1 Towards an Anthropology of Urbanism

In broad terms, urban theory constitutes a series of ideas (sometimes presented as laws) about what cities are, what they do and how they work. Commonly such ideas exist at a high level of abstraction so that they do not pertain to individual towns or cities, but offer a more general explanation of the role that cities play in shaping socio-spatial processes. Nonetheless, such theories typically emerge from particular cities at particular times, to the extent that certain cities become exemplary of particular types of urban theory … (Phil Hubbard 2006: 6)

The city of East London, located on the eastern seaboard of South Africa, represents one of those cities that became ‘exemplary of particular types of urban theory’. In the same way that Los Angeles became emblematic of ‘postmodern urbanism’, the small African city of East London came to represent a challenge to the conventional wisdom about urbanism presented by scholars like Simmel (1903), Park et al. (1925) and especially Wirth (1996 [1938]). Wirth had defined urbanism as involving the ‘substitution of secondary for primary contacts, the weakening of bonds of kinship, the declining social significance of the family, the disappearance of neighbourhood and the undermining of the traditional basis of social solidarity’ (1996 [1938]: 79). In the early 1960s, Philip and Iona Mayer captured the imagination of a generation of urban scholars by convincingly demonstrating how migrants in East London refused to relinquish their ‘primary contacts’ while in the city, or to allow urbanisation to undermine their ‘traditional basis for social solidarity’. Their rich ethnography (Mayer with Mayer 1971 [1961]) showed how some migrants could live in the city for years, some for as long as 20 years, without accepting modernity and its commonly understood urban cultural forms. Mayer wrote at a time when a critique of the Wirthian perspective on urbanism had been gaining momentum in sociology more globally. Peter Wilmot and Michael Young had published their famous book on kinship and family in the Bethnal Green borough of London’s East End in 1957. Bethnal Green was being threatened with slum clearance programmes. Based on interviews with over 1,000 families, their study revealed the dense associative networks and rich family life of the old East End, and highlighted the role of women in coping with poverty and holding extended family networks together. They showed that the highest levels of social coherence and connectivity were to be found in the most densely settled areas of Bethnal Green, whereas the new housing estates being created for the working class tended to be characterised by blasé attitudes and social withdrawal (see Parker 2004: 81).


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Across the Atlantic, Herbert Gans (1962) published an important study of an Italian-American community in the impoverished West End of Boston, which was also faced with the threat of urban removal. Gans depicted Boston’s West End as a working-class enclave in which people and institutions were created to ‘serve and protect’ the family and the community. He stressed their unity as a working-class community, dubbing the West-Enders as ‘urban villagers’ rather than as alienated urban individuals. The great irony of Wirth’s analysis of the city was that he himself had described and uncovered such bonds in his own 1935 ethnography of Chicago entitled The Ghetto, but that he had chosen to suppress these insights when it came to developing a more universal and theoretical definition of urbanism, which sought to sum up the collective contribution of the Chicago School of the 1920s and 1930s to urban studies. The problem with Wirth’s definition was that it set up the urban too starkly in contrast to the rural and the traditional. By starting with what the urban was not – a face-to-face, rural folk culture – it became very difficult for Wirth to acknowledge the complex sociality of the city and its social networks (see Parker 2004; Robinson 2006). Within the field of social anthropology, which had but recently begun to address the cultural adaptations of rural people to urban life, Oscar Lewis led the way with his studies of family life and urban adaptation in Mexico (1951, 1959, 1961). In a seminal article, based on fieldwork conducted in Mexico City in 1950, Lewis argued that: this study provides further evidence that urbanisation is not a simple, unitary, universally similar process, but that it assumes different forms and meanings, depending on the prevailing historic, economic and social conditions … I find that peasants in Mexico adapt to urban life with far greater ease than do American farm families. There is little evidence of disorganisation and breakdown, of cultural conflict, or of irreconcilable differences between generations … Family life remains strong in Mexico City. (1951: 30) Janet Abu-Lughod (1961) arrived at similar conclusions in her research among rural migrants in Cairo of the late 1950s, while Bruner argued of North Sumatra of the 1950s that: contrary to the traditional theory, we find in many Asian cities that society does not become secularised, the individual does not become isolated, kinship organisation does not breakdown, nor do social relations in the urban environment become impersonal, superficial and utilitarian. (1961: 508) The Mayers’ book-length ethnography, Townsmen or Tribesmen (the second volume of what became known as the Xhosa in Town trilogy) (Mayer with Mayer 1971 [1961]) confirmed and crystallised this emerging critique of established notions of urbanism. Their study also showed the great difficulties associated with universal definitions of urbanism by highlighting the critical

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role of regional cultural dynamics in shaping processes of urban adaptation. This point had been stressed by Lewis (1951), but was also consistently emphasised in the work of another highly influential American urbanist, Lewis Mumford. In his seminal book, The Culture of Cities (1958 [1938]) Mumford had argued that, in all cities, elements of rural and regional cultures were transformed and ‘etherealised’ into durable elements in a new and dynamic process of cultural synthesis. For Mumford, new urbanisms emerged from the ‘the diffused rays of many separate beams’, drawn from regional cultural, social and historical materials. He expressed these ideas in theatrical idiom: Every culture has its characteristic drama. It chooses from the sum total of human potentialities certain acts and interests, certain processes and values, and endows them with special significance … The stage on which this drama is enacted, with the most skilled actors and a full supporting company and specially designed scenery, is the city: it is here that it reaches its highest pitch of intensity. (Mumford 1958 [1938]: 5) Much of the power and fascination of Mayer’s work lay in his ability to locate his anthropological analysis of urbanisation and urbanism within a regional cultural drama. For Mayer, the character of urbanism in East London’s African residential locations was shaped by a fundamental cultural divide that had deep roots in the Eastern Cape countryside. Indeed, as part of their preparation for their urban fieldwork in the mid 1950s, the Mayers lived in a rural village outside of the city and travelled extensively around the rural reserves of the Eastern Cape. It was here that they became convinced of the centrality of what they came to characterise as the ‘Red/School’ divide to an understanding of cultural process in East London. In the introduction to Townsmen or Tribesmen, they wrote: That two dramatically different sets of institutions exist within the Xhosa countryside is not hard to see. One becomes aware of it before a word is spoken, through the glaring contrasts in dress and personal appearance. There are women – Red women – who go about like a commercial photographer’s dream of picturesque Africa, their arms and shoulders bare, their brightly-coloured ochred skirts swinging, their beads, brass ornaments and fanciful head-dresses adding still more colour. And there are others – the School women – who go in cotton print dresses in sober colours, with neat black head-dresses and heavy black shawls, looking as proper as mid-Victorian or as sombre as Moslem wives. To see a dance for Red youth and a ‘concert’ for School youth, a sacrifice in one homestead and a prayer meeting in the next, or even a Red and a School family meal, is to realise that these belong to two different worlds, in spite of the language and the peasant background being one. (Mayer with Mayer 1971 [1961]: 20) The Mayers went on to state that rural Xhosa (the dominant ethnic group in the region) themselves ‘think of this division as bisecting the entire population’


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and view it ‘in terms of cultural differentia’: ‘Red people do things this way while School people do them that way.’ They claimed that the division between abantu ababomvu (Red people) and abantu basesikolweni (School people) was marked not only by dress styles and social institutions, but was expressed in deeper cultural values kept in place by ‘a kind of self-imposed aloofness’, where each segment of the rural population firmly believed in the superiority of their ‘own way of life’ (1971 [1961]: 21–41). The Reds saw it as their ‘common present duty’ to maintain a distinctive way of life which history and the ancestors had sanctioned for them and for them alone (1971 [1961]: 40). The roots of this cultural division can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century, during the colonisation of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, when a large section of the Xhosa-speaking people were convinced by the visions of the young prophetess, Nongqawuse, who declared that, if they killed their cattle and scorched their fields, the ancestors would drive the white settlers into the sea and restore peace and harmony to their lands. Nongqawuse’s prophecy divided the Xhosa nation between ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’, between communities and families that had come to accept Westernisation and Christianity and those who rejected these forces, politically and culturally. There is ongoing debate as to whether colonial officials and the Governor of the Cape Colony, who had been struggling to defeat the Xhosa on the Eastern Frontier, conspired to popularise the visions of the Xhosa prophetess (Crais 2002; Peires 1989). The result, however, was undoubtedly catastrophic for ‘the believers’, who implemented the vision of the prophetess by decimating their herds and their livelihoods within a period of weeks and months, thus opening up the Eastern Cape for final colonisation. By 1894, the regional process of colonisation was concluded with the incorporation of the Xhosa-speaking areas of Pondoland in the far Eastern Cape into the Cape Colony. In 1910 the British colonies of the Cape and Natal amalgamated with the Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State to form the Union of South Africa. A century after the historic Xhosa cattle-killing, the Mayers argued, rural communities in the Eastern Cape remained deeply divided between ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’, between Red people and School people. This division was seen to shape the way in which Xhosa people adapted to urban life in East London. The most striking aspect of the Mayers’ ethnography was their account of the urban lifestyles, cultural responses and orientations of the conservative, anti-modern Red migrants. They showed that these migrants remained doggedly traditionalist in outlook, rejecting Christianity in any form and regarding entry into industrial wage labour as a ‘necessary evil’, which they accepted only in order to earn enough money to support their rural homesteads and resources. In the city, these men were seen to encapsulate themselves in close-knit networks of home-mates, who socialised together, resisted urban consumerism and morally enforced a commitment to building rural homesteads. The lifestyles of these Red migrants were contrasted with those of School migrants, who remained connected with their rural homesteads but were much more open to Western cultural influences in

