Research Online

Logo

Goldsmiths - University of London

’Xenophobia’ in South Africa: Order, Chaos, and the Moral Economy of Witchcraft

Hickel, Jason. 2014. ’Xenophobia’ in South Africa: Order, Chaos, and the Moral Economy of Witchcraft. Cultural Anthropology, 29(1), pp. 103-127. ISSN 0886-7356 [Article]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

This article explores the violent, anti-immigrant riots that swept through informal settlements in South Africa in 2008, during which more than sixty foreigners were killed and more than one hundred thousand displaced. In the first part of the paper, I draw on research conducted in informal settlements around the city of Durban to argue that many people’s perceptions of foreigners are informed by ideas about witches and witchcraft, which articulate with widespread anxieties about rising unemployment, housing shortages, and a general crisis of social reproduction. These ideas provide a semiotic environment in which anti-immigrant violence becomes thinkable. In the second part of the paper, I argue that these ethnographic data help us interrogate existing theories of xenophobic violence, which tend to see it as a reaction to the cultural confusion and social anomie that globalization allegedly triggers. This dominant approach relies on assumptions about order and chaos that are native to Euro-American culture and thus do not necessarily apply cross-culturally. I show that these assumptions have a long and troubling history in South Africa, where colonial administrators and mid-century social scientists drew on them in their attempts to manage African populations.

Item Type:

Article

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.14506/ca29.1.07

Keywords:

globalization, violence, race, cultural analysis, anthropological theory

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Anthropology

Dates:

DateEvent
1 February 2014Published

Item ID:

22350

Date Deposited:

17 Nov 2017 11:51

Last Modified:

28 Feb 2019 10:02

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/22350

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)