Of Motherhood and Melancholia: Notebook of a Psycho-Ethnographer

Of Motherhood and Melancholia: Notebook of a Psycho-Ethnographer

This book is about the slow violence of poverty. Lou-Marie Kruger’s clinical and research encounters in the Dwarsrivier Valley attempt to give an account of the complex realities and lived experiences of low-income mothers in post-apartheid South Africa. Focusing specifically on maternal life in a semi-rural community, the work can be regarded as a South African case study, showing how particular happenings, specific events, unique interactions and larger societal processes become intertwined to result in complex narratives.

Detailed Information

  • Title: Of Motherhood and Melancholia: Notebook of a Psycho-Ethnographer
  • Author: Lou-Marié Kruger
  • Publisher: UKZN Press
  • Country of Origin: South Africa
  • Publication Year: 2019
  • ISBN: 9781869144340
  • Bib. Info: Paperback; 392pp

This book is about the slow violence of poverty. Lou-Marie Kruger’s clinical and research encounters in the Dwarsrivier Valley attempt to give an account of the complex realities and lived experiences of low-income mothers in post-apartheid South Africa. Focusing specifically on maternal life in a semi-rural community, the work can be regarded as a South African case study, showing how particular happenings, specific events, unique interactions and larger societal processes become intertwined to result in complex narratives.

Such intricate narratives do not only show how the past always impacts on the present, but can also implicitly suggest how and why such stories are prone to be repeated. While the book can be seen as a study of a place and a community, the lives of individual people and how they are embedded in the larger matrix of culture, history and the political economy are also present. The pertinent question here is one asked by medical anthropologist Paul Farmer: by which mechanisms precisely, do social forces ranging from poverty to racism to gender become embodied as individual experience?

‘This is a strong, coherent and incisive work of literary art-cum-analytical insight into the lifeworld of those most vulnerable in our society: women and young people in a situation of economic and social marginality. It is also a necessary shocking experience to read the traumatic psycho-ethnographic case material and analysis, which succeeds in humanising those who are often biomedically objectified. While it must have been a difficult book to write, it is also difficult not to be gripped by the book on a personal and social level and not to experience the catharsis that the material provides: from dread to hope for individuals, social relationships and the broader South African society.’ — Kees van der Waal, editor of Winelands, Wealth and Work: Transformations in the Dwars River Valley, Stellenbosch

‘This book provides a nuanced, thoughtful and humble account of the challenging experiences of a group of mothers in one of many poverty-stricken communities in current South Africa. This is brave and bold writing; while not always easy to read, the rich narrative is also threaded through with agency, resistance, humour and joy.’ — Tamara Shefer, professor and chairperson of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape

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