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the city. The argument was thus not only ethnographically compelling, but theoretically important in that: first, it confirmed the findings of other studies that urbanisation did not necessarily lead to social breakdown; second, it demonstrated there could be large rural lumps in the urban ‘melting pot’ that did not dissolve with time; and, third, it illustrated that urbanism was always shaped by its regional or local cultural contexts. East London was already an established anthropological field-site by the time the Mayers conducted their research there. As early as 1931, the African urban locations of the city had been visited by Monica Hunter (later Wilson) as part of the fieldwork she conducted for her classic South African ethnography, Reaction to Conquest (1936). Her book included a large section on social change that covered African life in towns, as well as on white-owned farms, and this urban research was primarily focused on East London. When the Mayers re-entered East London’s locations in the late 1950s, they did not come alone. They were part of a team of researchers who collectively produced what would come to be referred to as the Xhosa in Town trilogy. The first book in the series, The Black Man’s Portion by sociologist Desmond Reader had been published in 1960, presenting a sociological overview of the history, residential life and employment patterns of the East London locations. Reader’s description of the townships was based on a one-in-ten household questionnaire conducted in 1955. He had supplemented this data with in-depth life histories and household case studies, combining qualitative and quantitative research techniques in a manner similar to the Bethnal Green study of Wilmot and Young. Townsmen or Tribesmen (Mayer with Mayer 1971 [1961]) was the middle volume in the trilogy, which was soon followed by anthropologist Berthold Pauw’s The Second Generation (1973 [1963]). The Mayers commissioned Pauw to conduct an ethnographic investigation of the families, lives, networks and adaptive strategies of urban-born families to complement their study of the migrants. These other two volumes in the Xhosa in Town trilogy did not, however, achieve the notoriety of Townsmen or Tribesmen, which was updated and reprinted in 1971; The Second Generation was updated and reprinted in 1973. In this re-study, based on historical research and intensive fieldwork in East London since the South African transition to democracy, I assess and update all of the East London ethnographies, not just the work of Philip and Iona Mayer. My own fieldwork in East London’s townships started 40 years after that of the trilogy researchers, in 1995, and continued intermittently until 2005. In revisiting the townships of East London in the 1990s, I was both preoccupied and guided by the work of the trilogy researchers. I imagined their work as a sort of baseline from which I would proceed by following up key themes and topics, while at the same time reporting on new areas of cultural and social change through the apartheid and into the post-apartheid period. Where my project differed from that of the trilogy (and Hunter’s earlier work) was that I did not enter the city from the perspective of the countryside, hoping to map out continuity and change across the urban–rural divide. My

east london and surrounding areas

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interest was in the changing city itself and in townships as complex spaces of creativity, social formation and struggle in their own right. I wanted to contribute to a new anthropology of urbanism rather than simply add to the old anthropology of urbanisation. I aspired to using the texts and notes of Monica Hunter, Philip Mayer and the trilogy scholars as beacons to light the road on a journey in new historical ethnography that would begin in the 1950s and navigate through the 1960s and 1970s and beyond, to end in the mid 2000s. In all the chapters of this book, the earlier anthropological studies, and especially the work of the trilogy researchers, provide critical points of reference and are used as a baseline from which ideas about social change are mapped out, discussed and contested. The years between these two periods of intensive fieldwork were the apartheid years in South Africa. They were years in which the old locations of the East Bank and West Bank were flattened and destroyed by a racist state determined to impose a new regime of urban management and control on the city and its African population. Most of the East Bank location, where the previous studies were focused, was pulled down during the 1960s, and the people living in the wood-and-iron houses there were resettled either to new township houses in the city or sent to the Ciskei or Transkei homelands (see Map). The pace and intensity of these forced removals created serious problems for people and the state, which was forced to build transit housing in the city because the removals had left so many homeless. New hostels were also built for migrants, who were shaken out of the backrooms and yards of the old wood-and-iron houses and kept separate from permanently urbanised working class families. This process of restructuring fundamentally reconfigured social relations, power and identity in the township. One of my primary aims in this book is to offer a new set of understandings of what this restructuring process meant and how it might be interpreted. Instead of simply focusing on the racial dimensions of apartheid and documenting change from above, I explore the everyday encounters, sensibilities and architecture of social and cultural change from below, from various locations within the township itself, and reflect on the implications of urban restructuring for different forms of place and home-making, as well as for gender and generational relations and identities. This study also goes beyond the apartheid period and seeks to provide insights into the nature and form of post-apartheid urbanism. In essence, this book provides a detailed, historical ethnography of social and cultural change in a single township, variously known as the East Bank, Duncan Village and Gompo Town, over a period of 50 years. Before I outline my own interests in greater detail, I would like to reflect further on how responses to the trilogy, and especially to Townsmen or Tribesmen, changed in the 1970s and how, despite this fierce criticism, the Mayers’ discussion of Red and School people, and their concern with the ‘rural in the urban’, have remained important themes in anthropology and African studies since the 1980s.


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red And sChool revIsITed During the 1970s, celebration of Townsmen or Tribesmen turned to damnation as increasing numbers of scholar – liberals and Marxists alike – attacked the Mayers from different angles. The criticism was intense and formed part of a broad, critical reassessment of the political role of anthropology during the colonial era (Asad 1973; Eriksen and Nielsen 2001; Kuper 1987). In the changed political climate of decolonisation, urban anthropologists were denounced for failing to locate their analyses of urban adaptation and migrant identity within an understanding of the political economy of racial capitalism and colonialism. African anthropologists, like Magubane (1973) and Mafeje (1971), strongly objected to what they saw as an assertion that modernising Africans in towns were just mimicking and imitating the culture of their oppressors rather than creating something uniquely African, their own version of modernity that inspired their struggles for independence and freedom. Reviewers of the 1970s tended to view the urban Copperbelt studies by the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute anthropologists like Gluckman, Mitchell, Epstein and Powdermaker as ‘more progressive’ than the ‘reactionary’ trilogy, which was condemned for arguing that African identities were fixed and static in a context of rapid change. Even the Copperbelt studies, with their emphasis on the malleability and situational nature of identity formation, did not escape severe criticism for their alleged failure to analyse racial and class exploitation, and for simplistically imagining that Africans aspired to mimic a white, Western-style modernity. In his excellent review of the Copperbelt literature, Ferguson (1999) has insisted on the need to go beyond overly simplistic judgements of these researchers as either ‘radical’ pioneers or as ‘arrogant colonial racists’, by examining the deeper underlying assumptions that informed their liberal modernist approach. Ferguson argues that after the Second World War, Gluckman and his colleagues anticipated that the Zambian Copperbelt would become the ‘Birmingham of Africa’, and began to imagine and map a historical progression from ‘tribesmen to townsmen’. These scholars strongly opposed the colonial idea that Africans did not belong in town and exposed the settler argument that Africans were ‘target workers’ as an ideological justification for low wages. In this debate, Gluckman famously argued that Africans shifted identities as they moved between the spaces of town and country. His perspective collided with the government and mining company policy of ‘stabilisation without urbanisation’ and made these urban anthropologists increasingly unpopular with the colonial authorities. Ferguson summarises the view of the Copperbelt scholars on the question of townsmen or tribesmen as follows: The two competing images of the African – migrant labouring tribesmen versus permanently urbanized townsmen – were placed not only in opposition but in succession. The two ideological stereotypes were the different ends of a historical progression. (1999: 35)

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This was not how the Mayers, and especially Philip Mayer, viewed the situation. He did not see a shifting and shuffling of identities in East London within a context of rapid and inevitable industrial modernisation. What captured his imagination was the staunch resistance of certain groups of migrant workers to the cultural influences of town life and their outright rejection of the project of modernisation. For the Mayers, the Red-migrants were heroic figures who still dreamt of an independent existence for themselves and their families outside of the nexus of colonial capitalism, despite having been drawn into the heart of the industrial wage labour system against their will (see Mayer with Mayer 1971 [1961]). While many came to the defence of Gluckman and his left-leaning Manchester school, there were very few who were prepared to defend the trilogy and its narrative of Red and School.1 The work of the Mayers was seen to be particularly problematic because it seemed to suggest that many migrants were essentially tribal in outlook and opposed to modernisation in any form. Archie Mafeje, who had been born and brought up in the Eastern Cape, argued that the Mayers ossified what was a dynamic and changing cultural cleavage. He contested the idea that Red and School were starkly opposed, as the Mayers suggested, indicating that ‘red boys’ in his home village were often seen in church, while ‘school boys’ learnt stick-fighting and underwent initiation. He also said that many of the families had relatives that were both Red and School. The cultural divide was thus not nearly as dramatic as that between Catholic and Protestants in Northern Ireland, as the Mayers had suggested. The boundaries of the categories were porous and fluid rather than culturally fundamental (Mafeje 1971: 5). In his own urban study with Monica Wilson on the Langa township of Cape Town, Mafeje argued that the process of urban adaptation was shaped very specifically by who migrants knew in the cities rather than by some kind of pre-existing cultural identity (Wilson and Mafeje 1963). Mafeje pointed to the critical importance of ‘home-mate groups’ as units of social integration. He suggested that a young migrant with a ‘school’ orientation who moved in with an uncle with a ‘Red’ orientation would in all likelihood become absorbed into his ‘home boy’ group and cultural milieu. With time, confidence and perhaps a change of residence, the same young migrant might enter a new social network and assume a different social identity. Mafeje tried, then, to stress the fluidity of African urban identity formation, claiming that it was irresponsible to speak of essential identities in the apartheid context. Mafeje’s perspective has been theorised by Ferguson (1999), who demonstrates that cultural knowledge and competence in Copperbelt towns was always a prerequisite for the convincing performance of any cultural style. Some migrants from rural areas simply did not have the cultural resources to move between Red and School identities, or what Ferguson terms localist and cosmopolitan styles. Thus, like Mafeje, Ferguson (1999) argues that Africans on the Copperbelt could (and still can) choose between identities and change their cultural styles as long as they have the competence to perform them effectively (see Chapter 2 for further discussion). The point


