Anthropology and the New Cosmopolitanism: Rooted, Feminist and Vernacular Perspectives

By Pnina Werbner | Go to book overview

15
Xenophobia and Xenophilia in South Africa:
African Migrants in Cape Town1

Owen B. Sichone

'Mwana shenda atasha nyina kunaya ('He who doesn't travel claims his mother is
the best cook in the world').

Zambian saying


The New Global Apartheid

A certain type of migrant, the sort that travels without passports or visas, without any particular place to go, making a new life wherever he or she happens to be, challenges the system of global apartheid and claims the right to move freely in defiance of the regime of state borders (erroneously referred to as 'national boundaries'). Such migrants also make it possible for others, who belong to the immobile 97 per cent of the human population that never leaves home, to connect with the world in ways that facilitate cultural, economic and other transfers. Sometimes their impact upon the host population belies their small numbers in dramatic and unpredictable ways. This chapter explores such demotic cosmopolitans and their personal mobility in post-apartheid South Africa. In doing so, it seeks to shift the focus in migration studies from labour migration and refugees to independent 'economic' migrants in order to argue that, despite the best efforts of postcolonial states to tie African people's mobility to labour contracts, some migrants have managed to venture beyond the confines of their nation-states, crafts or levels of education, in order to 'find a place for themselves' wherever they choose. Depending as they do for their success on personal relationships with fellow migrants and with individuals in the host country, these migrants are able to make journeys to unknown destinations which recall the migration myths of old, the sorts of journeys that in Zambian Bemba are referred to as going iciyeyeye.

There are, it seems, many ways of being cosmopolitan in a globalising world. While Hannerz (1990) has looked for cosmopolitan attitudes and competencies only among the elites 'wishing to engage with the Other,' Werbner (1999) describes working-class people who are open, and have the skills and experience

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