Kathleen Rice

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

McGill U.

Grant number

Gr. 9686

Approve Date

October 4, 2018

Project Title

Rice, Dr. Kathleen F., McGill U., Montreal, Canada - To aid research and writing on 'Rights and Responsibilities: Gender, Personhood, and the Crisis of Meaning in Rural South Africa' - Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

KATHLEEN F. RICE, McGill University, Montreal, Canada, was awarded a Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship in October 2018 to aid research and writing on “Rights and Responsibilities: Gender, Personhood, and the Crisis of Meaning in Rural South Africa.” South Africa has an exceptionally egalitarian, rights-based Constitution, yet contends with high rates of economic inequality, gendered violence, and HIV/AIDS. The societal effects of this have often been framed as crises of youth, social reproduction, and masculinity. Drawing on rural fieldwork the grantee argues that these abovementioned crises are crises of meaning. Rights-based laws and public discourse promote self-actualizing, autonomous individuals, but poverty and care demands mean that people are heavily interdependent. While interdependence is longstanding, today dependencies are being reconfigured in ways that destabilize established hierarchies while interpersonal obligations – “responsibilities” – go unfulfilled. Navigating the tensions between more independent and egalitarian, and more interdependent and hierarchical notions of gender, generation, and personhood entails a crisis of meaning about the content of gendered and generational subjectivities and renders moral action uncertain and situational. Relatedly, the work demonstrates that tradition (as idiom, as a collection of practices, as a way of organizing relationships) sustains and produces gender hierarchy and difference; human rights threaten identity and personhood by refusing mechanisms (e.g., gender violence) through which this social order is maintained. Finally, the grantee explains how we might harmonize relational and individual rights, thereby contributing to theory on how human rights can be reconciled with relational personhood.


Rice, Kathleen. 2023. Rights and Responsibilities in Rural South Africa: Gender, Personhood, and the Crisis of Meaning. Indiana University Press.