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that the Mayers would have wanted to make in this debate, I suspect, is that the Red–School cultural division in rural Eastern Cape communities was such that it was not easy for migrants to change identities (or perform new styles) in the city (see McAllister 2006 for an account of the habitus of Redness in the rural Transkei).2 It was the personal nature of the political critique which devastated the Mayers. They were stung by claims that the aim of Townsmen or Tribesmen was to celebrate African tribalism and endorse the policy of the apartheid government. If read in a particular way, the work of the Mayers does seem to support the idea that some African migrants did not want to live permanently in the cities, which is precisely how the apartheid state proposed that migrants be treated. The suggestion that their scholarship was complicit with the apartheid project had a profound impact on the Mayers. Philip Mayer was a German Jew, who had fled the Holocaust to live in Britain and had dealt with his own personal experiences of racial discrimination in Europe (Beinart 1991b: 11–14). He admired the determination of rural labour migrants who refused to be pushed into colonial modernity, Western beliefs and consumerism. He found their denial of the city and modernisation uplifting. To try to clear his name and redeem his project, Philip Mayer recast their analysis of Red and School in more politically fashionable terms in a 1980 essay. Drawing on the work of the French structuralist Marxist, Louis Althusser, Philip Mayer argued that Red and School were both long-standing ‘rural resistance ideologies’, which opposed colonialism in different ways and had their roots in the history of African dispossession, missionary activity and colonial exploitation in nineteenth-century Eastern Cape history. Significantly, while Mayer added historical depth and context to his earlier work, he never suggested that he had over-estimated, or misinterpreted, the social salience or analytical significance of the Red–School divide in the townships of East London. In the long essay, he also suggested that the material and social basis of Redness was rooted in African access to land and agrarian resources in the rural reserves, and that this was being progressively undermined by apartheiddriven agrarian change in the homelands, first through the introduction of betterment planning and then by fully fledged Bantustan development, which increased closer settlement and landlessness in the 1960s and 1970s (see Mayer 1980; see also De Wet 1995). In the face of constant criticism, the Mayers left South Africa and returned to England. They eventually retired in Oxford and Philip Mayer died in 1994. The impact of the sustained attack on their work is that it effectively expunged any serious scholarly discussion of Red and School as social identities for 20 years. In fact, most scholars writing about the region during that period were cautious about engaging directly with these cultural categories (cf. Bundy and Beinart 1987; Mager 1999). It was only after 2000, when the South African novelist Zakes Mda published his award-winning historical novel, The Heart of Redness, that the debate re-ignited. Mda suggested that the old divisions between ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’ were still alive and well in the Eastern Cape countryside, and remained influential in the politics of

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post-apartheid development (see also Attwell 2005; McAllister 2006). The novel explores the case of a community conflict over the prospect of a large, foreign-funded tourism venture on the Transkei coast. Mda shows how the local community is split down the middle by the prospect of outsiders holding a large stake in the local economy. The modernisers, those descendants of the ‘non-believers’, want to see jobs, ‘progress’ and investment in the area, while the ‘red’ traditionalists, descended from the ‘believers’, want to see their environment and heritage preserved for themselves and their children. The hero of the story, an urbane Johannesburg teacher, returns to the Eastern Cape to rediscover his roots and develops a growing appreciation of the power of ‘redness’. This rediscovery of tradition is occurring on a wide front in the Eastern Cape today, with a revival of local interest in chieftaincy, the creation of heritage trails and community museums, constant and urgent debates about the future and safety of traditional male initiation rites in an age of HIV-Aids, and renewed emphasis on the importance of performing traditional rituals in rural homesteads. IdenTITy, TrAdITIon And The CITy
The bankrupt notion of the melting pot has been replaced by a model that is more germane to our times, that of the menudo chowder. According to this model most of the ingredients do melt, but some stubborn chunks are condemned merely to float. (Vergigratia, quoted in Parker 2004: 147)

In the 1990s, 40 years after the publication of Townsmen or Tribesmen, a new generation of anthropologists working on the postcolonial African city continues to question the idea that urban modernity follows rural tradition in some linear, unidirectional and inevitable way. The collapse of modernist urban planning regimes in post-independence African cities has created new spaces for the reconstruction of the ‘rural in the urban’ in a context deindustrialisation and urban decay. In his work on Kinshasa, Devisch (1995, 1996) argues that the failure of modernisation to create the conditions for stable urban existence has led residents to create new urban communities modelled on ‘matricentral, rural village structures’ (1996: 584). He argues that these communities actively oppose the ‘alienating project of whitening, Christianising and unbridled commerce’ (1996: 584), and reconstruct the migrant’s sense of belonging by reinforcing a sense of longing for solidarity, support and genuine community identity in the city. [V]illagisation in the city undermines and dismantles Western myths of progress or technocratic modernisation. It questions the legitimacy of the (post-)colonial hierarchy of opposing the urban citizen and the villager, the political elite and the people, the educated evolué [elite] and the unschooled peasant, the Christian and the pagan … [It] can be said to be a culturally endogenous domestication of the modernity in which local and often subordinate groups structure themselves along the lines of communes. (1996: 584)


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De Boeck and Plassart (2006) reinforce and extend these observations, arguing that rural cultural images and metaphors, such as those linked to hunting and gathering, are appropriated and applied as the ‘forest enters the city’. These authors also show how notions of the rural and the urban become inverted when diamond dollars are produced in the countryside and consumed in the city. Van Binsbergen (1997) has written about the ‘virtualisation of the village’ in cities in Zambia and Botswana. He is interested in how ideas about village life and ideal social relations are invoked and inserted in town to socialise the city in particular ways. These accounts of ‘encapsulated’ and ‘invented rurality’ in the urban, not only bring the Mayers (1971 [1961]) work back into focus, but also remind us of the critical role that rural hinterlands play in the shaping of the city. The presence of the ‘rural in the urban’ is never simply a matter of the transposition of rural cultural materials into the city, but involves reworking, reconstituting and renegotiating ideas about the rural in the urban in what might be defined as a ‘third space’ (see Bhabha 1994; Soja 1995). The engagement of the rural in the urban is not a retreat into some pre-existing form of identity, as implied by the Mayers, but always in some sense a hybrid cultural form. As Papastergiadis explains in more theoretical terms: Identity is neither in the interior space of the already known experience nor doomed to the exteriority of an experiment with the unknown. Cultural identity is thus never confined to a space on an exterior segment, nor is it projected onto an open plane, but is formed through the practice of bridging both differences and similitudes between the self and the other. Bridging involves the performance of two tasks simultaneously: it requires memory and experience. To know where the self has come from is to gain a sense of belonging that enables one to risk the journey ahead. (2000: 98) In his work on modernity and cultural hybridity in Latin America, Garcia Canclini (1995 [1989]) stated that it is no longer possible for local people to ‘enter and leave modernity’ at will, since they are all defined within it. In other words, there is no escaping modernity, where ‘heterogeneous temporalities’ intersect in a complex process of ‘intercultural hybridisation’ and ‘hybrid sociability’, and where identity struggles unfold in a common, connected cultural space. For Canclini, Latin American countries are now the ‘product of the sedimentation, juxtaposition and undercrossing of Indian traditions, of colonial hispanism, and of modern political educational and communicative practices’ (1995 [1989]: 71). He argues that this does not occur through conventional processes of cultural syncretism, where different cultural elements are separated out and then – and only then – mixed together, but rather through a dynamic process of transcultural exchange. Canclini describes this process as one of ‘truncated innovation’, which often leads to the reinvention of older cultural forms, both urban and rural. He sees identity formation as an ongoing process of negotiating difference, oscillating between fixity and openness.

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In a different context, Brenner (1998) shows how urban traditions can also provide powerful narratives for identity in the city. In her work on the Indonesian city of Solo, Brenner (1998) finds that the heyday of modernity, of cultural innovation and economic prosperity, occurred in the early twentieth century, when the local textile industry boomed and urban Javanese family businesses prospered. By the late 1980s, de-industrialisation and urban decay had set in, and the city had a distinctly unmodern look and feel. The excitement of modernity, as something new and dynamic, was no longer present there, despite constant attempts by the Indonesian state to reinvigorate economic development and urban renewal. In this case study, Brenner finds that Javanese families now live within a romanticised and idealised version of its own urban past, nostalgically recalling social and cultural forms associated with a golden age, traditions that they aspire to recreate in the present. In this case, the urban community has seemingly transformed in the ‘wrong’ direction, ‘from a community that represented an emergent modernity in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Java to what is often characterised as an anachronistic bastion of “tradition” in the 1990s’ (1998: 13). The ‘tradition’ embraced by the Javanese merchants is not a rural tradition, but a family-centred, cosmopolitan urban tradition of modernity from a bygone era. Brenner’s study illustrates how the urban past can be as powerful as the rural past in the remaking of urban culture and identity. This is a point to note for the African literature, where tradition is usually thought of in a distinctly rural way. One social theorist fascinated by the idea of the city as a kind of ‘dynamic ruin’ embodying many layers of historical rubble was Walter Benjamin. Benjamin (1999) used the image of the flâneur, the voyeuristic walker and observer of the city, as a way of thinking and writing about the changing character of urbanism in Paris. In his well-known Arcades project, he explored the ‘heterogeneous temporalities’ of the city by engaging nostalgically and imaginatively with the run-down world of the ornate Arcades, the old centre of urban consumerism in the late nineteenth-century Paris. Benjamin contrasts the Arcades with the industrial city of twentieth-century Paris, moving back and forth, imagining constellations of the present and the past, while exploring possible urban futures that might take Paris beyond commodity fetishism and urban capitalism. His work reveals the multiple pasts of a city, and how these pasts can be invoked in the cultural imagination, and have an impact on the nature and politics of identity in the city (cf. Merrifield 2002; Robinson 2006; Stevenson 2003). Like Mumford, I see the city as a site of cultural drama, a space of contested practices and identities. Parker (2004) argues that the main source of urban dynamism and innovation is not the interaction between city and hinterland, but that which occurs within and between urban spaces and identities inside the city. He suggests that an understanding of urban place-making and identity formation is critical for any grasp of the meaning of urbanism. In a similar vein, Hansen and Verkaaik (2009: 5) suggest that cities and neighbourhoods often develop a distinctive sense of charisma. ‘Urban spaces have spirits,


