a deeper historical past of a South African youth subculture the place luxurious gadgets are trashed

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In South Africa, a skhothane is a younger, fashionably dressed black city resident who engages in damaging conspicuous consumption. This includes common get-togethers on weekends wherein teams of izikhothane – almost definitely male youngsters – collect to compete in mock battles the place luxurious gadgets are sometimes destroyed. The identify is derived from a phrase within the Zulu language, ukukhotha, that means “to lick”, however in city slang it means to boast.

There’s no consensus about when precisely this “youth craze” emerged. However there’s motive to consider the ukukhothana subculture may be traced way back to 2005, first within the townships of the East Rand of Gauteng province earlier than spreading to different provinces. In South Africa, townships are human settlements established outdoors cities and cities by the white minority apartheid authorities as areas for folks categorised as black to reside in.

At ukukhothana occasions, izikhothane present up sporting costly designer labels reminiscent of Rossimoda sneakers, DMD shirts and Versace jackets and fits. In addition they deliver what, within the township context, is taken into account costly junk meals, reminiscent of KFC and Debonair’s Pizza. Alcohol reminiscent of Bisquit, Hennessy and Jameson, historically related to prosperous folks, accompanies the meals.

What makes the occasions attention-grabbing is what occurs to those expensive gadgets as soon as there’s an viewers and loud music. The costly garments are at instances torn, burnt or trampled on. The meals is thrown on the bottom and at one another in a playful and boastful method. The alcohol is each consumed and used to scrub arms and even poured on the bottom. All that is finished in an effort to exhibit wealth, type and swag, and in the end to outdo one another in attracting cheers from the viewers, consideration from feminine spectators and respect from rival crews.

As one would count on, a subculture like this in a creating economic system like South Africa has not been nicely obtained. It’s typically criticised as wasteful and reckless by society and within the media. Distinguished investigative journalist Debora Patta, for instance, labelled izikhothane as “bling gone obscenely mad” on nationwide TV. The query is requested: why do izikhothane embrace conspicuous consumption regardless of their restricted means?

As communications students we now have every studied this subculture for a number of years. In a current analysis paper we discover the hyperlink between consumption and the concept of rehumanisation – or restoring dignity to marginalised lives. We examine how this subculture is a type of style consciousness with an extended historical past – main on from the “diamondfield dandies” of the 1800s and the “oswenka” of the 1900s. We argue that ukukhothana is a type of expression that has the potential to reclaim a way of selfhood and satisfaction within the remnants of oppression in post-apartheid South Africa.

Consumption and id

UK anthropologist Mary Douglas and UK economist Baron Isherwood steered in 1979 that consumption is a purposeful act. It’s typically geared toward conveying id, cultural values and social circumstances. The products folks eat function markers of social id and carry deeper meanings. US sociologist Thorstein Veblen’s idea of “conspicuous consumption” aptly captures this phenomenon. It refers back to the act of displaying wealth and standing via ostentatious spending.

Izikhothane’s behaviour may be understood inside this framework. It’s an effort to sign their defiance in opposition to adversity and assert their presence in a society that has traditionally marginalised those that appear like them. This historic marginalisation concerned the remedy of black folks as lower than human via the system of apartheid. Black folks have been dehumanised throughout this era.

Dehumanisation includes viewing others as essentially completely different and inferior, perpetuating stereotypes and hindering empathy. Apparently, this follow impacts each the dehumanised and the dehumaniser. By devaluing others’ humanity, people strip themselves of their very own humanising qualities. This underscores the complicated psychological toll of perpetuating stereotypes.

Reversing the method of dehumanisation and reclaiming humanity is a nuanced effort that occurs via a technique of rehumanisation. Sartorial expression, which includes utilizing clothes to convey id, can play a pivotal function in rehumanisation.

Materials possessions maintain a big affect over how we view different folks’s identities. Folks use belongings not solely to precise who they’re however to assemble their “finest” selves.

Diamondfield dandies and oswenka

Izikhothane usually are not the primary and won’t be the final to do that. Varied sartorial subcultures seem to have arisen below circumstances of dehumanisation in South Africa. These embrace the diamondfields dandies of the Eighties in Kimberley and the oswenka in Jeppestown in Johannesburg within the Nineteen Fifties. These style subcultures discovered themselves in dehumanising circumstances of migrant labour exploitation. They used costly clothes and competitions of show to carve out a way of their very own humanity.

The diamondfield dandies sought to problem racially inscribed stereotypes by parading in costly clothes. They rebelled in opposition to the silence of black folks in a bigoted white tradition and created an id outdoors work.

Learn extra:
Sho Madjozi: the pop star utilizing conventional tradition to form a contemporary id for younger South Africans

Years later a distinct sort of dandy emerged via the oswenka (swankers), who carried out menial labour for work. The oswenka subculture went past merely parading in costly attire within the type of fits; it concerned aggressive efficiency battles in opposition to different dandies.

In an identical means, izikhothane’s extravagant shows of consumption function a way of fulfilling psychological wants.

Why this issues

Izikhothane’s seemingly frivolous consumption rituals defy the constraints of their socioeconomic backgrounds. Their style selections assert their existence and protest in opposition to the enduring results of apartheid. Their actions problem typical notions of riot and supply a poignant commentary on the complexities of id, inequality and resistance.

The izikhothane of post-apartheid South Africa present us the ability of consumption to problem social norms and resist structural injustices. Their conspicuous consumption, whereas seemingly damaging, may be interpreted as a means of asserting id and demanding recognition in a society that has traditionally handled those that appear like them as invisible and fewer than human.


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