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HSRC Press :: History, Humanities & Liberation :: Growing up in the new South Africa

Growing up in the new South Africa
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Growing up in the new South Africa

Childhood and adolescence in post-apartheid Cape Town

Rachel Bray, Imke Gooskens, Sue Moses, Lauren Kahn, Jeremy Seekings

Format168mm x 240mm (Soft Cover)
ISBN 100-7969- 2313-2
ISBN 13978-07969-2313-4
Publish Year2010
RightsWorld Rights
DescriptionRelated ProductsEmail To A FriendProduct RatingCustomer Reviews

Growing up in the new South Africa :: Childhood and adolescence in post-apartheid Cape TownFree DownloadGrowing up in the new South Africa :: Childhood and adolescence in post-apartheid Cape Town
PodcastGrowing Up in the New South Africa: Childhood and Adolescence in Post-Apartheid Cape Town is about the realities of life for children and adolescents in South Africa in the first decade after the end of apartheid. The book is based on extensive research in the southern periphery of Cape Town – in the diverse communities of Masiphumelele, Ocean View and Fish Hoek. Co-authors, Rachel Bray and Jeremy Seekings, explain the choice of site and the value of combining a qualitative and quantitative approach to understanding the life experiences of children in this microcosm of South Africa.

Duration: 2 mins 34 sec


How has the end of apartheid affected the experiences of South African children and adolescents? This pioneering study provides a compelling account of the realities of everyday life for the first generation of children and adolescents growing up in a democratic South Africa. The authors examine the lives of young people across historically divided communities at home, in the neighbourhoods where they live, and at school. The picture that emerges is one of both diversity and similarity as young people navigate their way through a complex landscape that is unevenly ‘post’-apartheid. Historically and culturally rooted, their identities are forged in response to their perceptions of social redress and to anxieties about ‘others’ living on the margins of their daily lives. Although society has changed in profound ways, many features of the apartheid era persist: material inequalities and poverty continue to shape everyday life; race and class continue to define neighbourhoods, and ‘integration’ is a sought-after but limited experience for the young.

Growing up in the new South Africa is based on rich ethnographic research in one area of Cape Town, together with an analysis of quantitative data for the city as a whole. The authors, all based at the time in the Centre for Social Science Research at the University of Cape Town, draw on varied disciplinary backgrounds to reveal a world in which young people’s lives are shaped by both an often adverse environment and the agency that they themselves exercise. This book should be read by anyone, whether inside or outside of the university, interested in the well-being of young South Africans and the social realities of post-apartheid South Africa.


1. Introduction: Growing up in post-apartheid South Africa
The Valley
The study of ordinary young South Africans
Researching the everyday lives of children and adolescents
Rights, agency and transition
Outline of the book

2. Discourses and realities of family life
The impact of apartheid on family life
Heroes and providers: Children assert the parenting role
The shape of post-apartheid families
What qualities do children value in family relationships?
Silence and resistance: Responses to neglect and abuse
The meanings and implications of parental absence
Who else cares at home?

3. The familiar world of the neighbourhood
Immediate neighbourhoods
The ‘adult’ worlds of local neighbourhoods
Physical dangers in the local neighbourhood
Social dangers in the immediate neighbourhood

4. Segregated and integrated spaces: Mobility and identity beyond the neighbourhood
Mapping the Valley
Why go beyond the neighbourhood?
Identity, othering and the inhibition of mobility
Imagining community
Global cultures, shared spaces and crossing boundaries
Schooling and social integration

5. The Real Worlds of Public Schooling
Schooling after apartheid: Reform without improvement
Resource inequalities despite the reallocation of public spending
The process of schooling
The quality of schooling: Views from Ocean View and Masiphumelele
What makes a good teacher?
Peers and ‘discipline’

6. The social aspects of schooling: Navigating an educational career
School choice
The everyday influence of home life on children’s schooling
What do parents and adolescents expect from education?
Schools as arena for negotiating friendship and social identity
Who leaves and who stays? Decision-making and the school career