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and cities have souls’, they argue, and ‘these are contagious qualities that are said to seep into the character of the people living in such cities’. In my historical anthropology of the urbanism in East London, I am consequently intensely interested in the continuities and discontinuities in place-making and identity formation in the townships. Kolb (2008: 72) makes a distinction between dense and diluted spaces, where dense spaces have multiple layers of memory, routine and shared experience, while diluted spaces tend to be defined by single-stranded relations and a certain shallowness of experience. Kolb (2008: 73) suggests that a place is ‘historically dense insofar as its social norms involve reference to a history that has been sedimented’. But density is not just a matter of age, it depends on ‘how the marks of sediment and age are taken up into the contemporary texture of action in place’ (2008: 73). In addition to density, which refers to the multi-layers of the urban landscape, Kolb also speaks of the complexity of urban places, by which he means the level to which they are connected to places and processes beyond the space itself. The East London township of Duncan Village is both a dense and complex urban place, with a long and contested history as well as a strong set of local and trans-local associations and connections. ‘A dense and complex place’, Kolb (2008: 74) explains, ‘is not all present at once’, ‘it does not come at you from one angle’. This sense of density and complexity was immediately impressed on me on my very first visit to Duncan Village in 1995. As I walked up Florence Street through the historical centre of the old locationcum-township, I inhaled the sour smell of mqomboti home-brewed beer, which drifted into the street from the yards of old one-roomed houses where migrants gathered. As I turned the corner, up the hill I passed an old granite plaque to the South African Governor General Sir Patrick Duncan, who donated the land for a new location in the 1930s, as well as the houses built for returning servicemen in the late 1940s. Many of them had been repainted in bright colours and their front doors literally opened onto the street. It was mid afternoon and the street was bustling with people and activity. I imagined that the neighbourhood would have felt much the same in the 1950s. Further up the road, the street widened and there were newer apartheid-style houses, the 51/9 units, built during the township reconstruction period of the 1960s, while on other side of the road, shacks cascaded down the slope and were packed no more than a metre apart. To the west, across the Douglas Smith main road, I could see the single-sex migrants’ hostels, with their dirty blue exterior walls and smoke billowing out of the chimneys. Beyond the hostels lay Duncan Village Extension or Ziphunzana, which had more a suburban look with mainly free-standing houses on pavilion-style plots covering the rolling hills to the south. There were fewer variations in housing type and fewer shacks too. Across the road, I could also see the old transit area of C-section, which had a completely different look and feel to it too. There were no yards or divisions between structures here, just a dense honeycomb of one-roomed brick structures with shacks squeezed in between. On that afternoon, I had a profound sense of

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having entered a different world, a complex mosaic of different precincts and places in a township that had its own distinctive history and social character. The influx of tens of thousands of individuals and families into the space of the old apartheid township since the 1980s had created an involuted and overcrowded urban space with different residential and social niches, which had their own social character and identities. Over the next ten years, I would walk up Florence Street many times, doing a variety of primary and applied research assignments in the area. In this time I came to realise that Duncan Village was a single township that embodied many different places, where: Physically, a place is a space which is invested in understanding of behavioural appropriateness, cultural expectation, and so forth. We are located in ‘space’, but we act in ‘place’… It is a sense of place not space that makes it appropriate to dance at a Grateful Dead concert, but not at the Cambridge high table; to be naked in the bedroom but not in the street; and to sit at our windows peering out rather than at other people’s windows peering in. Place not space frames appropriate behaviour. (Harrison and Dourish 1996: 69) Rather than encountering a two-dimensional and socially thin space, as a sort of theme park of poverty, oppression and disadvantage, as the townships are often portrayed, I encountered complex, diverse and socially dense place, which was fragmented into different smaller residential niches, but nevertheless remained inextricably linked both to the surrounding hinterland, as well as its own sense of history, as a place with a particular identity. It was the latter, that sense of place, that I felt had been ignored in the earlier anthropology of the city, where localism was understood to mean a longing for the rural areas. mobIlITy, loCAlIsm And power In this book, I am interested in processes of urban place-making or what might more simply be called settlement. To understand African cities better, I believe that we need to pay much more attention to the creation, character and the charisma or spirit of urban settlements, rather than simply focus on mobility, networks and social connectivity. People do not simply pass through space, they develop memories, meanings and attachments to particular places, where they establish social relations, engage in struggles over resources and construct narratives that valorise those places, as they enter the cultural repertoire of the city (cf. Borer 2006). The conversion of spaces into places is a complex material, cultural and sociological process which needs to be better understood. In African cities, the obsession with migrants and mobility has diverted our attention away from place-making. Many authors define African urban spaces in terms of hyper-fluidity, mobility and informality, arguing that Africans are generally averse to urban permanence and settlement, seeking instead to engage multiple points of belonging and complex migrant identities. Simone and Gotz (2003: 125), for example, claim that ‘African identities


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display a remarkable capacity not to need fixed places’ and that Africans ‘have the capacity to configure highly mobile social formations that focus on elaborating multiple identities’. Nuttall and Mbembe (2008) have also recently affirmed this perspective by arguing that the migrant is the iconic cultural figure in the African city, the local equivalent of what the flâneur was to the European city in the early twentieth century. But we should also be careful not to over-emphasise mobility and movement and the inability of urban Africans to become grounded in the cities and neighbourhoods within which they live. There is a common perception that, because many African urban residents live in shacks, they must necessarily only be temporary sojourners in the city. This is untrue. A great deal of research shows that shack life is far from temporary for those who live in these areas, and that it is common for squatters to live in the same areas or settlements for most of their adult lives. The same problem of perception was noted by Janice Perlman in her book The Myth of Marginality (1976) on Brazilian favelas in the 1970s, where she challenged the myth that favela dwellers were economic, social and cultural outsiders in the city. She demonstrated that they had often lived in the city much longer than had been thought, and were well-integrated socially and economically. The same myth was debunked in South Africa in the 1990s when a new generation of research into life in informal settlements revealed that, contrary to the apartheid ideology, many shack-dwellers were committed to urban permanence. It was this realisation that inspired the African National Congress (ANC) to make low-cost housing delivery in urban areas one of its most important objectives in the post-apartheid period. My own research in Duncan Village showed that, by the late 1990s, the average shack-dweller had been living in the township for longer than ten years. It is interesting that in the United States where, according to Kolb (2008: 32), suburban residents move once every five years, no one seems to think that urban Americans have become ‘hyper-mobile’ and have lost their desire to settle in fixed places. In the anthropology of urbanism that I seek to develop here, I am as interested in urban localists and township flâneurs who wander the city as I am in migrants and restless cosmopolitans. Our obsession with the migrant, especially the male migrant, has led us to think of localism mainly in terms of a longing for a rural home, while imagining cosmopolitanism as a state of homelessness, as the aspiration to belong to something beyond the local, something global (cf. Englund 2004; Ferguson 1999). Appiah (2006) questions whether African urban identity politics is always constructed around an opposition between localism and cosmopolitanism in this sense. He challenges the idea that cosmopolitanism must necessarily involve a ‘sense of homelessness’ and suggests that the notion of ‘rooted cosmopolitanism’ might be more accurate in many cases. But, despite his objections to earlier formulation, the rooted in Appiah’s formulation remains a kind of romantic notion of rural tradition. What we hear so much less about in Africa, however, is that life in the city generates all sorts of localism which need not necessarily have any sense of connection to rural areas or traditions,

