Alcohol, poverty and the South African city

A special issue of the South African Geographical Journal focuses on alcohol and poverty in South African cities.

Three articles available for free download.

Clare Herrick & Susan Parnell (2014). Alcohol, poverty and the South African city, pages 1-14.

Abstract: In the past decade, a sense of urgency has started to pervade alcohol regulation in South Africa. The burden of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity is among the highest in the world, and its effects are made worse by persistent socio-economic and structural inequalities. Moreover, alcohol is also a principle risk factor for infectious and chronic diseases, as well as a tenacious barrier to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Its consumption and negative externalities have therefore become a public health and development crisis. This is despite alcohol’s significant contribution to the South African national economy and individual livelihoods signalling an entrenched site of tension in alcohol regulation. However, while liquor has indubitably pernicious consequences, it does also provide a critical vantage point to further geographical engagements with the South African city and contemporary development debates. In so doing, the novel empirical and conceptual agendas set out in the papers also contribute to a broader engagement with the cultural contexts, meanings and settings of drinking practices in rapidly changing urban spaces of the Global South.

Mary Lawhon, Clare Herrick & Shari Daya (2014). Researching sensitive topics in African cities: reflections on alcohol research in Cape Town, pages 15-30.

Abstract: Recent African urbanist scholarship has suggested the need to delve deeper into our understanding of the everyday lived experiences in African cities. While this is essential for our understanding of African cities, researching lived experiences is fraught with methodological and ethical challenges. This is true for any topic when the researcher–subject gap is shaped by differences in nationality, class, race, norms and education, but especially so for the study of sensitive topics such as violence, sexuality, HIV/AIDS and xenophobia. Geographers have begun considering the ethics of researching particular sensitive issues, but not yet fully engaged with the international literature on the ethical and methodological challenges of researching such topics. To begin filling this gap, we reflect on experiences researching the lived experience and policy engagement with alcohol in Cape Town. We seek to apply and adapt the literature on sensitive topics specifically to the South African context. Our paper examines challenges which arose during the fieldwork and strategies developed to mitigate these. We emphasize how examining a topic with strong normative associations, which is bound up with illegality and community divisions, creates a need for particular attentiveness to research methods.

Clare Herrick (2014). Stakeholder narratives on alcohol governance in the Western Cape: the socio-spatial ‘nuisance’ of drink, pages 81-96.

Abstract: This paper examines, on one hand, the current regulatory environment in relation to alcohol retailing and consumption in South Africa’s Western Cape. On the other, it explores how stakeholders of such regulations formulate, comprehend and act upon the ‘problem’ of drinking. As a result, the paper aims to tease out the discrepancies between what is said (of alcohol by policy-makers) and what is done (about alcohol within policy) through the conceptual lens of alcohol as ‘nuisance’. It does this in order to: (1) deepen current empirical engagements with alcohol control policies in South Africa and the Global South; (2) explore what stakeholders ‘know’ or believe about the drinking practices that they seek to regulate and (3) highlight the dynamic tensions between what is said and what is done. In so doing, the paper contributes novel empirical data to the growing cannon of geographical engagements with drinking practices and policies by situating its analysis in the context of the Western Cape. As a result, the paper marks out an original contribution to the multidisciplinary field of critical alcohol studies, as well as South African geographical research.


Publication Type Journal
Publisher South African Geographical Journal (Taylor and Francis).
Year 2014
Author(s) Clare Herrick, Susan Parnell, Mary Lawhon, Shari Day
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