While the literature on home birth emphasises women’s capacity to relate to birth in deeply meaningful terms, less attention has been paid to ‘interferences’ in this process. The extent to which women’s birthing needs are met relates to their capacity to make meaningful birth choices. By drawing on four case studies of South African home birthers, this paper examines the kinds of care which generate a sense of containment and continual relationship for birthing women, despite interference. Where home births validate and affirm the psycho-social nature of relational birthing subjects; being supported, being seen and being heard, translates into a social environment of care. Subjective interpretations of what matters most, narrated by home birthers in relationship with partners and caregivers, describe social environments which uphold safety, intimacy, connection, and agency. Homes are not controlled environments, so the inconsistency between narrated birth and actual birth experiences offers an interesting vantage point on the social contexts that generate empowered birthing selves. The care afforded home birthers allows them to create and maintain safe birth spaces, even as homes - bridges of public/private divides - intrude on relational selves. This research adds to an understanding of the consequences of women’s birth choices. By foregrounding interference, this paper highlights that choices (contested as they are) remain fundamental to women’s experiences of birth.
Recent and upcoming events
Just as the Marikana Commission has put public order policing under a spotlight, the O'Regan Commission on policing in Khayelitsha is subjecting routine policing to unprecedented scrutiny. Adam has attended almost every session of the Commission to date, filing almost daily reports for GroundUp - the online community media site run by the CSSR at UCT and the Community Media Trust (see www.groundup.org.za). Sebastian is a visiting PhD student, writing his PhD on policing poor neighbourhoods in Rio da Janeiro and Cape Town. He spent several months embedded with the police in Rio's favelas, and is now attending the Khayelitsha Commission to see how Cape Town is policed.
Latin American nations have undergone dramatic transitions to democracy and open markets in recent decades. Such changes have exposed citizens to high levels of economic volatility and insecurity, while at the same time expanding the possibilities for citizens to hold governments to account and to demand compensation for such hardships. Recent research indicates that even as economic insecurity has risen and social insurance programs have been retrenched, civil society in Latin America has remained relatively quiescent, with low levels of political participation. This paper tests the hypothesis that insecurity (defined as exposure to risk and lack of adequate means to hedge that risk) has a dampening effect on citizens’ propensity to engage in different forms of political life, such as attending municipal meetings and neighborhood organizations, and engaging in protest. Data from a 2009 nation-wide survey in Brazil reveal that individuals who have access to more extensive means of risk protection, all else being equal, are systematically more likely to participate actively in the more moderate and sustained forms of democratic politics, such as neighborhood associations and municipal meetings. This is not the case for protest activity, however, which is likely to entail very different calculations of risk and reward. The results of the analysis are preliminary, but indicate a sharp cleavage of insecurity that coincides with widening fault lines of political engagement in Brazil.
This paper reviews the politics of welfare policy-making in Uganda, specifically as it relates to planning, gaining political support for, financing, implementing and scaling up cash transfer schemes. Uganda is a low-income country, but has made substantial developmental strides since the Museveni/NRM regime came to power in 1986, including relatively high rates of economic growth and reductions in poverty. However, chronic poverty persists and a large proportion of the non-poor are classified as vulnerable. Development policy has, and continues to be, focused on infrastructure development and facilitating private sector growth (earning Uganda darling status among proponents of the ‘Washington consensus’). But it has also adopted some pro-poor policies like substantial increases in social expenditure (principally health and education). Social protection has, however, lagged behind other developmental interventions and cash transfers are a recent phenomenon, with the first large-scale pilot being implemented from 2010. The Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment scheme (a pilot social pension and vulnerable families grant) has been implemented in fourteen districts with strong donor support. The scheme is largely funded by DfID, enjoys substantial donor technical support and followed an extensive agenda-setting and promotion exercise by donors and their civil society allies. National rollout of a social pension is firmly on the policy agenda and appears to have gained strong support in recent years (especially among legislators who see electoral advantages and sections of the bureaucracy) and is popular among the public. But sections of the Ugandan political elite remain sceptical, owing to concerns over ‘dependency’, adverse incentives, affordability and sustainability. Given the authoritarian, patronage-based and personalised character of the Museveni regime, presidential support for scale-up is seen as key, but Museveni’s support remains uncertain. While previous pro-poor initiatives appeared to have been driven by electoral pressures, the NRM has never faced a substantial electoral challenge and institutional reforms appear to have stalled. The paper concludes that donor-driven promotion of cash transfers has been surprisingly effective, but that the future of cash transfers are by no means ensured. Questions over political support, resource availability and technical capacity to implement a national programme remain.
