chapter  10
Relationships and research methods: entanglements, intra-actions, and diffraction
Pages 10

Introduction In the summer of 2009, we were sitting in the shade at the homestead of a gogo (gogo is the Zulu word for grandma) we knew well. We were in the middle of conducting a series of oral histories (for the years 1955, 1968, 1981, 1992, and 2009) in several households in Pholela, South Africa. In this particular community, the gogos from the two households with which we were working had decided we should conduct their oral histories together. (Following local custom, we use the term “community” to refer to different, named settlements in former African homeland areas.) They told us it was more “efficient,” and besides, they had known each other for decades, so “they had no secrets.” It was a hot afternoon, but the gogos insisted we have tea and biscuits. The gogo who lived at this homestead, whom we’ll call Gogo Mbanjwa, sent Thoko (Thokozile) into the house to boil the water and bring out the tea. As Thoko prepared our snack, Gogo Mbanjwa and Gogo Sithole caught up on all the news and Abby (Abigail) did her best to follow and interject. Once Thoko returned, we got down to business, drinking tea – rooibos with lots of sugar – and asking questions about household demographics, livelihoods, agriculture, and health in 1968. As they answered, the gogos sprinkled in complaints about the fact that we had asked these questions last time (they were correct, though we were talking about 1955), how nothing had changed, and how they were getting bored. And then we got to a question about shopping – what they were buying, where, and with what money. Gogo Sithole answered that she bought food, soap, and other essentials with the money she earned selling food outside the local health center. This seemed fine, until we remembered that her husband was employed at the health center. When we asked if she used the money he earned to buy goods, she laughed and replied, “He was supposed to give me money to buy things for the house, but he spent it on other women instead – his girlfriends.” She paused, and then followed up, “You’re getting all of our secrets now.”