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nor any aspiration towards cosmopolitanism. It is entirely possible for urban localists not to hanker after village life and also to remain quite disconnected from transnational social and cultural flows. One of the reasons we continue to miss these aspects of African urban life is that we seem more interested nowadays in social networkers, deal-makers and mobile connectors, than in people who stay in one place, or feel at home in the city. In order to understand the meaning of urban localism and the process of place-making in African cities we need to address what Ortner (2006) calls the ‘refusal of gender and generational analysis’ in many anthropological studies. In the 1930s, when Hunter (1936) and Hellman (1948) pioneered urban anthropology in southern Africa, they placed women at the centre of their analysis and developed compelling ethnographies of the nature of urban localism and the struggle for survival in the city. Hellman’s urban yard came alive as a marginal place in the city through her discussion of how this space was domesticated by poor, but energetic single women with a passion to support their families. In the post-war period, as the emphasis shifted from urban women to male migrants, questions of urban localism were replaced by other concerns, such as whether African male migrants were really tribesmen, townsmen or workers. Rebecca Lee’s (2009) recent work on migration and settlement in Cape Town recovers some of the spirit of these early ethnographies by putting urban women back at the centre of the equation. In Cape Town’s townships, she notes that masculine identities are generally more closely associated with mobility than feminine ones, and that men needed to embrace mobility in order to express successful masculinity in a way that women do not. In this book, I suggest that an understanding of urban localism must start with a reconsideration of the roles, aspirations and experiences of urban women and come to grips with the changing dynamics of gender relationships in everyday urban life. One of the most insightful and brilliant accounts of neighbourhood life and place-making is still provided in Jane Jacobs’ classic, The Death and Times of Great American Cities (1961), published in the same year as Townsmen or Tribesmen. Jacobs celebrates the tolerant, civilised and constrained urban order of the West side village in Manhattan of the late 1950s, which she contrasts to the lifeless mid-town neighbourhoods and the sprawling, low-density suburbs of the post-war American city. She argues that order and civility in this precinct was created and maintained, not by police surveillance or urban renewal schemes, but by the density of social networks, interactions and relationships on the street, and by the commitment of local people to maintain respect and order in their neighbourhoods. The power of Jacobs’ analysis lies in her ability to combine detailed observation and finely textured ethnography of everyday life in her locality, and she conveys a sense of the ‘ballet of the sidewalk’ (Jacobs 1961; see also Flint 2009). Marshall Berman (1988), a great admirer of Jane Jacobs and fellow campaigners against the destruction of old neighbourhoods in Manhattan, attributes her powerful understanding of place to her gender, as West side village mother by day and intellectual by night. He states that:


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She writes out of an intensely lived domesticity… She knows her neighbourhood in such precise twenty-four hour detail because she has been around it all day, in the ways that most women are normally around all day, especially when they become mothers, but hardly any men ever are … She knows all the shopkeepers, the vast informal social networks they maintain because it is her responsibility to take care of the household affairs. She portrays the ecology and phenomenology of the sidewalk with uncanny fidelity and sensitivity, because she has spent years piloting children … through these troubled waters, while balancing heavy shopping bags, talking to neighbours and trying to keep hold of her life. (1988: 322) Judy Giles (2004) argues that while the masculine view of the city has emphasised mobility, adventure and newness, the feminine view has been more sensitive to continuity and routine, and to the meanings of fixed places. My feeling is that our view of the African city remains a very masculine one, influenced by decades of obsessive interest in men, migrants and masculinity, and it is for this reason that scholars fail to understand processes of place-making in these cities. For men and women, memory, routine and shared experience in a specific place creates local knowledge and binds people together in a common urban culture. The history of place and social practice in place defines local notions of identity and belonging. But while I make this claim for us to better understanding of locality and localism in urban African studies, I am also mindful of Massey’s (1995) seminal contribution, that localities are defined as much by the networks that flow through them as by the activities that occur within them (cf. Parker 2004; Stevenson 2003). The power of masculine versions of modernity and the city as public, mobile, connected, self-realising and constantly changing has also played a critical role in creating a dichotomy between the city and the suburb, which is usually portrayed as feminine, repetitive, sterile and repressed. Many feminist scholars, such as Giles (2004), have commented on the limitations of this opposition, suggesting that it not only denies women access to modernity but also misreads the suburb and the home. In this book I resist the tendency, which I believe is still very much alive in African studies, to see the streets and public squares as sites of the making of modernity, and the homes as spaces where traditional roles are entrenched and re-enacted without innovation and change. To the contrary, I suggest that home spaces have undergone processes of fundamental transformation over time in the townships of East London, and that the roles of men and women in the home have constantly shifted. Indeed, I argue that the home and the house in the old location proved to be a critical launching pad for the strategies of urban mothers and matriarchs to assert their social and economic independence. The confidence of these women also spilled over into the streets in the unruly 1950s as they fearlessly took on the apartheid state, which set out to clip their wings and to domesticate and subordinate their daughters in the townships of the 1960s and 1970s (cf. Walker 1995; Wells 1993). But even without their independent mothers in the city and constrained by new forms of patriarchy, I suggest that young

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township mothers and homemakers continued to pursue their own projects and objectives as modern women in their township homes. Urban anthropologists have spent more time in the urban house and the suburb, collecting household details, kinship diagrams and migration histories, than on the streets of the city or simply staring out of the window, like Jacobs, onto the street outside the home. Conversely, Amin and Thrift (2002) suggest that cultural geographers are only just arriving at the doorstep of the house and beginning to encounter the home as a dynamic part of the city. They note that: Strangely the everyday rhythms of domestic life have rarely counted as part of the ‘urban’, as though the city stopped at the doorstep of the home. But domestic life is now woven routinely into the urban public realm … The rhythms of the home are as much part of city life as, say, the movements of traffic, office life, or interaction in the open spaces of the city. Its rhythms, too, need incorporating into the everyday sociology of the city. (Amin and Thrift 2002: 18) In this book, I lament the extent to which anthropologists have been pegged back in the spaces of the home and inclined to produce ‘home-made’ ethnography which often defines the home as a space of the enduring and repetitive structures of everyday life rather than as a site of and catalyst for change. Change in the city and the township, I will argue, has as much to do with change in the home as with change on the streets. Indeed, I find it difficult to account for one without the other. To understand what the ‘comrades’ achieved in the townships of South Africa in the 1980s it is necessary, for example, to know what they were doing in their homes and shacks, how they related to their parents in those spaces and what they wanted to achieve personally in their lives. The anthropology of urbanism that I seek to develop here encourages a more multi-site ethnographical approach, one which supplements the conventional anthropological focus on home life and the formation of urban social groups, on the rhythms of the city as Lefebvre (1991) calls it, with a greater sense of engagement with the way power and identity are contested on streets and in public spaces. The social circuitry that connects spaces such as homes and streets, or verandahs and dance halls, is also critical to understand. It is an approach that deals simultaneously with home spaces and street styles, with the everyday rhythms and routines of urban life at home and on the street, as well as explosive upheavals in the cultural and political life across the space of the city. This highlights another weakness of conventional urban anthropological approaches to the city, which is their general lack of interest in relations of the power and inequality in the city. Appadurai (1996) noted some time ago that we must acknowledge that: ‘neighbourhoods and localities never simply exist, but are always socially produced and consequently have to be constantly defended from competing claims and demands’. In his analysis, ‘locality production’ always involves ‘a moment of colonialization, a moment


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both historical and chronotypic, where there is a formal recognition that the production of neighbourhood requires deliberate, risky, even violent action’. In this process, there is ‘the assertion of socially (often ritually) organized power over places and settings that are viewed as potentially chaotic and rebellious’ (1996: 183–84). In re-thinking space in relation to power, Lefebvre (1991) wrote in the 1970s about spatial relations and the dialogue between ‘representations of space’ (constellations of power, knowledge and spatiality), people’s own ‘spaces of representation’ (counter-spaces of spatial meanings and understandings that emerge from located social life), and the emergent ‘spatial practices’ (time-space routines and the spatial structures through which social life is produced and reproduced). Within this framework, he imagined that spatial relations were infused with unequal power relations and emerged from the struggle between those who are able to define and control space, such as landlords, capitalists or the state, and those who use that space on a daily basis, ordinary people. Both scholars stressed, as I would want to here, that locality is always the product of contested place-making rather than some pre-existing container of ‘local culture’, a site of uncontaminated ‘local knowledge’, or a fixed site of community power (see also Smith 2001, 2005). With these conceptual and theoretical considerations in mind, I would like to turn more specifically now to the field site of my research in East London, Duncan Village, and make some preliminary comments on the politics of place-making and identity formation in this anthropologically renowned space in the period after the Mayers left, namely the apartheid and post-apartheid period. I begin with a very brief history of the city and the townships. eAsT london AfTer The TrIlogy The city of East London is located on the eastern seaboard of South Africa. It was established in the mid nineteenth century as a military garrison town on the eastern frontier of the Cape colony and soon evolved into a trading centre as the colony expanded eastwards. With expanded trading, the urban economy grew through the export of agricultural goods, such as wool and hides, and the importation of basic consumer goods and agricultural equipment for white settler farmers in the immediate hinterland and African peasants to the east. East London boomed in the 1870s and 1880s on the back of rising wool prices. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, missions, soldiers and German settlers also came in through the port city as part of efforts by the British to expand the frontiers of the Cape colony. By the 1880s, most of the Xhosa heartland of the Eastern Cape had been annexed by Britain and the structures of colonial administration were in place all along the eastern seaboard from East London. A system of indirect rule, where native commissioners and magistrates ruled over large districts with the assistance of co-opted headmen and chiefs provided the modus operandi of the new administration (Crais 2002; Hammond-Tooke 1975). Missionaries and traders followed in the wake of the colonial administrators and soon established a powerful presence in the colonial interior, first in the western part of the

