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Language and the geopolitics of (dis)location: A study of Zimbabwean Shona and Ndebele speakers in Johannesburg

  • Gugulethu Siziba (a1) and Lloyd Hill (a1)

Abstract

The Zimbabwean diaspora is a well-documented phenomenon. While much research has been done on Zimbabwean migration to South Africa, the role that language plays in this process has not been well researched. This article draws on South African census data and qualitative fieldwork data to explore the manner in which Zimbabwean migrants use languages to appropriate spaces for themselves in the City of Johannesburg. The census data shows that African migrants tend to concentrate in the Johannesburg CBD, and fieldwork in this area reveals that Zimbabwean migrants are particularly well established in two suburbs—Yeoville and Hillbrow. The article explores migrant language repertoires, which include English, Shona, Ndebele, and a variant of Zulu. While many contributions to the migration literature tend to assume a strong association between language and ethnicity, the article shows how this relationship is mediated by geographic location and social positioning within the city. (Language, migration, Johannesburg, South Africa, Zimbabwe)*

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Lloyd Hill, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1 Matieland 7602, Stellenbosch, South Africa lloydhill@sun.ac.za

Footnotes

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Gugulethu Siziba died on 14 February 2017. A website commemorating his life and work can be found at http://www.gugulethusiziba.org/. The final draft was adapted by the second author.

*

This article draws on Ph.D. research (Siziba 2013) that was funded by a Stellenbosch Graduate School scholarship and a Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa Fellowship, funded by the Social Science Research Council. The South African Census-based research formed part of a project—Language and Urban Social Space (2014–2016)—funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa (Grant 91563). We would like to thank Stephanie Rudwick and an anonymous reviewer for comments made on the initial draft of this article.

Footnotes

References

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Language and the geopolitics of (dis)location: A study of Zimbabwean Shona and Ndebele speakers in Johannesburg

  • Gugulethu Siziba (a1) and Lloyd Hill (a1)

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