MA Social and Cultural Anthropology
To the University of the Western Cape (UWC)
Research topic: Dehydrated City: socio-cultural dynamics of Cape Town‘s current water crisis.
With the financial support of the GSSC/DAAD network ‚Remapping the Global South’ in my pocket, I set off to a 3-month fieldwork in Cape Town (July-October) and ended up at the ‚water collection site’ in Newlands – a recently emerged space and place where, in the aftermath of a heavy 3-years drought and a fearmongering ‚Day Zero’ scenario, a diverse public come together to collect spring water. An interesting place to find out about various forms of how Cape Town’s urban population reacts and responds to the current water discourse of scarcity and shortage.
What comes to the forefront is the way in which the city’s municipality deals with the water situation that partly run contrary to the immediate creative and improvised reactions of the urban inhabitants. The crisis also brought home the race and class divides in this post-apartheid city. Competing understandings of water, property and rights were articulated and while some of the inhabitants struggle to fill up their daily bath, others emphasize that ‚it is a privilege to call it a crisis’.
Spending hours at this site each day and thanks to the many encounters with people who were willing to share their stories and perceptions, more and more details became vivid and I gradually created an image about all the actors performing this place. Within a short period of time they were deeply involved in the dynamics, regularities and volatilities, conflicts and advantages of this site – all of them brought together by the new and transforming water conditions in the City of Cape Town and the need for basic resources.