7. Freedom, ‘fitting in’ and foreign territories: The world of friends, dating and sex
The literature on adolescent sex and dating
Relationships in adolescence
Parent-child interactions and sex
Rebellion, peer pressure and anxieties
Style and status
(Mis)trust and infidelity
Pregnancy and parenthood
Images, choices and self-care
Making inroads and negotiating the crossroads: The road less travelled

8. The quiet violence of contemporary segregation in Cape Town
Adolescents’ responses to questions about personal ‘control’
Talk about self, care and control, and why personal efficacy matters
Perspectives on what shapes control over self
Inter-generational reciprocity and nurture in the home
Geography, mobility and the claiming of community
Schooling and control
Marking transitions and securing social status in the peer group
Transitions to adulthood: Directions for further research

9. Conclusion

The authors

About the Author/s

Rachel Bray is an independent researcher and former Research Fellow in the Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR) and the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She has a PhD from the University of Durham and is co-editor of Monitoring Child Well-Being: A South African Rights-Based Approach (HSRC Press).

Imke Gooskens graduated from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2006 with a Masters degree in Social Anthropology, and has begun research for a doctorate at UCT.

Sue Moses graduated from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2006 with a Masters degree in Development Studies. She currently works at the Children’s Institute at UCT.

Lauren Kahn completed a Masters degree in Psychology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2008, and is currently working as a researcher at the Young Foundation in London, United Kingdom.

Jeremy Seekings is Professor of Political Studies and Sociology at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and Director of one of the units within the Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR). He has a PhD from Oxford University, and has held visiting appointments at Oxford, Yale and Princeton Universities. His books include The UDF: A History of the United Democratic Front in South Africa and Class, Race and Inequality in South Africa (co-authored with Nicoli Nattrass).


“Unique in the post-apartheid period, the authors provide a fascinating account of how adolescents from three very different communities negotiate family life, sexuality, peer relationships, neighbourhood challenges, and schooling in contemporary South Africa. Child participatory methods are skillfully combined with survey data to reveal considerable commonality in the worlds of these young people. All share the status of adolescent in a modern globalizing world which is very much attuned to the young. At the same time, the inequities of the post-apartheid era continue to structure the experience of adolescence and preparation for adult life along lines of race and class. Despite the odds, there is much evidence of resilience and hope in these young people. This finely crafted and sensitive volume will stand as a seminal text.”

- Prof Andy Dawes Associate Fellow, Department of Social Policy and Social Work,University of Oxford.

“An astonishingly nuanced and thoughtful study of young South African lives, this book is testimony to the enduring power of ethnography. It is also an exemplar of the subtlety that ensues when scholars remain sober and even-tempered in the face of such volatile questions as youth, race and sex.”

- Jonny Steinberg, South African writer and scholar and two-time winner of South Africa's most prestigious literary prize, the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for non-fiction.

“This thought provoking book provides rare and nuanced insight into the everyday lives of young people in post-apartheid South Africa, revealing the persistence of old inequalities amongst the seeds of change. The social complexities it unravels makes it essential reading for African scholars and for those interested in international childhood studies.”

- Professor Allison James, Professor of Sociology & Director of Centre for the Study of Childhood & Youth, Director of ICOSS (Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences)

“This book is essential reading for social scientists, researchers, policy makers and practitioners concerned with understanding and making a difference in the lives of South Africa’s children. It provides a rich and nuanced portrait of the commonalities and diversity of the contexts of childhood in three distinct communities in Cape Town. The children’s narratives drive home the intractable nature of the apartheid legacy and its impact on child well-being. But most of all, their stories speak of their hopes and fears, their resilience and vulnerability and of how they traverse their complex social worlds as empowered young people who are able to source support and nurturance so vital to their welfare. Herein lies an important lesson for those who seek to work on behalf of children”.

- Leila Patel, Professor of Social Development Studies and Head of the Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg.

- Growing up in the new South Africa - blog posting



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