Paul Thomas Clarke
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationHarvard U.
Grant numberGr. 9809
Approve DateApril 30, 2019
Project TitleClarke, Paul (Harvard U.) "Private Security, Masculinity, and the Commodification of Force in South Africa"
PAUL CLARKE, then a graduate student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was awarded a grant in April 2019 to aid research on ‘Private Security, Masculinity, and the Commodification of Force in South Africa,’ supervised by Dr. George Paul Meiu. At the end of apartheid, South Africa was home to the fasting growing private security industry in the world. In the years since, the industry has only grown, becoming the largest of its kind globally and taking on duties thought to be the sole purview of the police. As state policy has failed to reduce inequality and generate economic growth, private security has come to play increasingly pivotal role in South African political economy. With distrust of the police at all-time highs, security is the only reliable source of protection for the propertied. In a country with unemployment over 30%, security is one of the few jobs left open to young men without higher education. And as a ‘recession-proof’ sector in a shrinking economy, security is often seen one of best bets for investors, who are flush with cash but short on investment opportunities. Blending ethnographic research on private security firms in South Africa’s most populous province Gauteng and archival research on the long history of policing in Southern Africa, this project draws on the anthropologies of policing and capitalism to explore how ‘risk”financial and existential’came to be the imagined vehicle of value-production for labor and capital alike.