Vol. 37 Issue 3/4 - 2014
Heike Becker, Kathleen Lorne McDougall & Ilana van Wyk
SPECIAL SECTION: Urbanity and mutuality
Sharad Chari & Kelly Gillespie
An “Indian commons” in Durban? limits to mutuality, or the city to come
This paper explores the ways in which memories of Black South Africans in Durban, identified by racial discourse and often by themselves as Indian and Coloured, reach back to early twentieth century processes of dispossession and occupation. Through historical and ethnographic research in (formerly Coloured) Wentworth and (formerly Indian) Merebank in South Durban, I show how some people from Merebank imagine their past and present in relation to a still-recognisable and creolised “Indian commons” forged a century back, while their neighbours in Wentworth recall constant change and dislocation. These distinct modes of reckoning with the past, with questions of land and landscape, and with practices of racialised mutuality, point to the limits of a subaltern “Indian commons” but also to the possibility of a different mutuality.
Subjects: commons, de-segregation, dispossession, memory, mutuality, space, subaltern
The infrastructural passions of urban mutuality
The article suggests an “infrastructural” approach to mutuality in the city. What organises mutuality is less a matter of the common urban horizon or the grown community than of “enabling conditions” (Calhoun) we would call infrastructures: their makeup shapes how urbanites live together, share, partake, cooperate or make deals. Concretely, the article looks at three infrastructural experiments in Durban, South Africa, in recent years, all intervening into a crisis of urban insecurity: first, the Priority Zone in downtown Durban with its passion for clean urban surfaces and with its imaginary of being itself an infrastructural creature; second, the commercial and traffic hub of Warwick Junction with its slow infrastructure of building trust, ownership and responsibility; and, third, the less place-bound instant infrastructures organizing the sharing of safety-relevant information between responsible urbanites on their way through the city. I argue that an infrastructural inquiry into mutuality of the urban necessitates a curiosity for those infrastructures that seem chaotic, lagging, in crisis, or messy and it needs to grasp the city at large.
Subjects: Durban, infrastructure, insecurity, mutuality, urban regeneration
Mutuality from above: urban crisis, the state and the work of Comissões de Moradores in Luanda
My paper discusses the emergence of new regimes of mutuality in the context of a crisis in the built environment of Luanda. By 1991, Luanda's city centre had suffered years of neglect and talk of an urban crisis abounded. The Angolan government decided that the only way out of the crisis was through the sale of state property. However, privatisation did not simply imply a transfer of ownership from the state to former long-term lessees willing to purchase their homes; the process also had a number of unintended consequences. This paper argues that the Angolan government's property privatisation process ended up constituting mutuality from above, by forcing residents of apartment blocks into formal associations. It has not prevented buildings in downtown Luanda from further decay and has brought about new sites of property litigation.
Subjects: association, built environment, market, mutuality, state, urban crisis
Instant mutuality: the development of Maboneng in inner-city Johannesburg
In the context of strategies of urban renewal and gentrification in Johannesburg in a time of rapid urbanisation, the question of how urban renewal and gentrification affect people and their everyday lives must be considered. At present there are numerous locations in Johannesburg where spatial change is taking place, mainly in the inner city. This paper examines the urban renewal taking place in an area in the eastern part of the Johannesburg CBD, the newly named and “rejuvenated” Maboneng Precinct as my field site. The paper discusses the limits of gentrification by considering the work of the “island” in thinking about the Maboneng Precinct as a place where stark differences and contrasts are created, even as the space is more shared, more “mutual.” The discussion illuminates the contemporary state of mutuality, of living together in the urban, in an African city.
Subjects: African city, community, gentrification, Johannesburg, urban mutuality
Murder and the whole city
Henri Lefebvre's The Urban Revolution makes a claim for the importance of seeing the whole urban form in our analyses of cities. He argues that we too often get trapped into a view of the urban that prioritises “fragments” of the city to the detriment of their critical understanding in terms of the whole urban condition. This essay takes the technique of the “murder rate” as one such fragmentary reading of the urban, a technique which has the potential to see the city as a whole, but which most often works reductively to particularise violent neighbourhoods for correction and intervention. Taking the city of Cape Town as its example, the essay argues that for murder to be properly understood, the murder rate should be the starting point of accounting for the distribution of violence across the whole city, including the histories of the production of that distribution, and not as a way to pathologise the township as a place of particular and specific violence.
