Erin Torkelson

Doctoral Candidate
M.Phil. Trinity College Dublin (Literature); B.A. Arizona State University (Literature)
Social Welfare, Postcolonial Studies, Science and Technology Studies

My dissertation, “Taken for Granted:  Social Welfare in South Africa,” explores the ways in which a preeminent, state-sponsored cash transfer program has become a means of dispossession in post-apartheid South Africa. My work explores the everyday practices by which poor, Black South Africans, navigate their entitlements to social assistance against the pressures of expropriation built into the payment system. My work intersects with political economy, African studies, and postcolonial/feminist science and technology studies. This research represents the first ethnography of social welfare payment in democratic South Africa.

I am currently a PhD candidate in geography at UC Berkeley. My research has been supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation and the Fulbright Foundation, as well as the UC Berkeley Institute for International Studies and Centre for African Studies.

In addition to my doctoral work, I am a consultant for the Black Sash, supporting their efforts to design a new social grant payment system. My ethnographic research has formed the basis of reports to the South African Constitutional Court, the National Credit Regulator, and the Banking Association of South Africa. I have also written numerous op-eds for GroundUp, a community newspaper, and provided research support for Cutting Edge, an investigative news show.

Graduate Student Instructor

GEOG10 World Regions, Peoples and States / Jake Kosek (Fall 2017)

DS100 Development in History and Theory / Gillian Hart (Spring 2013 & 2014)

DS 10 Introduction to Development / Michael Watts (Fall 2014)

Selected Publications and Media

“The World Bank’s Role in SA’s Social Grant Payment System.” GroundUp, 23 March 2017.

“Sophia’s Choice: Farm Worker has to Decide which Child to Feed.” GroundUp, 15 March 2017.

“Deductions from Social Grants: How it All Works.” GroundUp, 3 March 2017.

Social Grants and the Green Card.” Cutting Edge, SABC, 27 March 2018.​ Researcher and consulting script writer with Esley Philander, Johan Abrahams, Clinton Daniels and Erna Curry.

Websites

Ground Up 
Academia.edu
Wenner Gren 
Institute of International Studies
Center for African Studies

Personal Website