School of Built Environment and Development Studies Seminar

Title: ‘Is Laziness to Blame? Unemployment and the Good Life in South Africa’.

Speaker: Christine Jeske

Time: 12h30 – 13h50, 29/10/ 2014.

Venue: Seminar Room F213, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Memorial Tower Building, UKZN. Google maps: -29.866933,30.981963

How do competing narratives of “the good life” shape South African Zulu people’s experiences with work? Unemployment looms as perhaps the main challenge for the new South Africa, a condition many have come to consider the new normal.  As hoped-for jobs fail to materialize, people increasingly doubt the myth that hard work leads to a good life. What, then, might they believe instead about work’s role in achieving a good life? What motivates people to press on seeking employment, or to seek alternative means of survival?

Christine Jeske’s on-going research on unemployment involves ethnographic interviews among Zulu people and worker-skills training projects in the Howick/Pietermaritzburg area. She considers how people define a good life, how they envision achieving it, and how work fits into that picture. By examining work-related actions and meaning-making among people who historically have been both deprived of rewarding labor and subjected to ethnicized stereotypes as workers, this research offers insight into racialized worker stereotyping, worker discouragement, disappointing entrepreneurship-training programs, and how presumed aims of development projects miss the mark of people’s real goals and decisions.

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 in South Africa with a youth business development organization, teaching intercultural communication and anthropology, and authoring the book Into the Mud about rural South African responses to hardship.

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