Subjects: Cape Town, inequality, murder, murder rate, urban form, violence
Landscape, complicity and partitioned zones at South Africa Forest and Lubya in Israel-Palestine
In the historical and ideological contests of settler colonial conquest, the making of “landscape” out of land and territory is a powerful instrument in the visual and discursive constructions of nationalist perspectives. This article examines one such site, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) “South Africa Forest” in the Galilee, Israel-Palestine, cultivated upon Lubya, a destroyed Palestinian village. The article explores the significance of trees in dominant narratives of modern political Zionist discourses and non-Israeli Jewish nationalist discourses, in particular. It examines the modes of complicity to which JNF tree-planting has given rise and argues that a state-aligned seaming of spatial divisions, cognitive boundaries and ideological partitions enables the Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe, to be “erased from space and consciousness” (Kadman 2008). The article then turns to the film, The Village under the Forest (2013), which focuses on Lubya and South Africa Forest in order to examine what narrative and visual decisions were made in the film's attempt to address complicity with the erasures and bifurcated spatial imaginaries of Israel-Palestine's landscape.
Subjects: erasure, Jewish National Fund, Nakba, Palestine-Israel, partition, tree-planting
Practicing pan-Africanism: an anthropological perspective on exile-host relations at Kongwa, Tanzania
Christian A. Williams
This paper explores exile-host relations at Kongwa, where southern Africa's first guerrilla soldiers lived alongside villagers in rural, central Tanzania between 1964 and 1978. Drawing from the author's previous research on SWAPO's exile camps, recent publications about the ANC in exile and fieldwork conducted at Kongwa, the paper argues that Kongwa became a “pan-African community” in which inhabitants originating from eastern and southern African countries developed complex and meaningful relationships across national borders. Nevertheless, this community was vulnerable to the narrow interests of national elites and the frameworks of national histories, which have undermined subsequent recognition of the international relations which formed at Kongwa. In highlighting these points, the paper identifies tensions inherent to Pan-Africanism as discourse and practice and models an ethnographic approach to studying southern Africa's liberation struggles and their aftermath.
Subjects: ANC, exile, international relations, Pan-Africanism, SWAPO, Tanzania
Traditional Acholi mechanisms for reintegrating Ugandan child abductees
Eric Awich Ochen
Using a mainly qualitative approach, this paper analyses the presence, significance and efficacy of traditional mechanisms for the protection of children from conflicts and other adverse situations. Contemporary child protection debates seem to put emphasis on the western construction of childhood and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as instruments of child protection. Taking a traditional-modernistic approach this paper argues that in many cases African communities practised and developed very strong and elaborate mechanisms for the observance and preservation of the welfare of children. It examines some of the enduring socio-cultural practices among the Acholi tribe in northern Uganda and their implications for the rehabilitation, resettlement and reintegration of children affected by armed conflict in the region. Findings suggest that there is strong potential for utilising traditional systems and practices to address rehabilitation and reintegration dynamics among children and young people, but complementary initiatives also need to be implemented to enhance the efficacy and, in some cases, adaptability of these institutions.
Subjects: child protection, children rights, child soldiers, Northern Uganda, traditional mechanisms
Dealing and sharing: the construction of community in a Pretoria public park
Dennis Edward Webster
This paper describes how a group of men, who are invisible to the state because they possess no formal legal documentation, such as ID books or passports, and do not take part in the formal economy, live in a public park in Gezina, Pretoria. It explores how they negotiate some of the ambiguities of street life and community through acts of sharing and illegal public gambling. While the moral and economic principles organising life in the park are plural, forms of everyday communism predominate. I argue that this predominance allows for a form of community that allows the men living there to navigate their daily uncertainties more easily, and explore the ways in which public gambling functions to maintain the conditions for constructive relations amongst them.
Subjects: community, everyday communism, gambling, public space, reciprocity, sharing, sociality
Winelands, wealth and work: transformations in the Dwars river valley Stellenbosch
Children of a bitter harvest: child labour in the Cape winelands
Contested ecologies: dialogues in the south on nature and knowledge
Islam, youth and modernity in the Gambia: the Tablighi Jama'at