Cremer, Teresa (2020). "It's a privilege to call it a crisis": improvised practices and socio-economic dynamics of Cape Town's water shortage (2015-2018). Masters thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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This study, supervised by Prof. Michaela Pelican and supported with a research grant of the Thematic Network 'Remapping the Global South - Teaching, Researching, Exchanging' of the Global South Studies Center Cologne (GSSC), addresses the 2018-2019 water crisis in Cape Town. It foregrounds the experiences of Capetonians whose voices, so far, have received little attention in the discourse surrounding the water crisis: that is, Capetonians living in the townships who, irrespective of the crisis, have been living with limited water supplies and inadequate urban infrastructure. Teresa Cremer investigates how the political framing of the acute water shortage as a "crisis" was perceived by different actors and social groups, and which new scopes of action and social practices it has engendered. She argues that while the portrayal of water scarcity as a "crisis" and the measures of the city administration primarily reflect the interests and perspectives of Cape Town's privileged middle and upper classes, the needs of poorer and marginalized residents are hardly heard. At the same time, she shows that the crisis discourse not only reinforces existing inequalities, but also opens up new spaces for creativity and action. In her ethnography, Cremer focuses on the public water collection point in the Newlands neighbourhood and vividly describes how it is valued and made use of by different groups of actors as a site of dense social interaction and creative income-generating strategies. The end of the water crisis in 2019 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 led to the closing of the Newlands water collection point. Yet Cremer's very well-informed and lucidly argued analysis is instructive also in view of other crisis situations, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. The study demonstrates the strength of empirically grounded, ethnographic research to critically question crisis discourses, and recognize alternative perspectives and the emergence of new productive spaces.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-363397
Series Name at the University of Cologne: Kölner ethnologische Beiträge
Volume: 57
Date: 2020
Place of Publication: Köln
ISSN: 1611-4531
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Fächergruppe 4: Außereuropäische Sprachen, Kulturen und Gesellschaften > Institut für Ethnologie
Subjects: Customs, etiquette, folklore
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Cape Town, Water crisis, Socio-economic aspects, Master thesisEnglish
Cape Town, Wasserknappheit, Socio-Ökonomische Aspekte, MasterarbeitGerman
Date of oral exam: 2020
NameAcademic Title
Pelican, MichaelaProf. Dr.
Refereed: Yes


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