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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The social lives of handmade things: configuring value in post-apartheid South Africa
Author:Green, LouiseISNI
Periodical:Social Dynamics
Geographic term:South Africa
global economy
social change
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02533950802280048
Abstract:In contemporary South Africa, it is impossible to ignore the fact that many of the most visible transformations are occurring not as a result of the dismantling of apartheid, but as a result of the reintegration of South Africa into global markets. Taking Arjun Appadurai's argument about the 'social lives' of things as its starting point, this paper traces the pathways of two commodities for sale in South Africa: a pottery bowl from the so-called Mai Mai market (Johannesburg) but sold in a museum shop, and a handmade resin spoon from a shop in a renovated (originally industrial) area of Cape Town. Both these objects acquire their value in part from the quality of being handmade. The aim of this paper is not to demystify the claim to value made by either the pottery bowl or the resin spoon, nor to judge one or the other as the more 'authentic' expression of a resistance to the contemporary reifications of the everyday. Instead, it explores a family resemblance between these two objects and traces the way in which, within contemporary global 'regimes of value', what is handmade acquires value. If, as Jean and John Comaroff suggest, neo-liberalism ideologically constructs a world of increasing abstraction, the trajectories of these two objects reveal how both locality and work return in an attenuated form as attributes of commodities. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract, edited]