Submit or Track your Manuscript LOG-IN

Contesting Moral Well-being: Two Narratives among Zulu South Africans

Contesting Moral Well-being: Two Narratives among Zulu South Africans

Christine Jeske

 Cultural Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison


 This article focuses on a frequently overlooked factor in people’s estimation of their own well-being: whether they and their surrounding social networks deem their life circumstances to follow a moral trajectory. Because multiple standards of morality compete within societies, this element of well-being is subject to constant negotiation. Attaining well-being depends not merely on having a certain bundle of resources, connections, or circumstances, but on gaining a tenuous moral approbation. Well-being, then, is actually produced or reduced in sites where people publically negotiate the morality of their life choices. In this article, I examine one such setting of negotiation: church testimonies of Zulu South Africans. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, I describe how testimonies—brief spontaneous personal accounts of changes in life circumstances such as employment and health—allow people to navigate the seemingly contradictory moral narratives saying that they should “help themselves” and also “wait on God and not take shortcuts.” I argue that churches are useful sites for attaining well-being in South Africa not only because they offer instrumentalist tools for acquiring resources and social networks, but also because churches offer malleability of personal narratives, which allows people to negotiate society’s conflicting narratives of moral well-being. 


To share on other social networks, click on any share button. What are these?

Pakistan Journal of Zoology


Vol. 53, Iss. 4, Pages 1201-1601


Click here for more

Subscribe Today

Receive free updates on new articles, opportunities and benefits

Subscribe Unsubscribe