What's at stake in the fake?

Indian pharmaceuticals, African markets and global health

Policing the fake: Regulation, Xenophobia and the rise of ‘fake-talk’ in South Africa

Dr Edmore Chitukutuku

I am an anthropologist of the state working on state sponsored violence and control in Africa. My research topic for this project is on policing the fake: regulation, xenophobia and the rise of fake talk in South Africa. This is important to study because the rise of xenophobia enhanced fake talk around foreign goods and people in South Africa. The way in which anti-counterfeit regulations reformat fake talk is visible in xenophobic sentiments around S.A where fakeness goes beyond describing goods to describing and defining foreigners. I will do this through looking at the history and ethnography of policing speaking to regulators, retailers, consumers and organizations in Johannesburg, South Africa. Engaging historically and ethnographically with the language around fakeness in the context of xenophobia enables this research to explore the persistence of fake talk and giving an understanding of ‘who speaks fake-talk?’ and ‘what do they say?’ 

This research will take place mostly in Johannesburg, South Africa. Johannesburg is important because of the recent (2019) xenophobic violence and the raids on foreign nationals trading in ‘counterfeit’ goods by the metropolitan and national police. This raised interesting questions not only about fake talk, or what constitutes counterfeit goods but about policing strategies and how they both enhance and feed into fake talk.