Mounting evidence, both survey-based and experimental, demonstrates that perceptions of a person’s race in the USA change in response to myriad changes in social position. These findings suggest that individual-level racial fluidity serves to reinforce racial inequality by redefining successful or high-status people as white (or not black) and unsuccessful or low-status people as black (or not white). The basic patterns hold for both economic and non-economic outcomes, and across historical and contemporary periods – though they differ somewhat by gender. Taken together, the results provide a compelling, nationally representative demonstration of the social construction of race in the United States. They also raise new questions about how stereotypes shape the way we see race, in the most literal sense, and thus how we see and understand inequality -- which has implications for understanding racialized disparities around the world.
The social polarisation hypothesis argues that de-industrialisation causes the polarisation of the occupational structure, which in turn causes the income polarisation of the employed workforce of global cities. A central argument is that social polarisation occurs because the service sector is more polarised in occupational and income terms than the manufacturing sector that it replaces. However, the results of many studies suggest that de-industrialisation has not resulted in social polarisation. Instead, de-industrialisation has produced a professionalised occupational structure alongside high levels of unemployment. The results of this study of the Johannesburg region confirm that de-industrialisation results in professionalisation rather than polarisation. We then proceed to examine this outcome by analysing the statistical relationship between economic restructuring and the changing occupational structure. Our results suggest that changes in the overall occupational structure were caused by changes within each economic sector rather than by the growth of service sector employment and the decline of manufacturing sector employment.
In being a legal pluralist state, South Africa has a system of state and customary dispute resolution forums. This paper is concerned with this system of dispute resolution forums, particularly in how marital disputes relating to the dissolution of customary marriages are mediated and resolved. It is demonstrated, through drawing upon data collected for the purposes of a larger research project, that there are serious shortcomings which exist within this system. Such shortcomings include the operation of structural constraints which limit women in their ability to access state dispute resolution forums for support in marital breakdown and the availability of some customary dispute resolution forums which appear to be under-utilised by couples experiencing marital breakdown. Another possible shortcoming within the abovementioned system is the insufficient assistance that is offered by the state, to married couples experiencing marital conflict and breakdown. The paper argues that these shortcomings prevent equitable outcomes in marital conflict and breakdown from being reached. Consequently, such shortcomings contribute to women being rendered economically vulnerable upon the dissolution of their customary marriages as they are often left to deal with marital conflict and breakdown in the context of unequal power relations which exist between spouses. The paper concludes by discussing possible solutions that could be adopted to rectify the shortcomings and help ensure that gender equality is achieved upon the dissolution of customary marriages
The study accounts for women's political participation in the Eastern Cape towns of Ginsberg, Zwelitsha and Dimbaza in the 1980s. This period is deemed significant given the marked growth in grassroots movements and civic associations, the emerging political consciousness of local women in various parts of the country and the related increase in collective action among groups of women. It outlines the roles of women within the civics, churches and community-based organisations such as the stokvels and manyano. The on-going study also explores the grievances of women in these areas during this period, the ways in which these were addressed and the women centered organisations that were developed. In addition, the similarities and differences in women's activism in all three towns is addressed. It is also acknowledged that in these parts of the Eastern Cape, although very few women’s organisations were formed as separate and autonomous structures during the 1980s, women played pivotal roles in the struggle. While the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) of the 1970s heavily influenced the political consciousness of women in Ginsberg Township, union activism formed a central component of women’s engagement and political resistance in Dimbaza. In Zwelitsha, women relied on the collective unity of the women’s manyano and welfare organisations, while the fear of police surveillance intimidation meant that although they were deeply discontented and politically conscious, they were somewhat restrained in their organisation.
The Imitation Game is a new sociological method. It can be used to measure the extent to which different social groups understand each other and provides a new topography of social integration. In this talk, we will outline the theory behind the method and illustrate its application with examples drawn from studies investigating religion, gender, race and sexuality.
Does democracy affect the delivery of essential basic services? And if yes, which elements of democracy trigger changes in implemented policies: enfranchisement, the liberalization of political organization, or both? In 1994, 19 million South Africans gained the right to vote. The ANC promised “a better life for all” including improved household access to electricity. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we exploit heterogeneity in the share of newly enfranchised voters across municipalities to evaluate how franchise extension affected household electrification. Our dataset combines geo-referenced nightlight satellite imagery, 1996 and 2001 census data, and 1995/6 municipal election results. Enfranchisement has a significant positive effect on electrification, but the liberalization of political organization matters, too. Our analysis highlights the potential mediating role of political parties in accounting for service delivery patterns in new democracies.