The Transforming Post-apartheid City

Researcher: Annika Björnsdotter Teppo
Urban Cluster

"My present research can be divided into three different lines of examination, all of which largely revolve around the issues of the changing post-apartheid city.

From 1997 to 2001, funded by the Academy of Finland, I studied social anthropology at the universities of Stellenbosch and Pretoria in South Africa. At the same time, I carried out fieldwork in the suburb of Ruyterwacht in Cape Town. I have returned to my field almost every year since 2001 to carry out independent ethnographic fieldwork.

My first line of research originates from my doctoral work on poor whites of South Africa during which I studied racial boundaries and categories, especially the “good white” category before, during and after apartheid. Methodologically, it is a mixture of archive research, interviews and ethnography. I still find the issues around South African whites, race and categorisation very interesting.

My second line of research originates from the postdoctoral project that I undertook between 2005 and 2010. During this time, I studied the new forms of religion that emerged among white South Africans in the post-apartheid era. This project, mainly funded by the Academy of Finland, concentrated on New Religious Movements such as the Wiccans and white sangomas (traditional healers), the syncretism in their rituals, their possible racial transgressions and the crossovers of racial boundaries. I developed a new term, “mediatory space” for this research, which allows me to study how the liminal spaces of certain rituals generate changes in racial categories as well as facilitate racial crossovers in the urban spaces between white and black South Africans.

My third line of research began innocently enough when I carried out fieldwork in South African malls in order to study the changing racial composition in the public spaces as well as the possible spaces of togetherness. This line of work has largely been conducted in collaboration with my French research partner Dr Myriam Houssay-Holzschuch, and has already led to one international publication (A Mall for All, 2009). We are continuing our work in the township of Gugulethu in Cape Town and are currently working on an article on revolution, consumerism and neoliberalism in post-apartheid townships."

changing racial composition
poor whites
racial boundaries
racial transgressions
religious movements
traditional healers
white sangomas
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