Johnny Clegg: a polycultural anthropologist on stage for social justice

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L. Spini
A.G. Innes


The South-African anthropologist and singer/songwriter Johnny Clegg enabled dialogue among different communities in South Africa and abroad through his art. Literature and audio-visual material addressed how his childhood experiences in different countries, his connections with the Zulu community in Apartheid South Africa, and his academic training in anthropology shaped his art into a unique crossover style and built the basis for his anti-Apartheid activism. However, less focus has been directed towards how these experiences defined his polycultural identity and his capacity to practice anthropology in his artistic career, allowing him to spread his important message of social justice. Through our participant observations of Clegg’s professional music career and analysis of videos, documentaries, media coverage, literature, and Clegg’s own work, we examine the influences which resulted in Clegg’s redefinition and popularisation of anthropology as a living tool for social cohesion and global understanding. In light of our own concerns around social injustice in today’s highly polarised environment, we envisage that this study will provide anthropologists and artists, as well as other scholars and practitioners, a framework to collaborate on innovative platforms to further social cohesion and social justice.

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How to Cite
Spini, L., & Innes, A. (2022). Johnny Clegg: a polycultural anthropologist on stage for social justice. International Journal of Anthropology, 37(1-2), 75-94.