Home Institution

Northwestern University

Publication Date

Fall 2014

Program Name

South Africa: Social and Political Transformation


This project seeks to understand the aspirations and understandings of success of young adults at Wiggins Secondary School and how their dreams are impacted by their perceptions of black wealth as well as their social environment and experiences. By examining the way the students interact with black wealth, it is possible to better comprehend the influence of black wealth and ideas of middle class-ness on their definitions of success. This will further inform an understanding of the means by which they hope to live out their dreams. Specifically, I also investigate the impact of role models on definitions of success and dream formation.

I conducted 13 in-depth interviews with Grade 11 students from Wiggins Secondary School about their lives, perceptions, ideas, plans, and dreams to collect information. My results show that their personal interactions with wealth impacted whether they perceived it negatively or positively. I found, for them, the ideal kind of success involved a combination of materialistic consumption and a strong notion of giving back to their families and communities. Students also felt a shortage of role models with whom they could identify. Their definitions and plans for success were also impacted by their isolation from higher education informants and disillusion with redress policies and political connections.

Through this research investigation, a better understanding of the dynamics of social mobility within a township setting, cross-class relations, and the dreams of the youngest generation of South African adults is possible.


African Studies | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Race and Ethnicity | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology of Culture


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