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Beneath the “Zunami”: Jacob Zuma and the Gendered Politics of Social Reproduction in South Africa

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Abstract:  In April 2009, African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma was swept into power in South Africa's fourth democratic general election. To date, this political “Zunami” has largely been presented as either a leftist rebellion against Mbeki's neoliberalism, a reassertion of patriarchal “traditionalism”, or an example of Zulu ethnic mobilization. This article draws on a long‐term ethnographic study to provide a critical gendered perspective on Zuma's rise. It argues that Zuma resonates with many poor South Africans, including women, in part because of his ability to connect the personal and political in ways that talk to South Africa's “crisis of social reproduction”. A key point the article emphasizes—one virtually absent from contemporary discussions about Zuma—is the profound gendering of growing class divisions, specifically the way this manifests itself in huge reductions in marital rates and heightened gendered contestations.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Toronto at Scarborough, Ontario, CanadaSchool of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa;

Publication date: 2011-09-01

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