Academic journal article African Studies Review

Emerging Johannesburg: Perspectives on the Postapartheid City

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Emerging Johannesburg: Perspectives on the Postapartheid City

Article excerpt

Richard Tomlinson, et al., eds. Emerging Johannesburg: Perspectives on the Postapartheid City. New York, London: Routledge, 2003. xv + 298 pp. Photographs. References. Bibliography. $28.95. Paper.

Under apartheid, the editors of this exciting compilation point out, Johannesburg had one dominant identity. As the financial hub of South Africa, it was the quintessential apartheid city, serving as a symbol of white supremacy in its persistent reminder of all that was demanded of and denied to the black majority. In the last two triumphant decades, the city has undergone staggering changes. As it, along with the country as a whole, emerges from its sordid past, understandings of the city have multiplied. From one Johannesburg to Jo'burg, Jozi, and Egoli, this single locale has taken on a variety of identities for the diverse populations that now call it home. Probed in this interdisciplinary assemblage of works from the 2000 conference "Urban Futures," the competing, complex identities of an emerging, postapartheid Johannesburg are thrown into new relief.

The book separates its investigations into the city's transformation into four thematic categories. The first contains five chapters based on spatial analyses of the city since the demise of apartheid. They pay particular attention to the massive demographic changes-the "flight" of white residents (and wealth) from the inner city to the increasingly fortified northern suburbs and the concurrent influx to the center city of both black South Africans and African immigrants from places such as Nigeria and the Congo. Examining the effects of population changes from diverse angles, the authors explore such topics as the security-obsessed architecture of the northern suburbs, the demographics of shopping, and the growth of ethnic enclaves. The conclusions they reach are sobering. Persistent retreats from society, xenophobia, and escalating economic hardships associated with life in the inner city and townships ensure the existence of a deeply fractured city, making an integrated Johannesburg an ever-receding ideal.

Part 2, "Experiencing Change," looks at the lived realities described in the first part: small business owners' struggles to make a living, the devastating outcomes of violent crime, and the haphazard ways in which people come to see themselves as belonging to the city. In a photographic essay, the Johannesburg artist Rodney Place showcases works from his Retreks: Post-cards 7999 collection. …

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