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eastern frontier; later they moved eastwards, extending mission outposts and trading stations beyond the Mthatha river. The final act of colonial annexation occurred in 1894, after stubborn resistance from Mpondo people collapsed, and with it the independent African chieftaincies that separated the Cape colony from Natal (Beinart 1982). In the early decades of the twentieth century East London rose to prominence as a trading centre, where economic activity centred on the harbour, railway, merchant houses, processing works and craft shops. The town was a centre of African trade, and was also a major port for the export of wool produced in the Eastern Cape, to Britain and elsewhere. By the 1920s, however, the wool-exporting role of the city was under challenge and the city was beginning to experience the effects of economic decline and depression (Bundy and Beinart 1987: 273). Population growth in the urban locations that had been established for Africans at the turn of the century increased steadily during the first two decades of the century, but exploded in the 1920s as rural poverty in the surrounding African reserves of the Ciskei and Transkei intensified in the middle years of that decade. It is reported that, between 1919 and 1928, the African population of East London increased by 41.7 per cent, and between 1925 and 1930 it grew by nearly 8,500 people, an increase of over 50 per cent in five years. In 1929 alone, it was reported that 1,100 immigrants arrived in the city from rural areas, pushing the African population of the city over 25,000. The late 1920s was also a period of growing labour unrest in the city following the consolidation of the Independent Industrial and Commercial Workers Union in East London. It was a time of rapid change in the city, as new African independent churches grew in popularity, and political agitation and anti-white political sentiment were strong in the locations. In the period between the early 1930s and the mid 1950s, when a new group of anthropologists arrived in East London locations under the leadership of Philip Mayer, there was rapid change in the economy of the city. This period of secondary industrialisation started shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and continued through into the 1960s and beyond. In the 1930s, new industrial parks were established around the harbour and the city was marketed as a growing industrial hub. By the end of the war, there were already over 100 manufacturing plants in East London, and these increased from 135 in 1946 to 323 in 1958. The number of jobs for African workers in the industrial sector also quadrupled within a decade from 3,800 in the mid 1940s to over 13,000 in the mid 1950s. By 1954, it was reported that there were approximately 800 industrial establishments in the ‘eastern half of the Eastern Cape’. The greatest concentration of industries in this region was found in the magisterial district of East London. The total industrial work force in the region was recorded at 17,500 employees, of whom 85 per cent were male and more than 75 per cent lived in the East London and King William’s Town areas. The industrial base of the city was structured around the food, textile, motor vehicle, furniture and chemical producers. In 1953–54, there were 28 food-processing concerns, 11 textile and footwear firms, 11 chemical industries, 48 transport businesses (including those involved in motor


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vehicles and their parts), and 59 construction concerns. In terms of total employment, the industrial sector of the city alone had as many employees as the wholesale, retail and service sectors combined. Industry was thus the mainstay of the East London economy (Black and Davies 1986: 10–15).

Photo 1.1 A view of the east bank location in the 1950s
source: east london municipal Collections, east london public library.

The urban locations of East London became a magnet for new immigration from the rural areas, especially after the war. Between 1930 and 1950, the population of the locations had swelled from around 30,000 people to over 50,000. The provision of local services did not keep pace with the growth in population, and by the 1950s, the East Bank, East London’s largest location had been declared one of the most overcrowded in the union, a festering, uncontrolled slum with open sewers. It was politically volatile and had a well-established and sizeable educated local elite of African teachers, nurses and clerical workers, as well as a growing male working class, most of whom were migrants living in backrooms in the yards of formal houses. It was into this context that Philip Mayer led his team of anthropologists in 1954. Their engagement with the East Bank location and East London lasted for most of the 1950s and, as I have explained, resulted in the production of three books, known collectively as the Xhosa in Town trilogy, published by Oxford University Press in South Africa between 1960 and 1963. One of the reasons why Mayer and his team placed migrants and migrant culture at the centre of the enquiry was because the city was awash with urbanising, rural migrants in the 1950s. They came to East London from the struggling and drought-stricken rural reserves, the Ciskei and Transkei areas, surrounding the city in search of industrial jobs and were found by Mayer and his colleagues huddled together in the backyards and shack areas, struggling to survive

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with their amakhaya (home mates). In this context, it is not surprising that Mayer afforded rural migrants in the city – or what Roberts (in Ward 2004: 183) called ‘urban peasants’ in the late 1960s in his work on slums in Latin America – such a central place in his analysis of the locations.

Photo 1.2 The destruction of the meine family house on fredrick street, Tsolo, east bank, 1967
source: fhIser hidden histories Collection, fort hare.

rACIAl modernIsm, soCIAlIsm And The hoUse In the period after the Mayers and their colleagues left East London, the city underwent a dramatic transition with the announcement that the wood-and-iron sections of the East Bank location would be demolished and the old location would be reconfigured as a much smaller urban township, called Duncan Village, housing a combination of permanently urbanised African workers and male migrants, confined to tightly controlled municipal single-sex hostels. Belinda Bozzoli (2004) has recently tried to define this transition from the location to the township strategy as a move from ‘welfare paternalism’ to ‘racial modernism’. Following Rabinow (1989, 1995), I define the township model as a form of middling modernism, a version of modernist planning focused principally on reconfiguring the home and domestic life, as opposed to other versions of modernism which concentrated more on public spaces and the integrity of the city centre. Like many cities in South Africa, East London underwent a facelift in the post-war period that saw the city centre restructured with new multi-storey modern office blocks and shops on wider roads. In the areas outside the city centre and the burgeoning white suburbs, I argue that a fundamental aim of this racial modernism


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in the townships was the desire to re-engineer urban social relations and subjectivities at the local level. It offered permanently urbanised Africans a vision of black suburbia by offering them more solid houses to live in, but denied them the right to own these properties or to express their individuality in their new neighbourhoods. The township affirmed neither individuality nor private property, but actively advocated the universal adoption of the male-centred, nuclear family form for urban Africans. In recognition of these limitations, Freund (2007) has recently equated township formation with a process of ‘sub-suburbanisation’. The restructured African urban space of the township was undoubtedly based on suburban ideas, but the model also drew on the authoritarian tradition of socialist urbanism, which set out to enforce obedience, compliance and feelings of ‘sameness’ among members of the new socialist working class. Under apartheid, private site or home-ownership was abolished for Africans in the city. The township home was conceived as part of the public sphere and, as such, was open to any intrusion by the state. The idea was that everyone classified in a certain way would get exactly the same housing unit and yard. There was no scope for variation according to private or individual difference. Moreover, as Crowley and Reid note in relation to socialist Eastern Europe: ‘new ways of organising the home, the workplace and the street would create [it was believed] … new kinds of persons or moral subjects’ (2002: 15). In a similar vein, Stephen Lovell (2003: 105) writes that, in Russia, the ‘post-revolutionary order was designed to create a new man by remaking his environment in the broadest sense: not only by eliminating political and social opposition … but also by ripping apart the fabric of everyday life and weaving it anew’ (emphasis added). Verdery (1996) argues that socialist states legitimated themselves and their interventions by claiming that they redistributed the social product in the interest of the general welfare. On this basis, Verdery argues, socialist paternalism constructed its nation on an implicit view of society as a family, headed by a wise Party, a kind of male father figure. Verdery (1996) called it the zadruga state, meaning the extended family, patriarchal state. This type of state tried to reconfigure male and female roles. ‘One might say that it broke open the nuclear family, socialised significant elements of reproduction’, she argues, ‘while leaving women responsible for the rest’ (1996: 65). The state clearly usurped certain patriarchal functions and responsibilities, thereby altering the relationship between gendered ‘domestic’ and ‘public spheres’ familiar from nineteenth-century capitalism (1996: 65). Like Verdery’s socialist state in Romania, the apartheid state was also a patriarchal state. Afrikaner nationalism was configured around male heroes who built and defended the nation, while women – volksmoeders (folk mothers) – protected the home and looked after the children (cf. Coombs 2003; McClintock 1995). Afrikaners and the ‘white nation’ generally did not want their women to be drawn into the industrial labour market in the way that socialism opened up that possibility in the nationalisms of socialist Eastern Europe. There was also no need for such a move under the apartheid

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system, because it was designed to release black men to meet the increasing demands for industrial labour in the modernising economy. Some of these black men would have to prove themselves to be civilised labour, capable of living and reproducing themselves in the city. For this to transpire, it was necessary for the state to deal with the dilemma of the urban location, which presented itself in the 1950s as an essentially feminised space, dominated by unmanageable youth and unruly, independent women. A fundamental component of racial modernism, I will argue, was the desire to re-assert male power and authority over the ‘native spaces’ in South African cities. To restore control and discipline, the apartheid state wanted to shut down all spaces where women in the city could act independently of male authority. The aim of racial modernism, I suggest, was therefore not only to disconnect white and African society and deepen the divisions in the colonial dual city, as Bozzoli (2004) points out, but also to restructure power and authority within urban African society itself. In order to do this, apartheid needed to institute a system of patriarchal proprietorship in the township, which transferred the authority for the management of women in the city from the state onto the black male headed nuclear family. Urban women who were not already under patriarchal authority needed to be placed under such authority, or systematically removed from the city. It was also declared in the new township regulations that all forms of petty commerce and income-earning by women would be banned. The limited number of new township formal businesses that were permitted after the 1960s were invariably given to men, and this is precisely what happened in the new Duncan Village as well. The argument I advance here consequently differs significantly from that of scholars like Mamdani (1996), who asserts that it was race that excluded Africans from equal rights and civil liberties in colonial towns and cities, and patriarchal proprietorship that kept African women disempowered and bonded in the countryside. I want to suggest that this distinction is misleading because it not only ignores that extent to which, as Hooper (1995) explains, all forms of modernist planning, including colonial and postcolonial ones, are fantasies of male control – what she calls ‘poems of male desire’ – but also the particular nature of patriarchal entitlement in the apartheid city. In the apartheid city male authority did not rest on any appeal to the legitimacy of customary power, it was simply bestowed on township patriarchs by the white state, which placed the full weight of its repressive power behind the defence of patriarchy. Women who would not submit to male authority in the city simply had no place there. Even widows were driven out to prevent the kind of gender contamination that had characterised the location. The conjoining of white male power at the centre with black male power on the periphery created what I call an invisible staircase within the structure of racial modernism and domination that had crucial implications for the ways in which some men rose up against others within the township during the 1980s and, even more importantly, for the way in which township men have behaved and responded to the collapse of apartheid and the building


