Brittany Birberick

Brittany Birberick is a sociocultural anthropologist and postdoctoral researcher for a Mellon supported project on Mobility, Temporality, and Africa’s Future Politics at ACMS at the University of Witwatersrand. The project thinks across the urban conditions of Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Accra. In May 2021, she will receive her PhD from the department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her dissertation, Paved with Gold: Unsettlement and the Buffer Zone in Johannesburg, South Africa, explores the historical and embodied residues of future-oriented urban development in Jeppestown, Johannesburg. From the area’s founding as a prospective residential neighborhood for white, middle-class gold miners migrating to the city at the turn of the 20th century to its more recent past as a proposed site for new development that would alleviate the inner-city housing crisis, the history of this peripheral part of the city has never been settled, and its future, is always being imagined and re-imagined. The dissertation tells the story of a city’s “buffer zone” built on uncertainty and speculation through an anthropological and historical investigation of a single street, MacIntyre Street, in Jeppestown.
She also writes about aesthetics, gambling, and speculation, particularly through a focus on fafi, the street-based lottery game in South Africa. In each project, Birberick is methodologically interested in ethnography, collaboration, historical analysis, archival research, and visual art practices. Through these methods, she explores how the past is inherited in the present. Her research interests engage urban development debates, infrastructure, xenophobia, inter- and intra-national migration, and racial capitalism.