iKasi by Sharlene Swartz
The Moral Ecology of South Africa's Township Youth
This title is based on a study of South African youth who live in Townships (ikasi in IsiZulu). South Africa's townships constitute some of the most disenfranchised pockets of the world. The youth who are teenagers now were spared the apartheid era struggle but they grew up in a moral vacuum. Crime is rampant and many criminals come from townships. iKasi is an examination of how these disenfranchised youth think about morality. Through a detailed ethnographic study, Sharlene Swartz describes how a group of young people aged between 14 and 20 construct right and wrong, what rules govern their behavior, how they explain the gap between what they say is right and what they do in the moral sphere, and ultimately the multiple ways in which they construct meaning from the influences in their immediate contexts ( or moral ecologies). She unpacks their moral influences and the meanings attributed to each from mothers, absent fathers, younger siblings, friends, vibrant youth culture, school, faith and cultural beliefs (such as witchcraft and protective amulets) through to the impact of violent, rubbish-strewn communities and government policies.
The main theme of iKasi concerns the inter-relationships between poverty, morality and youth in a post-conflict context. It illustrates the extent to which poverty impacts on the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of young people's lives including on their moral functioning, growth and development.
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