Gender and Behaviour

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Ghetto fabulous’: township space and the representation of post-apartheid black male youth violence in Yizo Yizo 1

Sikhumbuzo Mngadi


Violence remains one of the most paradoxical phenomena, because it achieves its apparently frighteningly insurmountable realism by concealing its banal grammar. Behavioural sciences – and, to some degree, some strains within the social and human sciences – have by and large secured the study of violence for an empiricist agenda, thus placing it outside history and language. Behavioural sciences often do so by trading on the idea that acts of violence, because they tend to occur within what seems a closed circuit of perpetrator and victim – and thus of cause and effect – are non-linguistic. In this article, I examine the 1999 South African television drama series Yizo Yizo 1’s depiction of post-apartheid black township male youth violence, the socio-spatial and linguistic conditions that produce this violence, and the drama series’s representation of black female youth within this nexus. I also examine the integrity of the drama series’s implicit gender theoretical paradigm; for, whereas Yizo Yizo 1 appears to treat working class black male violence and working class black female domesticity as empirical givens, I argue, instead, that it complicates this gender paradigm somewhat, at least insofar as it uncouples gender identity and gender performance. Yizo Yizo 1 also places considerable responsibility in the hands of the viewer, so that its meanings are negotiated between its richly accented text and the viewer.

Keywords: Gender, Space, Black South African Youth, Masculinity, Violence, Commodification, Realism

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