Contingent Citizens Professional Aspiration in a South African Hospital
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.
"Elizabeth Hull’s prize-winning study, is a rich and empathic study of nurses’ experiences in Bethesda Hospital in KZN from the 1930s to the present, and a wide-ranging account of their professionalization and politicization in years of dramatic political and social change. Careful research traces the complex relationship between the state, missions, nurses and doctors, revealing the contradictions inherent in the changing nature of professionalism, while a brilliant coda illuminates the more theoretical aspects of her study. - Shula Marks, SOAS, UK Elizabeth Hull’s rich and insightful ethnography of a rural hospital shows how nurses confronted apartheid’s racial glass ceiling only to face a labyrinth of paperwork and patients’ new rights in the democratic era. As South Africa plans a universal health system, policy makers and scholars inside and outside the country should read this pathbreaking book to recognize how health workers make projects of care through mundane routines and moral codes of professionalism. - Mark Hunter, University of Toronto, Canada Hospitals and health care providers are often overlooked when scholars examine the forces that shape societies. Not only does Hull's book provide a broad analysis of nurses’ experiences, it reminds us how crucial these actors and their spaces are in understanding the transition to post-apartheid South Africa - including significant changes in health care as well as the dynamics of a professional black middle-class. - Leslie Anne Hadfield, Brigham Young University, USA"