Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Carol A. Muller

Second Advisor

Asif Agha


This dissertation deals with the role of tour guides in creating and telling the story of Soweto – a township southwest of Johannesburg, South Africa. The story speaks of a place afflicted by poverty because of its history of segregation during apartheid but emerging out of these struggles to lead its nation in a post-apartheid culture. I argue that Soweto’s story was created out of a governmental mandate for the township to become one of Gauteng’s tourism locations, and out of a knowledge that the transformation story from apartheid to a ‘rainbow nation’ would not sell in this context. After being created, Soweto’s story was affirmed through urban branding strategies and distributed to tourism markets across the world. It is a storybook – a narrative with a beginning, a climax, and an ending; it is easily packaged, marketed and sold to individuals from across the world, and this is done through the senses and emotions. In tours of Soweto, the story comes to life through sensitizations, which are either: (1) signs of communication that link individuals to artifacts in commodity formulations through the senses, or (2) artifacts in a commodity process whose object formulations involve sensoria. The narrative told about Soweto has sold well in tourism, as the Sowetan tourism industry grows in size each year. It has sold so well that the South African government has co-opted Soweto’s local repacking of apartheid into their national narrative. What this dissertation reveals is the centrality of Soweto in contemporary political and social post-apartheid South Africa.

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