Fragile environments, strong families - South African Afrikaners perseverance in an era of uncertainty

Time period: 2019-01-01 to 2021-12-31

Project leader: Annika Teppo

Funder: Riksbankens Jubileumsfond

Type of award: Project grant

Total fundning: 2 679 000 SEK

After the era of formal apartheid ended in 1994, South Africa’s white Afrikaners have been studied very little, despite having been economically successful in a country where income inequality is one of the highest in the world. Simultaneously, all South Africans have been increasingly exposed to new vulnerabilities. Crime, problems with infrastructure and economic as well as environmental issues have made life in South Africa challenging. Yet, the Afrikaners have managed to battle these fragilities. Their success can be explained partly by the inherited advantages from the apartheid era and social networks where whiteness is capital, but it does not explain all of it. In my preliminary field research, I made some observations, which hint that their tight kinship organisation, strong marital relations, and the ensuing exchange relations might have a pivotal role in their success. I have done ethnographic fieldwork among the Afrikaners since 1997. My strong field relations ensure that I will be able to study their kinship organisation and exchange relations in depth, and these are aspects, which would otherwise be hard to track. Methodologically, I combine the use of the new kinship software (SILKin) with participant observation. My research questions will study the maintenance of family relations and exchange relations, and boundaries of kinship. I will study these through religion and moral practices and thinking, as well as ideas around the family.