November 1, 2018 at 5:15 pm

Wealth & Poverty | Farm Labor Relations in South Africa, Nov. 28

Wealth and Poverty hosts a research talk by Dr. Tarminder Kaur, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of the Free State, South Africa, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 4 to 5 p.m. at Alden 319.

The talk is titled “Farmers Are Not ‘That’ Rich; Farm Workers Are Not ‘That’ Poor: an Ethnography of ‘That’ in Farm Labor Relations in the Cape Winelands, South Africa.” 

“While South Africa’s rich and poor remain separated by railway lines, rivers, highways and distances imposed by the apartheid’s dreaded Group Area Acts in most urban areas, this racialized inequality comes into visible contrast in the commercial farming regions of the Cape Winelands. And yet, conducting ethnographic fieldwork in the region, I would often hear explanations of the kind: ‘farm workers are not “that” poor; farmers are not “that” rich’. So, how poor should the farm workers be, or how rich the farmers? What does ‘that’ really mean in the context? What exactly was being compared in such commentaries? The stark differences in the living standards of the poorly-paid ‘coloured’ and ‘black’ farm workers and land-owning ‘white’ farmers made it challenging to ask these questions without sounding cynical of the relater. In this ethnography of ‘that,’ I examine historical continuities and disjuncture that shape this archetypical image of farm workers as not ‘that’ poor and farmers as not ‘that’ rich in the Cape Winelands today. I argue that it is this grey and intangible space of ‘that’ that maintains the compromised and exploitative labor conditions, rather than ‘that’ being simply a chronological and historical comparison of relative improvements in farm labour relations and policies,” says Kaur.

Tarminder Kaur, portrait

Dr. Tarminder Kau

Kaur is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, University of the Free State, South Africa. Her doctoral thesis, Sporting Lives and “Development” Agendas: a critical analysis of sport and “development” nexus in the context of farm workers of the Western Cape, is an ethnography of sports in a small farming town of Rawsonville, South Africa. Her research paper titled amaXhosa Maradona (under consideration) was invited for discussion at The Football Scholars Forum, an online book-club based at the Michigan State University.

This talk is cosponsored by African Studies, the Food Studies theme, Kennedy Lecture Series, and Sustainability Studies theme, as well as the Wealth and Poverty theme.  For more information, contact Dr. Yeong Kim at

Wealth and Poverty theme logologo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *