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MA Culture and Environment in Africa

Outgoing 2018

To the University of the Western Cape (UWC)

Research topic: Practices of Belonging and Homing under Uncertain Conditions: Understanding Social Navigation Processes of the Congolese Diaspora settled in post-Apartheid South Africa through an Intergenerational Lens.



My name is Carola Jacobs, and I am completing my master’s in Culture and Environment in Africa. For my final thesis I conducted fieldwork in South Africa.

I have had the opportunity to encounter members of the Congolese community in South Africa during  a fieldschool on Asia-Africa connections that took place in Cape Town in 2017 between the University of Cologne and the University of the Western Cape. Thanks to the scholarship of the thematical network Remapping the Global South. Teaching – Researching – Exchanging, allocated at the GSSC and funded by the DAAD, this first encounter was further deepened and led to a new research project on the life realities of the Congolese Diaspora settled in port-Apartheid South Africa.

Through February and April this year I conducted fieldwork mainly in Cape Town but also in Joahnnesburg. I worked with the Congolese Diaspora and focused on their everyday life, their feelings and practices of belonging, and longing for a home. Through volunteering with a local Congolese association I gained access to the field but I also had the chance to give back to the community. Informal conversations, semi-structured interviews, mental mapping, object picking, and company walks represent the methodological backbone of my fieldwork. The last two rather practical methods illustrated how the intangible and emotional notions of belonging and home can be materialized in objects and localized in significant places in Cape Town.

The chairperson of the Congolese Civil Society (CCSSA), the NGO I was volunteering with, Isaiah Mombilo, connected me to a Congolese pastor in Soweto, Johannesburg: Jean-Marie Kuzituka Did'Ho offered great support and a heart-warming welcome to his Parish in Soweto.

Besides my research I was able to reconnect with students and professors from UWC, i.e. inter alia Prof. Mulugeta Dinbabo (Development Studies), Phoene Oware (Development Studies), Tinashe Kanosvamhira (Geography), Sinethemba Dlikilili (Geography), Tigist Shewarega (Anthropology), Florence Ncube (Anthropology), and Tian Chen (Anthroplogy).