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Proxemics, COVID-19, and the Ethics of Care in South Africa

By Susan Levine, Lenore Manderson

Cite As:
Levine, Susan, and Lenore Manderson. 2021. “Proxemics, COVID-19, and the Ethics of Care in South Africa.” Cultural Anthropology 36, no. 3: 391–399.


In South Africa, lockdown and its excesses have opened up questions on the limits of an ethics of care, whose ethics are privileged, how care is delivered, and what care means. We show how an ethics of proxemics and its operationalization as distance highlight everyday inequalities and limit the provision of care. Constraints on physical distancing in line with public health measures intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus echo the controls enforced under apartheid, showing how inequality is both embodied and legally entrenched.


South Africa; apartheid; inequality; lockdown measures; proxemics; proximity