Youth as Death: the Afterlives of Apartheid

Authors: Abigail Neely*, Dartmouth College
Topics: Cultural Geography, Africa, Political Geography
Keywords: death, afterlife, South Africa, racial capitalism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:15 PM
Room: Tower Court A, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 1994 apartheid came to an end in South Africa to great fanfare and optimism. But 25 years on, the post-apartheid era has been filled with unmet promises and disappointments. One of the most remarkable features of this era has been a high rate of death amongst the youth, people between the ages of 15 and 35. Using the story one old man told me about the deaths of three of his children – two murders and a suicide – as well as stories and experiences of HIV/AIDS-related deaths, I argue that it is the death of the youth that marks the post-apartheid era. Drawing on Christina Sharpe’s analytic of afterlives as well as literature on racial capitalism and political violence, I argue that the death of the youth in the post-apartheid era is a product of the legacies and ongoing processes of apartheid and settler colonialism.

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