New Ward for a New Johannesburg? Reformatting Belonging and Boundaries in the City’s South

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Straddling apartheid’s buffer zone between Soweto and Johannesburg South lies a newly demarcated municipal ward. Described by its councillor as a miniature “Rainbow Nation”, it is a provocative site for stitching together the apartheid city and for exploring postapartheid socio-spatial change at a mesoscale between the neighbourhood and the city. Qualitative fieldwork reveals that reconfigured political boundaries are just one of many boundary-making projects unfolding at multiple scales. Formerly white suburbs are racially desegregated, but have also witnessed white flight out of neighbourhoods, institutions and public space, and some enclavisation through gated complexes and private schools. Microgeographies of racially coded space inform everyday life, now often attributed to “cultural difference”. Black residents produce connections to other parts of the city through relationships to family and friends in townships and create new communities in developer-built subdivisions. Infrastructural distinctions between “township” and “suburb” are blurring, with new and old infrastructural inequalities and entanglements emerging. Not all discourses and practices of belonging and exclusion can be mapped onto racial categories or racialised space: new alliances based on property ownership, class and security are emerging, along with new shared “others”. This site demonstrates how new boundary placements overlay and cathect existing boundaries and their repertoires of belonging and exclusion in ambivalent ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-204
Number of pages22
JournalUrban Forum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Desegregation
  • Johannesburg South
  • Middle-class
  • Postapartheid change
  • Suburbanisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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