Kwaito Bodies

Remastering Space and Subjectivity in Post-Apartheid South Africa

Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 35 illustrations Published: April 2020

Author: Xavier Livermon

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, African Studies, Music > Popular Music

In Kwaito Bodies Xavier Livermon examines the cultural politics of the youthful black body in South Africa through the performance, representation, and consumption of kwaito, a style of electronic dance music that emerged following the end of apartheid. Drawing on fieldwork in Johannesburg's nightclubs and analyses of musical performances and recordings, Livermon applies a black queer and black feminist studies framework to kwaito. He shows how kwaito culture operates as an alternative politics that challenges the dominant constructions of gender and sexuality. Artists such as Lebo Mathosa and Mandoza rescripted notions of acceptable femininity and masculinity, while groups like Boom Shaka enunciated an Afrodiasporic politics. In these ways, kwaito culture recontextualizes practices and notions of freedom within the social constraints that the legacies of colonialism, apartheid, and economic inequality place on young South Africans. At the same time, kwaito speaks to the ways in which these legacies reverberate between cosmopolitan Johannesburg and the diaspora. In foregrounding this dynamic, Livermon demonstrates that kwaito culture operates as a site for understanding the triumphs, challenges, and politics of post-apartheid South Africa.


Kwaito Bodies is a much-needed corrective to the history of popular culture in South Africa. With the deft insight of a seasoned ethnographer and through legible prose that suffers nothing by way of sophisticated analytics, Xavier Livermon renders a complicated narrative about how the musical form kwaito holds promise for a whole generation of sexual dissidents in post-apartheid South Africa. This book is a game-changer for African sexuality studies.” — E. Patrick Johnson, author of Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women

“Xavier Livermon celebrates the often maligned affect of South African youth by noticing their creative play and their insistence on finding pleasure in the fraught everyday of post-apartheid urban life. His nuanced recognition of kwaito bodies lends insight into the social disjunctures and political failures of the post-apartheid state as well as into the struggles and creative improvisations of black bodies within Afrodiasporic space. Written with appreciation and curiosity, this book leaves the reader with a sense of possibility and hope and a reminder of why we need to party.” — Louise Meintjes, author of Dust of the Zulu: Ngoma Aesthetics after Apartheid


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Price: $26.95

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Xavier Livermon is Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and coeditor of Black Sexual Economies: Race and Sex in a Culture of Capital.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Waar Was Jy? Yeoville circa 1996  1
1. Afrodiasporic Space: Refiguring Africa in Diaspora Analytics  29
2. Jozi Nights: The Post-Apartheid City, Encounter, and Mobility  57
3. "Si-Ghetto Fabulous": Self-Fashioning, Consumption, and Pleasure in Kwaito  92
4. The Kwaito Feminine: Lebo Mathosa as a "Dangerous Woman"  122
5. The Black Masculine in Kwaito: Mandoza and the Limits of Hypermasculine Performance  155
6. Mafikizolo and Youth Day Parties: (Melancholic) Conviviality and the Queering of Utopian Memory  188
Coda. Kwaito Futures, Remastered Freedoms  224
Notes  235
Glossary  239
References  243
Index  259
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