This post builds on the research article “"Xenophobia" in South Africa: Order, Chaos, and the Moral Economy of Witchcraft,” which was published in the February 2014 issue of the Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cultural Anthropology.
Cultural Anthropology has published several articles on violence and identity politics including Ruchi Chaturvedi's "'Somehow it Happened': Violence, Culpability, and the Hindu Nationalist Community" (2011), Daniel Hoffman's "Violence, Just in Time: War and Work in Contemporary West Africa" (2011), and Catherine Besteman's "Representing Violence and 'Othering' Somalia" (1996).
Cultural Anthropology has also published articles on witchcraft and modernity including Erica Caple James's "Witchcraft, Bureaucraft, and the Social Life of (US) Aid in Haiti" (2012) and Jeffrey David Ehrenreich's "Shame, Witchcraft, and Social Control: The Case of an Awá-Coaiquer Interloper" (1990).
About the Author
Jason Hickel is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His core research looks at how the moral values that underpin Western liberalism are being resisted in South Africa as people grapple with crises of social reproduction that have been brought on by neoliberalism. Drawing on ethnographic research in rural Zululand, he explores this theme in his forthcoming book, Democracy as Social Death: The Making of Anti-Liberal Politics in Neoliberal South Africa. Hickel's other research projects in the region have focused on a wide range of issues including housing policy, labor politics, migration, and xenophobia. In addition to his academic portfolio, he also contributes to online outlets such as Al Jazeera, Le Monde Diplomatique, and Mail and Guardian's blog, Thought Leader, bringing anthropological critiques about development and globalization to a broad public audience.
Related Work by Jason Hickel
with Meghan Healy-Clancy, eds. 2014. Ekhaya: The Politics of Home in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.
2014. "Aid in Reverse: How Poor Countries Develop Rich Countries." in Emergence, Convergence, and the Future of Aid, edited by Andrew Sumner. Global Policy.
2013. "The 'Real' Experience Industry: Student Development Projects and the Depoliticization of Poverty." Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences 6, no. 2.
2012. "Social Engineering and Revolutionary Consciousness: Domestic Transformations in Colonial South Africa." History and Anthropology 23, no. 3: 301–22.
2012. "Subaltern Consciousness in South Africa's Labor Movement: 'Workerism' in the KwaZulu-Natal Sugar Industry," South African Historical Journal 64, no. 3: 664–84.
2012. "Neoliberal Plague: The Political Economy of HIV Transmission in Swaziland," Journal of Southern African Studies 38, no. 3: 513–28.
2012. "Liberalism and the Politics of Occupy Wall Street." Anthropology of This Century, no. 4.
2012. "Constituting the Commons: Oil and Development in Post-Independence South Sudan," In Exporting the Alaska Model: Adapting the Permanent Fund Dividend for Reform Around the World, edited by Karl Widerquist and Michael Howard, 123–40. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan. with Arsalan Khan.
2012. "The Culture of Capitalism and the Crisis of Critique." Anthropological Quarterly 85, no. 1: 203–27.
Questions for Classroom Discussion
1. In this article, Hickel confronts assertions that neoliberal policies and globalization have brought about xenophobic violence in South Africa. Describe some of the key contributions to these arguments. What does Hickel contribute to theory on xenophobic violence, order, and chaos? In what ways does an ethnographic approach illuminate new thinking about these topics?
2. In what ways do individuals in South Africa perceive the logic of witchcraft to produce a crisis of social reproduction?
3. Describe how Hickel "makes sense" of violence in his article. What role does symbolism play in schemes of xenophobic violence? How can violence be viewed as a speech act?
4. Discuss the significance of cultural-specificity in the construction of otherness.
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