Erin Torkelson

Doctoral Candidate
M.Phil. Trinity College Dublin (Literature); B.A. Arizona State University (Literature)

IMGP1958

My research is based in South Africa and focuses on youth politics, generation, memory and migration. For over a century, an enduring feature of South African life has been the spatial division of labor and householding, through which families have maintained town and country bases, with resources, people and obligations circulating between them. Despite projections that town and country circuits would come to an end with apartheid, spatially extended households have persisted, and have been significantly reconfigured in the post-apartheid period. My research considers one measure of the enduring, if transfigured, rural-urban relations in the Cape region: the Xhosa categories of amagoduka (those who go ‘home’ to pay the cultural tax, or ‘black tax,’ imposed by their elders) and amatshipa (those who do not pay the black tax).

Through a multi-sited study of the Cape, my project explores how young people experience gendered and generational regimes of exclusion in South Africa – from employment, social grants, and political power – which critically affect their ability to pay the black tax imposed by their rural families. The familial politics around this cultural tax, which is meant to bind young people to wider community networks, intersects with national political debates over the meaning of the liberation struggle and post-apartheid democracy. The cultural categories of the amagoduka and amatshipa, therefore, vividly embody the ways in which gendered and generational struggles between town and country come to be about the material conditions of everyday life and the politics and promises of the post-colonial nation.

Before coming to Berkeley, I earned a Bachelors degree from Arizona State University (Literature) and a Masters degree from Trinity College Dublin (Literature). I also spent seven years working for land and housing rights organizations in Cape Town.

Graduate Student Instructor

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

DS 10 Introduction to Development (Fall 2014)

Fellowships

Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Dissertation Award; John L. Simpson Memorial Research Fellowship; ROCCA Scholarship in Advanced African Studies; Berkeley Geography Fellowship.