How social security becomes social insecurity: fluid households, crisis talk and the value of grants in a KwaZulu-Natal village

Monday, 9 September, 2013 - 15:00

Presented by : 

Social grants have become increasingly important income for many in South Africa. Grants are not welcomed by all however: in the village where I completed fieldwork as many as seventy per cent of its inhabitants rely on grants, people regard such transfers with suspicion. In many iterations of this doubt social upheavals — including the decline of marriage – are regarded as resulting from grants disruptively “empowering” women and the youth in such a way that enables the rejection of “tradition”. Yet such crisis talk hides as much it reveals: insofar as social grants are provided unevenly, such grants give some people — and especially young mothers — relatively more economic capacity in poorer households than others, specifically adult men and changes do not also follow the patterns that crises talk suggests. Ultimately I argue that the stark contradiction between the need for waged work and the lack of waged work in certain areas, especially in rural villages, gives decisive shape to the grants and its effects, and ultimately leads to a new kind of uneven geography in which those without access to grants can seldom sustain themselves. Under these conditions, young men in particular often become temporary residents in villages like Glendale. In addition to exploring these patterns of movement, and the kinds of crisis talk that arise from grants, I suggest in this presentation that even those who receive grants do not regard them as offering a stable future, and question the security of the social assistance that sustains them.


PDF icon Dubbeld2013.pdf

General seminar arrangements

  • The WISH seminar is hosted on-line every Monday afternoon at 16:00 - 17:00 SA during the teaching semester.
  • For the details of the Zoom meetings, please sign up for email notices at
  • Participants must read the paper prior to the seminar, which is typically available by the Friday preceding the seminar.
  • The WISH seminar archive is available here
  • A printable version of the seminar schedule for the current year is available here.