Institutt for sosialantropologi
master's thesis

Life of the Urban poor during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa


Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, autumn 2021.

By: Stefan Ogedengbe
Supervisor: Professor Bjørn Enge Bertelsen

This thesis is an investigation into topics that have been given new contexts and circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa. The thesis focuses on processes of marginalization, enduring inequalities, social abandonment and violence. Ethnographically I focus on the “urban poor”, by which I mean here fisherfolk, domestic workers, homeless and others. I employ a triple analytical focus using the concepts “bare life”, “resilience” and “necropolitics” to highlight the shadow sides of the pandemic response as it has unfolded in South Africa. Throughout the chapters, I argue that the South African pandemic response – which has been among the strictest in the world - have exacerbated inequalities and consequently caused a reduction in quality of life which is especially related hunger, poverty and loss of livelihoods among the urban poor.