Worrier state

Risk, anxiety and moral panic in South Africa

By Nicky Falkof

Worrier state
Hardcover +
  • Price: £20.00
  • ISBN: 9781526164025
  • Publish Date: May 2022
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Paperback +
  • Price: £20.00
  • ISBN: 9781526171887
  • Publish Date: Jun 2023
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
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  • ISBN: 9781526164018
  • Publish Date: May 2022
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information


    Risk, anxiety and moral panic are endemic to contemporary societies and media forms. How do these phenomena manifest in a place like South Africa, which features heightened insecurity, deep inequality and accelerated social change? What happens when cultures of fear intersect with pervasive systems of gender, race and class?

    Worrier state investigates four case studies in which fear and anxiety appear in radically different ways: the far right myth of 'white genocide'; so-called 'Satanist' murders of young women; an urban legend about township crime; and social theories about safety and goodness in the suburbs. Falkof foregrounds the significance of emotion as a socio-political force, emphasising South Africa's imbrication within globalised conditions of anxiety and thus its fundamental and often-ignored hypermodernity. The book offers a bold and creative perspective on the social roles of fear and emotion in South Africa and thus on everyday life in this complex place.


    Shortlisted for MeCCSA Monograph of the Year 2023
    Judges' comments:
    'This is a fascinating study of the perceived risks and associated concepts such as moral panic within South Africa and their media representations and is vigorous and timely as it speaks to the 'risk' society which has hitherto focused on the Global North. Fear and anxiety are explored through a discussion of four different mediatized 'stories' and through the author's own clearly acknowledged white woman's lens, all of which build a picture of a still highly racialised and unequal South Africa, where fear is differently focused and experienced depending on your position in the racial hierarchy as well as your class position. The case studies not only narrate different stories and different subjectivities but also grapple with the less familiar themes of magic and the occult. The book thus provides some original thinking through of how these different aspects of fear, anxiety and emotion play out in the modern South African imaginary. The work is scholarly and draws on both primary and secondary sources in the presentation of the different case studies.'

    'This stunning book resonates with climates of fear far beyond South Africa in how it magnifies the tensions and intimacies between embodied experience and the lingering history and threat of violence. This is a powerful and difficult book to write, and to write this well.'
    Samantha Pinto, author of Infamous Bodies: Early Black Women's Celebrity and the Afterlives of Rights

    'Original and refreshing, Falkof's book is a must read for those of us interested in understanding contemporary formations of race and power in the global South and the role of the media in framing these debates. This study is critically needed in this moment of increasing worldwide white nationalism.'
    Xavier Livermon, author of Kwaito Bodies: Remastering Space and Subjectivity in Post-Apartheid South Africa

    As Falkof shows in this compelling and important book, cultures of fear and anxiety emerge from deep socio-economic inequalities that continue to characterize South Africa today, on intersecting bases of race, class, gender and citizenship.'
    Belinda Dodson, Africa, Volume 93, Issue 2 (May 2023)

    'Nicky Falkof has critically examined issues of race, gender, and identity vis-a-vis the affectual reactions of the media and individuals to the above-mentioned cases. These essays on white genocide, Satanist murders, township urban legends of 'plasma gangs', and suburban community groups are a brilliant representation of how the fear and feelings of anxiety and moral panic of the privileged cannot be equated to that of the powerless as it leads to severely reductionist and often false narratives by institutions such as the mass media.'
    Sudatta Ghosh, South Asian University (SAU), Doing Sociology


    1 Risk, anxiety and moral panic
    2 'White genocide' and the marketing of minority victims
    3 Christian nightmares
    4 Drugs, crime and consumption in Alexandra
    5 Safe selves versus good selves in the suburbs
    Conclusion: Risky business


    Nicky Falkof is Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg

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