poor’ which bypasses women’s voices and experience in domestic uses of renewable energy result in reverse outcomes of pro-environmental policy for the poor, as well as, for society in general. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 20 women in Lwandle, in South Africa, the article identifies three themes reflecting on how the women experience the installation of solar water heaters. The first theme discusses the exclusion of women from consultations as an endurance of environmental racism and sexism. Secondly, the findings reflect on how domestic labour and costs increase in the face of dysfunctional SWHs. I also discuss how decision to install these geysers in shared bathrooms overrides residents’ expressed needs for privacy and dignity. The third theme discusses the continued use of fossil fuels such as paraffin and its implication for household safety, expenditure and the environment. The paper concludes with the enjoinder that women be included in consultations and planning of pro-environmental projects from the start.