Moral Panic, Cultural Myth and the Media in Post-apartheid South Africa


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Media Studies


This project is interested in issues of myth, moral panic and urban legend as manifested in the print media and in popular culture in South Africa after 1994. Its objects of study are two thematically related and not yet theorised episodes in the imaginary lives of South Africans: the Pinky Pinky urban legend that was common among high school students in the 1990s and the recent scare about ‘plasma thieves’ in Alexandra township. Using a combination of text-based archival press research and supplementary interviews, the project seeks to unravel what these affective narratives reveal about race, risk, bodies, the occult and consumer culture in the psychic life of some urban South Africans after the end of apartheid. The project combines media and cultural studies approaches to shed new light on these unconsidered corners of South Africa’s mythic landscape.