Worrier state

Risk, anxiety and moral panic in South Africa

By Nicky Falkof

Worrier state


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6402-5
  • Pages: 248
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: May 2022
  • BIC Category: Sociology, Anthropology, Media studies: journalism, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Urban, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / African Studies, Africa, Economics, finance, business & management / Media, information & communication industries, Republic of South Africa, Society & social sciences / Sociology & anthropology, Society & social sciences / Media studies
  • Series: Governing Intimacies in the Global South


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.


'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


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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