Accepted Paper:

"Born free" generations? "Apartheid" as an uncertain reference and how to make sense of it  


Judith Hayem (Université Lille CLERSE)

Paper short abstract:

In South Africa nowadays, young people born after the end of apartheid are commonly called the "born free generations" . The paper examines how inhabitants of Daveyton, born after the end of apartheid, use the words "apartheid" and "free" when they consider their present situation and the opportunities or lack of it they enjoy.This analysis allows for a better understanding of their own rationalities and subjectivities wether they consider past times as a central reference or not.

Paper long abstract:

In the last few years, the idea that generations born after the end of apartheid were "born free" has become a common say in South Africa. Interviewed on this qualifier, young people often claim they are now "free" to do whatever they like and simultaneously complain that life does not offer them the "opportunities" they long for or the society they dream to live in. In the meantime, media and scholars tend to depict those new "born free" generations as politically unconscious and sometimes even "criminal" because they would not have a clear political and historical knowledge of the Struggle against apartheid. This would be one reason for their lack of orientation and, they say, their unruly behavior. Based on an ethnographic observation in the black township of Daveyton and interviews with over 40 young people aged 20 to 35 years old, the paper seeks to analyze in details the role and meaning of the word "apartheid" in the youth discourse, actions and forms of thinking in order to shed light on their conceptions of present times and possible futures. Is it a central issue for them to make sense of post-apartheid, a chronological dating? Is it seen as politics or facts or even something else and how does that impact the reasoning of the youth and their possible aspirations towards the future? In order to find out, I will analyze the meaning of the word as they use it. The word "free" will be questioned in a similar way.

Panel W059
Political ruptures and political subjectivities: how do young generations make sense of their world in a context of uncertainty?