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Transplants and Transients: Idioms of Belonging and Dislocation in Inner-City Johannesburg

  • Loren B. Landau

Abstract:

South Africa's economic and political liberalization have engendered new patterns of immigration and urbanization that find South Africans and foreign migrants converging on the streets of inner-city Johannesburg. As they interact, citizens and non-nationals have developed competing idioms for relating to one another and the space they share. For South Africans, this often means appealing to a nativist idiom that locates commonality amidst an allochthonous citizenry while attempting to prohibit foreign transplantation. Non-nationals counter this with an idiom of permanent transit, a way of positioning themselves as outsiders lodged in a superior and unrooted state. These idioms represent competing visions for the inner city's future. For South Africans, the idiom is a generative node of modern nationalist formation. For those permanently passing through the city, it is an idiom of a denationalized “nowhereville.”

Résumé:

La libéralisation économique et politique en Afrique du Sud a engendré de nouveaux modèles d'immigration et d'urbanisation qui font converger les Sud-africains et les nouveaux immigrants vers les rues du centre de Johannesburg. Alors qu'ils se côtoient, les citoyens et les étrangers ont développé des expressions pro-pres pour décrire leurs relations dans l'espace qu'ils partagent. Pour les Sud-africains, cela veut souvent dire qu'ils font appel au discours nativiste qui envisage le partage commun d'une identité citoyenne allogène tout en refusant l'idée d'une transplantation étrangère. Les étrangers contredisent cet idiome avec une perception de transit perpétuel, une manière de se positionner en tant qu'outsiders logés dans un état supérieur et déraciné. Ces perceptions représentent des visions con currentes de l'avenir du centre-ville. Pour les Sud-africains, l'idiome est une expression concrète de la formation moderne nationale. Pour les nomades permanents de la ville, leur idiome est l'expression d'une ville sans identité, dénationalisée.

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Transplants and Transients: Idioms of Belonging and Dislocation in Inner-City Johannesburg

  • Loren B. Landau

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