Worrier state

Risk, anxiety and moral panic in South Africa

Author: Nicky Falkof

A wide-ranging and interdisciplinary investigation of cultures of fear in South Africa, this book reveals how fear and its various features, particularly risk, anxiety and moral panic, manifest in contemporary media forms and the communities they serve, and how these are impacted by systems and histories of race, class, gender, space and identity. It foregrounds the significance of emotion as a sociopolitical force in South Africa as elsewhere, arguing that we need to take emotion seriously in order to properly account for the way in which feelings and experiences, and powerful narratives about them, impact on politics and daily life. Spanning a range of imagined communities and physical spaces, it investigates four disparate but deeply affective case studies: the far right myth of ‘white genocide’; so-called ‘Satanist’ murders of young women; an urban legend about township crime; and social theories about safety and goodness in the suburbs. The book is intimately interested in the way in which moral panics, mass fears and collective anxieties manifest in circumstances of higher risk, heightened insecurity, deep inequality and accelerated social change. It emphasises South Africa’s imbrication within globalised conditions of anxiety, and thus its fundamental hypermodernity, in contrast to the atavistic, sometimes dismissive portrayals of Africa that are common within global media and scholarship.

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