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of a new post-apartheid society. Elder (2003: 5) has been one of the few scholars who has clearly recognised these links. He argues that there has been inadequate understanding of how ‘the geography of apartheid’ intersected with ‘heterosexist oppression’, allowing new forms of ‘sexual oppression’ into the ‘nooks and crannies of the apartheid landscape’. He calls for a more detailed analysis of apartheid as a ‘hetero-patriarchal system’ that cut across the urban–rural divide. The historical ethnography presented in this book seeks to respond to this call and places gender relations and gender identities at the centre of the analysis. Indeed, in exploring women’s responses to new forms of male domination and control, I have found that De Certeau’s (1984) distinction between tactics and strategies as forms of resistance to domination a useful heuristic device for the analysis (cf. Chapters 7 and 8). By the 1980s the apartheid model had begun to unravel in East London. The post-war industrial boom in the city petered out in the late 1960s and by the 1970s the manufacturing sector slowed down. To revive industrial interest in peripheral areas, the apartheid state offered firms incentives to relocate to the newly ethnic homelands, which included the Ciskei and Transkei outside East London. The thinking behind the scheme was that it was better to encourage job creation in rural areas than have unemployed Africans streaming into the cities in the 1970s. This process saw some factories shutting down in East London and reopening in nearby homeland towns, where industrialists received state subsidies and labour unions were banned. By the 1980s, labour and political activism, and generalised worker dissatisfaction with low wages in East London, created a crisis, leading to major strikes that threatened to close production plants in the city. At this time local residents also evicted the apartheid government appointed officials from the township and instituted a system of democratic street, branch and area committees as the legitimate authorities in the township. In other words, the residents of township had declared their ‘right to the city’ in the Lefebvrian (1974) sense (cf. Fawas 2009). Part of this assertion of power involved the township civic organisations declaring the right to control influx and settlement in the township. This opened Duncan Village up to new settlement, not only from families who had been removed from the area, but also to new immigrants moving into the city from rural areas. The result was a quadrupling of the township population, which overloaded the existing urban infrastructure and encouraged population densification in Duncan Village that rated among the highest in South Africa. By 1990, backyard and free-standing shacks outnumbered formal structures by a ratio of about three to one. The newspapers and the politicians lamented the reversion of Duncan Village to an overcrowded and under-serviced urban slum of well over 70,000 people. When I entered the field for the first time in 1995, I encountered a community in transition. A large section of the traditional working class had been moved out of the township by large employers and resettled in new company housing estates. This pushed unemployment levels in the area beyond 40 per cent of the adult population. Moreover, the political unity and high levels of community

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organisation that had characterised the township community during the struggle years of the 1980s had begun to dissipate with the collapse of civic structures and the rise of crime and violence, which entrenched the idea that Duncan Village had reverted to being an ‘irredeemable slum’.

Photo 1.3

duncan village proper, 2004

source: leslie bank.

frACTUred UrbAnIsm And The posT-ApArTheId CITy Colonial cities are classically dual cities, and South African cities, as we have seen, are not exceptions. These days the notion of the ‘dual city’ is most often invoked in relation to post-industrial cities, where the gap between the rich and poor is growing and the traditional middle and working class has been eroded by structural and economic change. Globalisation has increased the ability of the upper classes to realise larger profits while at the same time displacing jobs that were once secure for the traditional middle and working class. In countries like South Africa, where cities were already racially divided, the impact of globalisation and neoliberal economic restructuring has widened divisions between rich and poor, between township and suburb. The rhetoric of urban renewal in post-apartheid development demands that the townships become suburbs. In terms of official policy, all informal settlements are also to be converted into new low-cost housing estates by 2014 and townships are to be converted into vibrant, economically integrated and connected suburban


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settlements. However, everywhere one looks the problem of urban poverty seems to be growing. Thus, despite promises of a ‘better life for all’ in cities where all citizens have access to basic urban services and social welfare, the neoliberal economic policies of the ANC have helped to ensure that economic inequalities have grown since apartheid. The main problem for the traditional African working class in the townships is that steady economic growth since the 1990s has been accompanied by de-industrialisation and downsizing in manufacturing and mining (cf. Barchiesi 2008). This has undermined the traditional African urban working class, which is being replaced by what Waquant (2006) calls a precariat, an amalgamation of people who lack social organisation and access to secure wage labour employment. They now mostly live by their wits, depending on part-time casual employment, welfare grants and hustling in the informal economy (see Chapter 9). In 2000, Graham and Marvin developed the term ‘splintering urbanism’ to describe the ‘uneven overlay and retrofitting of new high performance urban infrastructures onto the apparently immanent, universal and (usually) public monopoly networks’ set up between the 1930s and the 1960s. They argue that the market liberalisation of the 1980s and 1990s ensured that high-end services and infrastructure could be delivered to geographically dispersed enclaves of wealthy consumers, thus creating the spatial effect of splintering access and connectivity to infrastructure. In theory, the old comprehensive modernist plans were ditched in favour of a model which allowed private sector agents to partner with the neoliberal state to rapidly improve services in selected, high-value areas, while ignoring investment in others. Other authors have noted how new forms of inequality and spatial segregation, associated with gated communities and fortressed neighbourhoods, have helped to ring-fence the rich and keep out the poor (Caldeira 2000). In Johannesburg, Martin Murray (2009: 10) recently notes that: if the steady accretion of luxury entertainment sites, enclosed shopping malls and gated residential communities in the northern suburbs [of the city] has come to symbolize the entry of the middle class urbanites into the culture of aspirant ‘world class’ cities, then the proliferation of overcrowded, resource starved informal settlements on the peri-urban fringe represents the dystopia of distressed urbanism. This uneasy coexistence of what some call ‘distressed urbanism’ (Murray 2009), others ‘amorphous urbanism’ (Gandy 2005), and yet others ‘ruined urbanisation’ (Simone 2004), – which they all associate with the social and economic dystopia of overcrowded, crime-ridden and poorly serviced townships, slums or ghettos – with areas of privilege, wealth, cosmopolitanism and global connectivity, lies at the heart of current debates about the African city. Some authors are choosing to ignore the distressed areas in their desire to push a version of the African city as dynamic, innovative and global. Nuttall and Mbembe (2005, 2008), for example, declare that to continue to define Johannesburg as a segregated, colonial or an apartheid city diverts attention

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away from its pedigree as an important global metropolis. They claim that Johannesburg is an ‘illusive metropolis’ and that many aspects of the city’s history, cultural and economic life position it within the global cities club. Watts (2005) objects, arguing that such a perspective ignores deeply rooted poverty and slum formation in the city, which is as much part of its ‘city-ness’ as its affluence and postmodern inclinations. Similar arguments have erupted around Dakar, a city that is a centre of cosmopolitan, global modernity, despite the fact that it runs on a fragile infrastructure that denies the vast majority of the population access to basic urban services, such as clean water and electricity (see Scheld 2007). In Lagos, Rem Koolhaus (2002) has famously turned the old dualism on its head by asserting that this seemingly chaotic and unplanned city represents the ‘perfect storm’ of neoliberalism, urbanism and globalisation, the ultimate market-driven global city of the future where the state has little or no influence on the shape and form urbanism takes. Koolhaus sees aspects of the future of Chicago and New York in Lagos now. Gandy (2005) strongly disagrees. He states that the unplanned ‘amorphous urbanism’ of Lagos is a complete disaster for the people of the city and is nothing short of catastrophic for the future, hardly something to be celebrated. Living in such squalor and poverty, he postulates, it is little wonder that so many Nigerians have turned either to evangelical Christianity or fundamentalist Islam for hope, succour and solace (Gandy 2005: 45; see also Davis 2006). One of the challenges we face in trying to move the debate beyond these stylised oppositions of the urban, global postmodern and the slum is to better grasp some of the similarities and differences between cities of the south. Robinson (2006) suggests that one way to achieve this is to dispense with the global cities model and adopt a non-hierarchical approach to understanding ‘ordinary cities’, one that reveals the complex sociality of the city and the cosmopolitan forms of urbanism that exist in the postcolonial world. One problem I have with the dual city model is that it reproduces ideas that locate modernity, change and innovation in that part of the city that is well-resourced and privileged, while it ignores the complexity of urbanism in poor areas of the city. It is bit like the old debate between the city and suburb, invoked by Berman (1988), Sennett (1977) and Jacobs (1961), where the dense and diverse city centre is seen as innovative, edgy, progressive and dynamic, always changing, while the socially thin suburb is presented as boring, repetitive and staid. In the dual city debate, the slums seem to have taken on some of the attributes of the dystopic suburb, which is often feminised as a space of routine, repetition and reproduction, where nothing much changes. The slum is also commonly presented as socially thin and fragile, as a place which lacks social density and durability. Just as everyday life in the suburb and its dynamic contribution to the city has remained sociologically hidden, so too, I would argue, has the sociality of the slum (or the township) remained a mystery, which is often theorised but improperly understood. Watts (2005) claims that if we are to better understand African and postcolonial cities, we need to focus much more on


