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Transforming Cape Town

Catherine Besteman (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 312 pages
ISBN: 9780520256712
September 2008
$34.95, £28.00
This study provides a window into the lives of ordinary South Africans more than ten years after the end of apartheid, with the promises of the democracy movement remaining largely unfulfilled. Catherine Besteman explores the emotional and personal aspects of the transition to black majority rule by homing in on intimate questions of love, family, and community and capturing the complex, sometimes contradictory voices of a wide variety of Capetonians. Her evaluation of the physical and psychic costs to individuals involved in working for social change is grounded in the experiences of the participants and illu-minates two overarching dimensions of life in Cape Town: the aggregate forces determined to maintain the apartheid-era status quo, and the grassroots efforts to effect social change.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Transformation Stories

1. Seduction
2. Legacies
3. Ignorance Is Not Bliss
4. Fieldwork Discomforts
5. Still Waiting
6. Dodging Bullets
7. Identity Issues
8. Transformers
9. Some Lessons

Catherine Besteman is Professor of Anthropology and Director of African Studies at Colby College.
“An engaging, insightful and at times beautifully written account of post-apartheid transformation in the city of Cape Town. Besteman shows the continuing legacy of apartheid, racial segregation and poverty in South Africa as well as glimpses of new forms of cultural creativity and identity formation that are characterized by empathy, compassion, and hope. Transforming Cape Town deserves to be read by anthropologists and anyone interested in how people confront the challenges of racial exclusion and historical inequality, and how a few bold agents of transformation seek to create new social spaces to cross old barriers.”—Richard A. Wilson, author of The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa

“Cape Town and anthropology come alive in Besteman's work. Insightful, dynamic, and well-written, this book opens a 'space of trust' to understanding the pains and creative innovations of transition—of people, politics, and daily survival—in a new light.”—Carolyn Nordstrom, author of Global Outlaws and Shadows of War

“Besteman navigates and illuminates post-apartheid Cape Town with uncommon skill. She brings to bear an anthropologist's training, a reporter's eye and ear for the choice remark, the telling detail and a candid sympathy for the disenfranchised, whose lot in South Africa has not necessarily improved under democracy. It's a distressing picture she draws: the persisting mutual ignorance, even reciprocal demonization, across old ethnic and racial lines, alongside the ongoing economic injustice. The revolution in South Africa has been a piecemeal affair, and Besteman's descriptions of the difficulties that even the best-intentioned individuals encounter as they struggle toward creating a general social transformation ring painfully true.”—William Finnegan, author of Crossing the Line, Dateline Soweto, A Complicated War, and Cold New World

Transforming Cape Town is a fascinating account of how people in this divided city engage with democracy, transformation, and the legacies and ongoing realities of radical inequalities. Through conversations with ordinary people, Besteman explores the ways in which apartheid's legacies continue to shape interactions both intimate and public. In doing so, she restores a sense of faith in anthropology as a tool for understanding and critiquing social worlds.”—Fiona Ross, author of Bearing Witness: Women and Truth and Reconciliation

Leeds Honor Book Award, Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology

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