Migration, gender and urbanisation in Johannesburg

Date: February 3, 2014
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This thesis interrogates the dynamics of urbanisation, gender and migration in contemporary Johannesburg through the voices and images of migrant women from the rest of the African continent, now living in Johannesburg. By revealing the lives of a population group that is often hidden from view, it provides details of women’s migration to Johannesburg, and their everyday encounters in the host city. Using these experiences, it sheds light on contemporary migration and urbanisation processes on the continent, expanding our knowledge of the contours of power that shape urban life in Johannesburg and elsewhere. Using the metaphor of the “border” or “borderlands” this thesis explores how women negotiate, cross and remain “in between” the multiple physical, social and imagined borders they encounter in the city. It finds that analyses that read the city through class relationships and capital accumulation do not give adequate weight to the multiple identities and forms of solidarity that exist in cities. Women’s narratives reveal that while their class is an important identity, other identities such as ethnicity, nationality and gender also powerfully shape solidarity and modes of belonging in the city. Moreover, state-centric governance frameworks that have dominated urban policy and scholarly work on the continent are often blinded to the ways in which urban dweller’s actions shift our understanding of the nature and character of state power. Women’s encounters with the state reveal the multiple regimes of power that constitute the city, and the ways in which these subvert, fragment, and yet at times reinforce state power in unpredictable ways. The epistemological approach and findings of this research bring to the fore broader questions around the paradigmatic lenses used to read, interpret and understand African cities. Dominant paradigms tend to draw on western models of cities in ways that undermine African cities’ empirical realities and theoretical potential. For as long as scholars and policy makers fail to see African urbanity in its own terms rather than in relation to how cities elsewhere have evolved, we will continue to miss critical socio-political and economic dynamics that are shaping urbanisation in the twenty first century.

Publisher: Unisa
Year of Publication: 2010
Download : 18023_dissertation_kihato__c.pdf

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