- Navigating terrains of violence: how South African male youngsters negotiate social change
- Social Dynamics
- Volume | Issue number
- 35 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
How do male youngsters growing up on the Cape Flats in Cape Town avoid violence in their everyday lives? When are they perceived as a risk and at risk, and how is their way of navigating in those situations related to negotiations of social change? This paper seeks to explore, by way of insights generated through ethnographic fieldwork, how young males coming of age in townships around Cape Town navigate courses of action in contexts of endemic violence - contexts in which they are ambiguously at risk and are themselves perceived as sources of risk. It investigates a set of identifiable strategies for managing the implications of violence in pursuit not only of self‐preservation, but also of core projects and values of future‐making, and argues that the dichotomy between being at risk and being a risk does not counter for the intersubjective character of the process of navigating terrains of violence. In examining four differently located actors living on the Cape Flats, the paper seeks to counter more conventional analyses of such youth as a thoroughly ‘high‐risk’ group of victims and perpetrators. It suggests that this picture may be rethought by means of a qualitative, grounded focus on the large number of young men who manage to live relatively ‘normal’ lives in highly challenging circumstances. Such an approach serves not merely to balance an excessive preoccupation with the production of violent masculine subjects; it also shifts the analytic focus to a concern with the manner in which actors navigate their way with respect to the complex implications of ‘violence’, which should itself be viewed as an ambiguous, multi‐faceted social force, as both a structural characteristic and a means that can be harnessed by those experiencing it.
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