"Eating the Sweat from my Forehead": Farm Worker Narratives from South Africa's Apartheid

  • Amanda Maria Young-Hauser University of the Free State
  • Jan K. Coetzee University of the Free State
  • Kwakhe Maramnco East Cape Agricultural Research Project
Keywords: agrarian class relation, apartheid, farm worker, interviews, life history, narrative analysis, paternalism, personal biography, phenomenology, place and space, South Africa

Abstract

In this article we draw on the life histories of farm workers living in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Subjectively interpreting their realities, the farm labourers narrated their experiences of living in the era before, during and after apartheid. The impacts of apartheid, carrying identification papers, for example, were experienced as peripheral with the most significant changes being the disruptions in their personal lives, such as a new farm owner who came to embody repression, authority, exploitation, but also paternalism and benevolence. The farm represented the space and place where complex interactions and unequal relationships between the worker and the farmer played out. The workers' narratives revealed deep-rooted connections to the land on which they lived, a land which did not belong to them. Land was for our research participants particularly important for animal husbandry, as a source of food and as a spiritual space of power where links and relationships to their ancestors were maintained and cultural practices took place. Subjugated knowledge, no formal education and farmers' paternalistic practices contributed to farm labourers' dependence on agrarian work and life on the farm.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1502308

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Author Biographies

Amanda Maria Young-Hauser, University of the Free State

Amanda M. YOUNG-HAUSER is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa and contributes to the research programme on "The Narrative Study of Lives". She did her PhD at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Jan K. Coetzee, University of the Free State

Jan K. COETZEE is a senior professor at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa and the director of the research programme on "The Narrative Study of Lives". He specialises in qualitative methodology, as well as interpretivist sociological theory. His recent work focuses on trauma narratives and intersubjectively constituted memory.

Kwakhe Maramnco, East Cape Agricultural Research Project

Kwakhe MARAMNCO is a researcher/socio-economic rights facilitator at the East Cape Agricultural Research Project based in Grahamstown. He graduated from Rhodes University with a Bachelor of Social Sciences, majoring in industrial sociology and politics and international relations.

Published
2015-05-27
How to Cite
Young-Hauser, A. M., Coetzee, J. K., & Maramnco, K. (2015). "Eating the Sweat from my Forehead": Farm Worker Narratives from South Africa’s Apartheid. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-16.2.2202