Paul Thomas Clarke

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Harvard U.

Grant number

Gr. 9809

Approve Date

April 30, 2019

Project Title

Clarke, Paul (Harvard U.) "Private Security, Masculinity, and the Commodification of Force in South Africa"

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, private security has become a booming industry in South Africa. With citizens openly questioning the state’s ability to keep violent crime in check and state officials and the affluent increasingly turning to private security firms to use force to protect them, there is growing ambiguity over who truly exercises “sovereign” authority in the country. Through a 12-month ethnographic study of a private security firm operating in South Africa’s Gauteng province, this project examines how private security firms seek to produce themselves as entities capable of using deadly force. By examining the gendered forms of labor that undergird for-profit policing, it explores the commodification of violence and its repercussions on the lives of private security officers and the sociopolitical terrain of South Africa. In doing so, the project explores how sovereign performances are gendered, how policing institutions can be sites for the generation of economic value, and how violent jobs may now be one of central ways men make livelihoods in Africa.