The University of Iowa

African Studies Program hosts Mar. 22 talk on migrants, marriage, and national belonging in South Africa

February 24th, 2017

UI International Programs and the African Studies Program invite you to attend an upcoming event titled "They come to take our women and our jobs: Migrants, marriage, and national belonging in South Africa." Featuring guest speaker Brady G'sell, Ph.D. candidate in anthropology and history, University of Michigan, this event will take place on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, from 12-1:30 p.m. in 1117 University Capitol Centre (UCC). 

Since South Africa’s democratic transition in 1994, the country has shifted from producing to receiving refugees, most of whom hail from the rest of the African continent. The scale of the influx is significant. From 2006-2012, the new democracy received the highest number of asylum seekers of any country in the world. Not surprisingly, amidst high unemployment levels and deepening inequality, foreigners have become scapegoats for the economic and political ills of the country. Violent attacks on migrants in 2008 and 2015 were flash points amid persistent tensions manifested in daily acts of discrimination and a repeated refrain that foreigners “come to steal our jobs and our women.” In a context where poverty thwarts socially coveted marital unions, non-nationals’ employment and marriage to South African women is a clear source of frustration and jealousy. However, more is at issue than simply work and weddings. Rather, this presentation argues, unions with foreign men afford South African women the status of full social adulthood and national belonging unavailable in domestic couplings and to which indigenous men have no alternative avenue. Thus, counter-intuitively, South African women are marrying foreigner men to gain a fuller form of citizenship than their male counterparts. Nonetheless, the security and status change women gain in these trans-national marriages comes at the price of other forms of marginalization and insecurity. This talk details the experiences of South African women “stolen” by foreigners and the ways in which their relationships illuminate the intertwining of intimacy and national belonging in South Africa.

To learn more about upcoming African Studies Program events, visit the ASP events page.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact James Giblin in advance at or 319-335-2302.