This page features brief biographies and contact details of all the CRiCC Network members, and links (where relevant) to more information about each member. Members are listed in alphabetical order by first name.
Membership of the CRiCC network is open to anyone who is currently researching issues relevant to ‘consumer culture’ – broadly defined – in South Africa. If you are interested in joining the network, please contact Mehita (details below).
Anthony Collins is an associate professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University. He has a dual background in Psychology and Cultural Studies, and is interested in understanding identities in social context. He completed his PhD in the History of Consciousness programme at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. He established the Psychology and Society Masters Programme and the University of KwaZulu-Natal before moving to Rhodes in 2014. In addition to his work on violence and trauma, he has a strong interest in consumer culture and emerging youth identities in contemporary South Africa. He teaches an honours course, Love and Money, which explores these issues with specific attention to the relationship between economic systems and personal identities. He can be contacted at anti[at]webafrica.org.za, and found on academia.edu.
Bridget Kenny is Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand, specializing in research on contingent employment, gender and the service sector. Recent projects include work on casualization and subcontracting in food retailing, changing configuration of food commodity chains in Southern Africa, the identity of white female shop workers historically, and changing class formations and identities on the East Rand of Johannesburg. Her theoretical focus is on linking productive and reproductive economic spheres to examine how shifting labour market trends impact on workers’ collective and individual subjectivities. She is editor of the journal African Studies. Contact her on bridget [dot] Kenny [at] wits [dot] ac [dot] za.
Brett Pyper is currently Head of the Wits School of Arts, to which he returned in 2014, having spent six years as CEO of the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (Absa KKNK), one of South Africa’s major festivals of art, popular and vernacular culture. Prior to this, he taught arts, culture and heritage policy and management at Wits, as well as ethnomusicology and popular music studies at Wits and Rhodes Universities. As a Fulbright scholar, he earned Master’s degrees from Emory University in Atlanta (in Interdisciplinary Studies, focusing on Public Culture) and New York University (in Ethnomusicology and Popular Music Studies). He has recently completed his Ph.D. on contemporary jazz culture in South Africa, also at NYU. His research interests include the transnational circulation and reframing of cultural commodities, contemporary refigurations of public culture and cultural ethnographies of South African transitions post-apartheid.
Catherine Duncan is a lecturer in the Wits School of Arts in Johannesburg where she teaches film and media studies in the areas of audience reception and spectatorship. She has a special interest in popular culture and the kinds of texts that generate cult followings, in particular horror film and science fiction. She is just starting out with a Phd, in which she intends to explore what it means to be a fan in South Africa and how the well established discipline (mostly in the global north) of fan studies travels to a South African context. As a teacher, she is concerned with the ‘situated-ness’ of learning which translates to a curiosity about what happens when fans use their fandoms as spring-boards to textual/ cultural production. This point of departure places emphasis on the tension between individuals’ practices of consumption and then the appropriation, mediation, recontextualisation and participation that takes place in making or producing texts and artefacts of various kinds. Catherine.Duncan [at] wits.ac.za
Christiane Botha is currently enrolled for a part-time Masters Degree with the Media Department at Wits University. Her research explores conflicting interpretations of male/female power dynamics in the magazine FHM, paying particular attention to contemporary feminist views on the representation of women in such media forms in order to uncover the extent to which such imagery subordinates woman in relation to men. Her research asks: are such depictions of women perpetuating a “macho” masculinity whereby men simply view women as objects to be purchased for sexual gratification? Or is this perhaps an outdated and oversimplified stance to adopt given contemporary societal circumstances whereby women increasingly attain more “power” in relation to men? The view that individuals in contemporary society are sexual commodities to be purchased and used for the fleeting sexual gratification of others will also be analysed in light of contemporary sexual practices that occur within a “striptease culture” (Brian McNair, 2002). The theoretical component of her study will be investigated in relation to an ethnographic approach in which the responses of a South African female audience to the depiction of women in the FHM will be analysed.
Cobus van Staden is a Lecturer in Media Studies at Wits University. He is busy with a project comparing and analyzing the expansion of Chinese and Japanese media in Sub-Saharan Africa in the context of the soft power generation. His work focuses on the corporate, government and consumption networks that facilitate the global flow of East Asian media. He holds a PhD from Nagoya University in Japan. He has also worked as a documentary director for the multi-award-winning South African TV series Special Assignment. He is a founding member of the China in Africa podcast and multimedia community, which uses new media to explore China’s growing engagement with Africa. At the time of writing, this podcast has been downloaded 35,000 times and the community has more than 17,000 members. jacobus[dot]vanstaden[at]gmail[dot]com.
Danai S. Mupotsa is a PhD researcher in the Department of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand and a fellow of the National Research Foundation Chair in “Local Histories, Present Realities.” Her interests are broad, including women, gender and sexualities, queer theories and critical race theory. Her current work examines the “white wedding” in South Africa. Danai can be reached at danai.mupotsa [at] gmail.com
David B. Coplan, Ph.D, is the founder of Ha-Raleqele Cultural Consultants and Professor and Chair in Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand. Professor Coplan has also lectured at Cape Town, Paris, Oxford, University of Pennsylvania, Bergen, Basel, Zurich, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Ibadan, and Dakar among other universities. His many books and publications, both academic and popular, include In Township Tonight! Three Centuries of South African Black Music and Theatre (2nd edition, Jacana 2007). More information here.
