The valorisation of symbolic labour: the articulation of proper womanhood in post–apartheid Potchefstroom

06 June 2016

Drawing on ethnographic data gleaned from nine months of research conducted among elderly. middle-class, Afi'ikaansspeaking members of a voluntary woman's organisation that aims at providing adult education to women, pertaining to womanhood, wifehood and motherhood, this paper shows how the context provides a space in which members construct a model of proper womanhood that is based on the valuation of modesty. thrift, the valorisation of talents, and industriousness - 'Positive Protestantism'. This model hinges upon domestic work as an institution, and on the transformation of reproductive labour into symbolic labour. This transformation is the reason why Huisvlyt1 members experience the distribution of inalienable wealth as a dilemma of transmission, since their female kin do not value Positive Protestantism as a model of proper womanhood, resulting in Huisvlyt members realising Kopytoff's insight that objects have social lives, and that their prized possessions are running the risk of becoming garbage