Girls, gifts, and gender : an ethnography of the materiality of care in rural Mpumalanga, South Africa

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Weckesser, Annalise Marie
  • Subject: HQ

This thesis is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Agincourt, South Africa,\ud between 2009 and 2010. It examines social relations of care involving young people in\ud the context of the country's AIDS epidemic and increasing economic inequality. The\ud thesis focuses on three sets of care relations, which constitute gift exchanges involving\ud young (orphaned and non-orphaned) people: 1) children's labour for guardian care; 2)\ud girls' labour and sex for support from boys and men; and 3) the local manufacturing of\ud 'orphans' for charitable gifts from tourist-philanthropists. The thesis further examines\ud how the contested constructions of orphanhood, childhood and care are expressed\ud through these three sets of relations. It theorises how Western and local constructions of\ud care, childhood and orphanhood meet on the ground through orphan-targeted\ud assistance.\ud Evidence derives from ethnographic fieldwork carried out with two non-profit\ud organisations serving 'Orphans and Vulnerable Children' (OVCs) in two separate\ud villages, as well as with 14 households connected to the OVC organisations. Ongoing,\ud semi-structured interviews were carried out with young people and significant adult\ud caregivers from participant households. Participatory exercises, including a\ud photography project and a 'Girls Club,' were also carried out with young participants.\ud Interviews with key stakeholders involved in the OVC care scene were conducted.\ud Stakeholders included local government workers and officials, faith-based leaders and\ud staff from private tourist game lodges conducting community development projects\ud involving young people in Agincourt.\ud This thesis develops the concept of the 'materiality of care' to address the dearth of\ud ethnographically informed theorisations of care involving young peopled affected by\ud AIDS and poverty. It argues that understandings of care for and by young (orphaned)\ud people must be placed within local, emic perspectives and practices of care, as well as\ud within the broader, historical and political economic context shaping relations of care.\ud Findings have implications for policies and interventions for young people people\ud affected by AIDS and poverty. The thesis contributes to the growing body of evidence\ud that is critical of orphan-targeted interventions in sub-Saharan Africa; interventions\ud which fail to recognise the familial context of parentless children and the broader\ud context of poverty and hardships caused by AIDS that cut across the lives of orphaned\ud and non-orphaned young people.
  • References (1)

    Appendices 1 Other key reports and policy papers on orphanhood from this time include: UNICEF (2003), UNICEF and UNAIDS (1999), and USAID, UNAIDS and UNICEF (2000).

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