The making of a new South African craft : township craft and development discourse in post-apartheid Cape Town

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The author discusses postdevelopment theory by exploring unintentional effects of development practices in Cape Town's craft scene. A heterodox research design is adopted, drawing on Pierre Bourdieu's ideas on cultural production, notions of authenticity, representation and the modern/traditional dichotomy as well as thoughts on the making of a New South African identity. This is applied to the dynamics of Cape Town's craft scene in the pursuit of answering four research questions: (i) What role does the township play in the image of post-apartheid South Africa? (ii) How does development discourse contribute to the re-imagining of post-apartheid South Africa through 'township craft'? (iii) Is development discourse conducive to maintaining and creating tensions between centres and peripheries in the New South Africa? (iv) To what extent can a heterodox research design contribute to the postdevelopment debate? Through the socio-semiotic analysis of qualitative data obtained from interviews with fourteen stakeholders in Cape Town's craft scene as well as observations made at sites, where 'township craft' is presented and/or produced, the author is able to give three main insights in relation to the stated questions: (i) The image of the township, represented through cultural commodities, plays a crucial role as a place of creativity and positive change in the making of a post-apartheid identity. (ii) Development discourse manifests itself in the making of a New South African identity through material culture in the form of 'township craft' and its conceptual as well as spatial contexts. (iii) The use of development discourse in the making and marketing of 'township craft' in combination with supposedly 'common knowledge' about the art/craft divide has the potential to create and maintain patterns of inequality between producers and sellers of 'township craft'. A recommendation is made to explore further possibilities of heterodox research designs for studies using a postdevelopment theoretical framework.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 90-93).