This week’s readings focused on neoliberal structures and how these economic ideologies can impact many elements of African society (broad generalization.) The article “Capital’s New Frontier: From “Unusable” Economies to Bottom-of-the-Pyramid Markets in Africa” discussed many economic ‘developments’ in Africa, brought about through neoliberal structures. The article states that new structures of power are created through the implementation and creation of new business markets or “Bottom of the Pyramid” markets, which actually restructure the poor in these areas. Neoliberalism, it argues creates an ulterior market which shoves these individuals aside into informal or alternate economies which can not compete or interfere with the global economy in ways which are considered undesirable by larger, neoliberal free-market actors. The article also includes the expected criticism of the inefficiency of aid, as well as the impacts of Structural Adjustment Programs.
Another reading from this week was “Skin Lighteners, Black Consumers and Jewish Entrepreneurs in South Africa.” There aren’t many ideologies or structures of violence other than neoliberalism which can effectively package racism — and then sell it back to you, but apparently this this one can. The idea that racism and colonialist structures are not only external, but run so deep that they can become internalized and marketed as a beauty regime is deeply appalling. This is a racial issue, this a cultural issue, this is an economic issue, this is a class issue, but this is also a gendered issue — why were women the main ones using the cremes? Why are they still the ones using the cremes in many countries, and why are they the ones being marketed to? This is a complex social issue made more complex through its neoliberal exploitation.
Lastly, another one of the readings I found truly fascinating was “Death ‘On the Move’: Funerals, Entrepreneurs and the Rural-Urban Nexus in South Africa” which discussed the changing funeral practices in parts of South African society due to changing technology, rising costs, and other pressures. The increasing migration rates of rural populations to the cities has created changing funerary practices in South Africa, and increased the cost of burial. Though this is good if you are perhaps an undertaker or a carpenter who makes coffins, it is not ideal for the average South African who wishes to bury their loved one with dignity. It is interesting to note however, that there have been innovative changes in funeral practices, like coffin design. The fold-up suitcase coffin mentioned in the article, which is designed for life — or death — on the move, is just one example . I found this article extremely interesting, because just as people are constantly worried about rising funeral costs here in Canada, the same is happening in South Africa. I wrote last week about how it was hard to find a sense of place where I had never set foot on the continent, but here is a familiar concern over such a simple matter with which I can relate.