Eleftheria Lekakis is a lecturer in global communications at the University of Sussex with a background in Political Science, Media and Communications. Her research interests include cultural politics, promotional cultures, and communication for social change. She is the author of a book which examines the extent to which consumer cultures operate as public cultures through the case of fair trade coffee. Eleftheria is interested in consumption as an everyday practice, how this is historically and presently aligned with forms of public engagement. She has been exploring the intersection between globalisation, culture and the economy, evident in the rise of economic nationalism.
Marcia Perencin Tondato holds a Ph.D. in Communication by ECA/USP, Master in Communication by UMESP. She is a post-doctorate researcher at Brasilia University (2013-2014) and teaches at PPG Comunicação e Práticas de Consumo – ESPM (sao Paulo, Brazil). Her research interests address communication and consumption, focused on social classes, audience studies, citizenship and telenovelas. She is a member of OBITEL and CRiCC. Her publications include A telenovela nas relações de comunicação e consumo; Mulheres do Sol e da Lua; A televisão em busca da interatividade. More information here. Marcia can be reached at mtondato [at] espm.br.
Mehita Iqani is a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. She holds a PhD (2009) in Media and Communications from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research interests revolve around the relationship between consumer culture and the media, in particular the ways in which commercial ethics and discourses are constructed in and promoted by media forms. Her work is rooted in a critical agenda that seeks to engage with questions about how power, the public and identity are manifested and negotiated in media texts and systems in consumer societies in late modernity. Her first book, published in 2012, is titled Consumer Culture and the Media: Magazines in the Public Eye (Palgrave-MacMillan). She has also published in Social Semiotics, Space and Culture, and Critical Arts. She is also founder of ITCH magazine, an online non-commercial creative submissions magazine. Mehita can be reached at mehita.iqani [at] wits.ac.za
Michelle Tofts is a PhD student in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University. Her interest in consumer culture developed during an honours elective called Love and Money which focused on identities, relationships and the environment in the context of globalization and consumer culture. This course inspired her to begin her Master’s degree in this area, as a member of the Psychology and Society Masters Programme at UKZN, with special focus on gender and relationships in the context of South African consumer culture. The title of her Master’s dissertation was “Discourses of Love and Money: Exploring constructions of gender in romantic relationships”. In her PhD she is exploring constructions of health in the context of consumer culture paying special attention to the media as well as individual experiences of and ideas about health and consumerism.
M . Neelika Jayawardane is Associate Professor of English at SUNY-Oswego. She was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in a mining town in the Copperbelt province in Zambia, and completed her university education in the US. She teaches transnational memoirs, and fiction, film and visual art connected to the immigrant and postcolonial experience, including contemporary Southern African and South Asian work. Her academic publications focus on the nexus between South African literature, photography, and the transnational/transhistorical implications of colonialism and apartheid on the body. Her most recent publications include “Everyone’s Got Their Indian: A Photographic History of South Africa’s Asians” in Transitions (2011), and “Learning the Cartography of Terror: South African Literature in the post-9/11 American Classroom” in the South African journal, Social Dynamics. She is currently working on a book project titledSouth Africa: Aspirations and Modernities. She is a regular contributor to the online magazine, Africa is a Country, and has been a visiting fellow at the Centre for African Studies in the University of Cape Town, and the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies in Colombo, Sri Lanka. neelika.jayawardane [at] oswego.edu
Sean Jacobs, a native of Cape Town, is Assistant Professor of International Affairs at The New School in Manhattan. He has held fellowships at Harvard and New York University and was previously joint Assistant Professor in Afroamerican and African Studies as well as Communication Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He holds a PhD from the University of London. He is currently working on a book about postapartheid media culture. Visit his blog: Africa is a Country.
Simóne Plüg is a PhD student in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University. Her interest in consumer culture began in her Honours year with the Love and Money elective, which broadly explores what it means to be a young South African in the context of globalisation and South Africa’s emerging contemporary consumer culture. In 2012 she completed her Masters by full research dissertation in the former Psychology and Society Masters Programme at UKZN. Her research thesis, “Man, your penis is ashamed of you”: Discursive constructions of young South African men’s ideal masculine body-images, used a social constructionist framework and discourse analytic approach to explore the ways in which consumerism, the media, and other social dynamics promote or silence different discourses around what constitutes a desirable young man in contemporary South Africa. Her PhD explores the social and identity effects of discourses of authenticity, and extends her interest in using critical theory to defamiliarise everyday constructions of the self in order to open spaces for the negotiation of less destructive identities and social practices. Simóne can be reached at plugsn [at] gmail.com
Sonja Narunsky-Laden is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Johannesburg. Her work on post-apartheid South Africa focuses on how patterns of consumption, entrepreneurial practices, and new market-making devices are currently being reconfigured. She is currently investigating how new configurations of the household, parenting, and childhood are being re-negotiated through consumption and market-making procedures in South Africa today.
Tommaso M. Milani is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and is currently research associate on the AHRC-funded ‘BBC Voices’ project at the University of Leeds. His broader areas of research encompass language politics, media discourse, multimodality, and language gender and sexuality. His recent publications include the book Language Ideologies and Media Discourse (co-edited with Sally Johnson, Continuum 2010) as well as articles in Gender & Language, Journal of Sociolinguistics, Journal of Language and Politics, Language in Society, Language Problems & Language Planning, and Linguistics and Education. He is co-editor of the book series Advances in Sociolinguistics (Continuum) as well as of the journal Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies. tommaso.milani [at] wits.ac.za