Between Boredom, Protest, and Community: Ethnography of Young Activists in a South African Township / Jérôme Tournadre

Journal of Contemporary Ethnography
Volume 49 Issue 3, June 2020

This article is based on an ethnographic study of the young activists of a South African poor people’s movement. It questions the finding that some of the young poor people in the Global South are trapped by a boredom linked to their socioeconomic incapacity to fully enter into adulthood. Young people are here apprehended through their position within the collective, but also in the framework of the activism they deploy daily in their neighborhoods. The article shows that even though uncertainty has its place there, the lives of these young people cannot be reduced to idleness. Partly built on emotional bonds, their commitment structures their days and gives them access to a politicization that helps them to put their condition into perspective. Above all, it provides them with a valued role within the “community” and, therefore, helps them to fit into their most immediate social environment: their neighborhood.

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