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Work, unemployment and blame, 6 August

Social conceptualizations of work, unemployment, and blame in KwaZulu-Natal

Speaker: Christine Jeske
Date: Tuesday 6 August, 2013
Time: 12:30-14:00
Venue: CCS Seminar Room 602, 6th Floor, MTB Tower, Howard College, University of KwaZulu-Natal

How do ordinary people in KwaZulu-Natal conceptualize and make choices regarding work and unemployment? Unemployment looms as perhaps the main challenge for the new South Africa, a condition many have come to consider as the new normal, where “most people, most of the time will, for the foreseeable future, live that way,” as Jim Ferguson put it. Why, at a conversational level, do people conceptualize unemployment in terms laden with racial and cultural blame, i.e. that people are “lazy” and lacking “a work ethic”? The historical and shifting social factors, culturally specific definitions of development and a “good life”, and views of wealth’s attainment and responsibilities, all contribute to explanations and accusations of what is “not working.”

Christine Jeske holds an MBA in International Economic Development and is currently pursuing a cultural anthropology PhD through the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States. She has worked in development, writing, and teaching in Nicaragua, Northwest China and South Africa. From 2006-2009, she worked with a youth business development organization, taught intercultural communication and anthropology, and authored the book Into the Mud about rural South African responses to hardship.

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