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those parts of the African city that are less easily legible, recognisable and immediately visible. ‘What one needs to understand’, he urges, ‘is the politics of the governed in these vast spaces of exclusion and invisibility’ (2005: 190). And this is precisely what I set out to achieve in this book, which presents a detailed historical ethnography of social, economic and cultural change on the margins of the South African city. In undertaking this project, we would also do well to recognise that, as Graham (2000) himself points out: ‘binary oppositions are prone to exaggerate differences, confound description and prescription, and set up overburdened dualisms that miss continuities, underplay contingency and overstate the internal coherence of social forms’ (2000: 186). In the case of the South African city, it is clear that the slums or the economically marginal areas, which include the former township, are not actually located completely off the city’s infrastructural grids. In addition, there has been no sudden and absolute move away from urban modernist planning traditions to something openly neoliberal, postmodern and purely market-driven. What exists is a hybrid set of plans and practices that blend older ideas of the state as ‘master builder’ with a drive towards a more market-driven, splintering urbanism. It is also incorrect to assume that apartheid racial modernism, which precedes the current moment, was always successful in creating entirely new urban communities. People resisted forced relocation, state funds ran low at critical points, and the focus of urban planning sometimes shifted to other projects. This is precisely what occurred in Duncan Village in East London, where racial modernism was introduced in the 1960s and 1970s but never taken to its logical conclusion before it imploded, thus fragmenting the urban landscape of disadvantage further. The place is not and never was homogeneously ‘distressed’, nor is it a socially and economically ‘amorphous’ slum. In conceptual terms, I would like to suggest that the term fractured urbanism might usefully describe what is happening in many old townships and settlements like Duncan Village in South Africa, where the apartheid urban infrastructure still operates and is periodically extended and upgraded through new state investment, but nevertheless remains hopelessly over-extended in places where social life and economic need exceed both the capacity and the physical reach of existing grids. Under such conditions, distress translates into fracture, which breaks and segments the urban locale into different zones, niches, territories and settlements that are created, not by the force of real estate capitalism (Harvey 1989; Zukin 2000), nor by the imperatives of market-driven infrastructure and service provision for the rich, but by the failure of comprehensive urban planning systems and state structures to effectively manage counter-insurgent urbanisation and settlement, which continually overruns the plan. The process of fractured urbanism I describe in Duncan Village started in the 1960s, when the apartheid state failed to forcibly remove all targeted residents of the old East Bank location, leaving many to linger in transit camps and residential niches that were never removed or destroyed, and that gradually developed their own social character or charisma. In the post-1980s period, further fracturing has occurred as older

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grids and templates in the township plan cracked, broke and segmented under the weight of demographic stress, insurgent urbanisation and low levels of public investment and maintenance. This transformed the place into ‘complex and dense’ settlement of a variety of socio-spatial communities, with different settlement histories, dynamics and trajectories, all displaying a slightly different level of access to urban infrastructure, social services and livelihood opportunities. In this book I focus on different parts or zones of the new post-apartheid urban ecology and give the different socio-spatial segments – backyard shacks, hostels, free-standing shack areas, old formal rental enclaves, new Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) housing enclaves – careful attention in their own right, looking at their social composition, gender dynamics, identity politics and place-making tendencies. I argue that while the boundaries of these new socio-spatial communities are often very fluid, connections exist within and between them which contribute to the feel and identity of different niches and social enclaves. I also acknowledge varied and diverse forms of temporality in different localities, which gives each one its own unique character and identity within a broader sense of belonging to the marginal space, which has its own challenges and issues of identity and definition. These I address at the end of the book in a detailed discussion of marginality and the dissolution of place. The orgAnIsATIon of The book The chapter outline is broadly in keeping with the conceptual and historical analysis outlined above. In Chapter 2, as noted above, I revisit the East Bank location of the 1950s and attempt to re-evaluate some of the criticisms levelled against the trilogy volumes. Based on the restitution research I conducted between 1999 and 2001, I reconstruct a somewhat different account of the social and cultural history of that period and the nature of urbanism in the East Bank to that presented in the trilogy. In particular, I address significant silences in relation to urban cultural formation, which I attribute more to limitations of method than to a deficit of theory. The chapter does not discount the trilogy as an impressive ethnographic baseline from which to work, but highlights analytical gaps in these earlier analyses. The third chapter of the book turns readers’ attention to the unfolding of racial modernism in East London and its impact on the residents of the old locations. I argue that urban restructuring gained momentum after the urban riots in the East Bank in 1952, which had a profound impact on race relations in the city. The political mood in the city literally changed overnight as the old paternalism of the ‘city fathers’ was replaced by repression and authoritarianism. I then examine how the old East Bank location was destroyed and how Duncan Village township was erected in its place. I argue that the township model was much more than a means of controlling Africans and containing political unrest. It developed as a socio-spatial model, which drew inspiration from the American city and socialist urbanism, to design new urban African


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communities and subjectivities. The main focus is on the way this new regime of power and control was implemented and how local residents responded to it. Here we see how the new Duncan Village ended up being a social mixture of old and new, with important implications for the cultural politics of the new township. Chapter 4 picks up the story of Duncan Village in the 1980s, after the forced removals and restructuring of the previous two decades. The new township population stabilised at around 15,000, as opposed to the 50,000 people that had once lived in the East Bank. The residents of Duncan Village kicked out the apartheid-appointed black town councillors in 1982, ushering in ‘the era of the comrades’. The township was declared ungovernable and was now effectively ruled by young men deeply hostile to the white racist state. These youths deliberately reversed the rules of township governance and opened Duncan Village up as a ‘space of liberation’, as a new people’s democracy, a space of socialism where all who wished to live there would be permitted to do so. Within just a few years, apartheid modernism had imploded and the neatly planned neighbourhoods were again overrun with wood-and-iron shacks, transforming the township back into an overcrowded urban slum. This chapter pays particular attention to the emergence of the sprawling new shack areas which encircled the township, and analyses the changing social and cultural dynamics of the township as a whole, telling a story of multiple transitions in politics and identity as Duncan Village was remade. The above discussion lays the foundation for a series of more specific investigations of social identity, cultural style, and the politics of space and place. In Chapter 5 I look at the phenomenon of ‘the comrades’, not as a political movement, which is how they are usually described, but as a cultural style. I argue that ‘the comrades’ dismantled the central divide between urban and rural youth that had dominated township politics over the preceding decades. By dismantling the age-old division between ‘borners’ and ‘bumpkins’, they strengthened their capacity for resistance and encouraged the formation of more hybrid identities and values, ones that could absorb aspects of rural youth socialisation while still embracing urban values and forms of struggle. Rural tropes of power and identity informed the creation of ‘people’s courts’ in this period, while country values associated with fighting and bravery were valorised. The chapter also explores how the style of the comrades came to be expressed in the domestic sphere through the creation of new kinds of youth households, where young people lived together without getting married. From the free-standing shacks and the township streets, my attention shifts to single-sex hostels. The research for this chapter is based on extensive fieldwork in B-hostel complex in Duncan Village, which had been built in 1959 and was transformed into a family housing unit in 2000. My research was conducted just before this transformation occurred, at a time when women were not welcome in a hostel complex, which remained a residual focus of an older male migrant identity. The central theme of the chapter is a concern with the reconstruction of migrant cultures and consciousness in the

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hostel after the 1960s. I argue that, far from falling away with relocation, Red migrant culture was powerfully reconstructed in the hostels by conservative migrants from the former Transkei area. The chapter tracks the reconstruction of these pockets of Red subcultural life and explores its longevity in the township. Chapter 7 moves from the hostels to the homes of the formal township residents who were expecting Duncan Village to evolve into a stable and prosperous suburban-style residential area. Here I explore cultural models of the house and of home-making, and show how these have changed over time. I begin by documenting the destruction of the female-centred, matrifocal household model and its replacement with the hetero-patriarchal model of the township house, which casts men as breadwinners and women as homemakers. I argue that individualising the home inside was a way in which women could assert their individuality and resist the uniformity of the authoritarian township model. I then proceed to explore how house-making has changed since the 1980s with the collapse of full male employment and the growth of new opportunities for women in the informal economy. I argue that, while many women would like to recreate older models of a female-centred entrepreneurial household, these are increasingly difficult to realise in the context of domestic fragmentation and intergenerational conflict. I also show how many of these households have become ‘married to the state’, in the sense that their members are critically dependent on state grants for survival. From those in the formal homes we move to the backyards and, more specifically, to the social spaces of shack communities that have arisen in yards behind formal houses. Here I track the changing history and social composition of the backyard residents. When the Mayers worked in the location, the yards were filled with migrants. By the 1990s, however, these spaces were predominantly inhabited by single women with children. The feminisation of the yards thus forms the central focus of this chapter, as well as the changing relationships between landlords and tenants. I argue here that backyards emerged as critical spaces for the survival of women in the city. Through an analysis of the rhythms of the yards, I demonstrate how networks are constructed and spaces used in women’s struggles against marginalisation, interpersonal violence and exclusion. The concluding chapter of the book shifts the discussion from the anthropology of urbanism to the comparative sociology of exclusion and marginality. Here I apply Wacquant’s (2006) model for the analysis of advanced urban marginality and assess the extent to which it fits the Duncan Village case material. I am particularly interested here in the issue of ‘spatial stigma’ or the disillusion of place. I try to show how Duncan Village, despite its very distinguished history of urban achievement and struggle, has now become a place of shame, a dishonoured urban locality, which few believe has a viable future. In making this argument, I suggest that it is the increasingly fractured nature of the township urban experience, the deep


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social and gender cleavages that exist in the township, and the failure of new place-making strategies to capture the imagination of township residents that have ensured the increasing marginality of Duncan Village as a place and generated increasingly bleak imaginations of the urban among its residents, many of whom are convinced that yet another spatial removal represents their best chance of urban survival. I conclude by suggesting that, as yet another set of redevelopment plans are implemented, the very future of this historic township hangs in the balance.