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Citizenship and land in South Africa: from rights to responsibilities

James, Deborah (2013) Citizenship and land in South Africa: from rights to responsibilities. Critique of Anthropology, 33 (1). pp. 26-46. ISSN 0308-275X

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0308275X12466682


The anthropological study of citizenship enables an understanding of restitutive and redistributive reforms in the post-transitional context of South Africa. In its earlier, state-derived form, citizenship’s situated and contingent character, its use of pre-existing modes of identification as templates, and its ethnic differentiation which expresses ‘class’ distinctions while also masking them, reveal that no single democratic vision can easily encompass all of those who would belong in a new society. In its later market-oriented form, citizenship becomes more individuated, with discourses stressing enterprise, responsibility and the need to earn rights. The term ‘neoliberal governmentality’ has been used to describe the switch from state- to market-driven arrangements, but is inadequate to do so since it overlooks the extent to which state and market intermesh and are tightly interwoven, with apparently purely market-oriented initiatives reliant on extensive state intervention both for design and implementation. In societies undergoing rapid transition, even though new policies and social forces have come into play and people have responded to these in new ways, this novelty is mitigated and mediated through older social forms, attitudes and approaches, which have left their imprint upon both formal institutions and on the expectations and responses of those who ‘receive’ those institutions’ interventions. The paper calls for a view of citizenship which merges elements – state and market – that might at first sight seem contradictory: and which both acknowledges the power of wider frameworks and recognises the ability of ordinary actors on the ground to respond to and sometimes resist these.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 SAGE Publications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2013 12:07
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2014 11:31
Projects: R000239795
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council

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