From Water to Wine: Becoming Middle Class in Angola



 “There are many experimental forms of ethnography, but here is one written by a digital native for digital natives. It is the first ethnography I am aware of that one inhabits the way one inhabits the Internet—fast paced, disjointed, multi-modal, jumping scales from deeply personal to meta-commentary. Few scholars today could pull this off so effortlessly, though no doubt more and more will try. This could be, and in my mind should be, an effective model for how it is done.”


-       Daniel J. Hoffman, University of Washington 


“From Water to Wine demystifies social science research for twenty-first-century students by showing the ‘receipts’ that will ‘trip us out of our eyes’ and alienate us from our stereotypes and cognitive biases. Auerbach is committed to an ethic of revelation—insisting that the audience witness the experiences and materials that inform her work. The result is a creatively conceived text that is about the emergent Angolan middle class, but also about the author’s journey using ethnography to navigate the textures of race, class, color, power, and privilege across six countries and three continents.”

-       Abena Ampofoa Asare, Stony Brook University


From Water to Wine explores how Angola has changed since the end of its civil war in 2002. Its focus is on the middle class—defined as those with a house, a car, and an education—and their consumption, aspirations, and hopes for their families. It takes as its starting point “what is working in Angola?” rather than “what is going wrong?” and makes a deliberate, political choice to give attention to beauty and happiness in everyday life in a country that has had an unusually troubled history. 

Each chapter focuses on one of the five senses, with the introduction and conclusion provoking reflection on proprioception (or kinesthesia) and curiosity. Various media are employed—poetry, recipes, photos, comics, and other textual experiments—to engage readers and their senses. Written for a broad audience, this text is an excellent addition to the study of Africa, the lusophone world, international development, sensory ethnography, and ethnographic writing. 



Scholarly Reviews

Writing about the Book

Where to Buy

Readers in Africa can buy both books on, and all good bookshops. also carries both titles, including in ebook form.


Readers outside of Africa can buy 'From Water to Wine'  through UoT press.


The Portuguese edition of 'From Water to Wine' can be ordered via African Sun Media, South Africa - hardcopy - or downloaded here as a free pdf.


Archive of Kindness: Stories of Everyday Heroism During the South African Lockdown


This book, illustrated by Jethro Longwe, has been published to critical acclaim. It shares 50 stories submitted to the project 'The Archive of Kindness' which profiled everyday acts of kindness and care across South Africa during the first year of the pandemic.

"A timely book which reminds us that the fabric of our society is woven not only by grand narratives of hardship, suffering and triumph, but also by millions of unreported, sustained acts of kindness that are enacted in ordinary encounters." Prof Malebogo Ngoepe, UCT


"The postivie stories replenish my faith, love and hope. I keep Archive of Kidnness next to my bed and read a few stories before I go to sleep." Paul H. Sutherland, Utopia Foundation