Contingent Citizens examines the ambiguous state of South Africa’s public sector workers and the implications for contemporary understandings of citizenship. It takes us inside an ethnography of the professional ethic of nurses in a rural hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, shaped by a deep history of mission medicine and changing forms of new public management. Liberal democratic principles of ‘transparency’, ‘decentralization’ and ‘rights’, though promising freedom from control, often generate fear and insecurity instead. But despite the pressures they face, Elizabeth Hull shows that nurses draw on a range of practices from international migration to new religious movements, to assert new forms of citizenship. Focusing an anthropological lens on ‘professionalism’, Hull explores the major fault lines of South Africa’s fragmented social landscape – class, gender, race, and religion – to make an important contribution to the study of class formation and citizenship. This prize-winning monograph will be of interest to scholars of anthropology, development studies, sociology and global public health.
By Elizabeth Hull