All Mixed Up:Music and Inter-Generational Experiences of Social Change in South Africa

Santos, Dominique. 2013. All Mixed Up:Music and Inter-Generational Experiences of Social Change in South Africa. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In this thesis I use music as a starting point to animate the wider social experience of individuals and groups responding to rapid social change in South Africa. Social change in South Africa is linked in to discourses about identity that have been rigidly racialised over time. The cohorts and individuals who I engaged with cross, or are crossed by, the boundaries of racial categories in South Africa, either through family background or by the composition of cohort membership. The affective quality of music in people’s experience allows a more nuanced view of the changing dynamics of identity that is not accessed through other research methods. Music is used as a device to track biographies and stories about lived experiences of social change from the 1940’s to the first decade of the 21st Century in South Africa. Popular music cultures, including multi-racial church dances of the 1940’s, the 1970’s Johannesburg jazz and theatre scene and Kwaito, the electronic music that emerged in the 1990’s, provide a canvas to explore personal memories in very close connection to historical developments and groups of people ageing and working alongside each other in the inner western areas of Johannesburg, extending into other areas of the metropolis and the coastal city of Durban.The ethnography includes the life story of a member of a multi-racial family,the dynamic and biographies of a post-apartheid friendship cohort in Western Johannesburg, and an exploration of racial tension in a lap dancing club with a mixed clientele and staff base.

The thesis draws on a period of 18 months of dedicated fieldwork in Johannesburg, where I was employed as a DJ in a number of night clubs, as well as many years living in the city as a South African national both as a child and an adult. The methodological implications of a close personal connection to the field site are thus also explored as a determinant of data gathering.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


Music, South Africa, Generations, Social Change, Apartheid, Post-Apartheid, Transition, Kwaito, Youth Culture, Kinship, Friendship, Life Story, Biographical Method, Reflexivity, Responsive Methodology, Identity, Johannesburg, Durban, Western Areas, Race, Mixed Communities, Nightclubs

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Date Deposited:

13 Feb 2012 15:45

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:28


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