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Constructing Otherness, Strategies of Sameness

Constructing Otherness, Strategies of Sameness

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Published by imhehenkamp
An award winning thesis of strategies of invisibility of African immigrants in Alexandra township, South Africa. Ilja Hehenkamp lived and conducted research in Alexandra for 5 months. Research was conducted in the context of the xenophobic riots of May 2008.
An award winning thesis of strategies of invisibility of African immigrants in Alexandra township, South Africa. Ilja Hehenkamp lived and conducted research in Alexandra for 5 months. Research was conducted in the context of the xenophobic riots of May 2008.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: imhehenkamp on Dec 05, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/04/2014

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During the rapid urbanisation of the 1940s, apartheid became highly dependent on

cheap Black labour, which led to a massive influx of migrants from the rural ar-

eas looking for opportunities in the urbanized industrial areas. While an enigma

within White suburbia, Alexandra nonetheless became incorporated within the offi-

cial boundaries of the city. Simultaneously, this led to growing demands for demo-

lition, which paradoxically coincided with the increasing demand for cheap labour.

The population of Alexandra therefore grew rapidly, feared by the state as spiralling

out of control. The state attempted to manage this dilemma by transforming the

area into a massive migrant labour compound, flattening people’s homes and erect-

ing “grim edifices of migrant hostels” on its ruins. In 1952 the Mentz Committee was

appointed by the Minister of Native Affairs and charged with giving “substance to

the 1950 Group Areas Act”, implemented for racial and business segregation. The

committee recommended “that [Alexandra’s] population should be reduced [from

90.000 to 30.000] so that it ultimately was comprised of residents working in the

northern suburbs” (ibid., pp. 172-3). These desperate state attempts to control the

influx of Black workers led to the first signs of Black urban resistance, in which the

youth played a decisive role. Tertiary institutions and secondary schools turned

gradually into political arenas for Black mobilisation (ibid., pp. 10-11).

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