Accepted paper:

Strategies of coherence creation in life story narratives from the borderlands of the former Gazankulu and Lebowa homelands


Anna Voegeli Litelu (University of Basel)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines the life stories of senior residents from a cluster of villages in the former borderlands of the Gazankulu and Lebowa homelands. The focus is on strategies of coherence creation across fundamentally changing frameworks of political authority and economic opportunity.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores strategies of coherence creation in a context characterized by repeated, fundamental shifts in political authority and economic opportunity. It does so by engaging with a series of life story interviews with senior residents from a number of villages that form part of the extended townships southeast of the tropical farming town Tzaneen in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Due to their long history of linguistic and cultural diversity, the cluster of villages under discussion became a site of ongoing struggle for political authority over natural and institutional resources from the mid-1950s onwards: First between two newly emerging "Tribal Authorities" under the chiefs Maake and Mohlaba, then between the homelands of Gazankulu and Lebowa into which these two "Tribal Authorities" were later incorporated. The paper examines coherence creation on two levels: In a first step, the paper will discuss the strategies interviewees remember to have employed to create and sustain a meaningful life and livelihood for themselves and their families across a series of life-changing governmental interventions related to the politics of betterment and separate development. The paper will then turn to analyse coherence creation as a narrative strategy, thus shifting its focus from memories of the past to the act of rembering itself. It will seek to identify narrative strategies by means of which interviewees manage to create coherence between past choices and present-day realities; narrative strategies to render past coping strategies narratable and to some degree compatible with the interviewees' present-day political and social environment.

panel W030
Home, lands and homelands in post-apartheid South Africa (EN)