Informality, Infrastructure and the State in Post-Apartheid Johannesburg

Wafer, Alex (2011). Informality, Infrastructure and the State in Post-Apartheid Johannesburg. PhD thesis The Open University.



The central argument of this thesis is that the spatiality of encounter between state and citizenship in post-apartheid South Africa is unequal and discontinuous. Although the developmental postapartheid state remains a powerful political narrative, the existence of what have been called 'informal' modes of association and organisation suggests that this imagination has not completely permeated post-apartheid society. Based on a case study of 'informal' street traders in inner city Johannesburg, I argue in this thesis that in fact a very particular state geography is emergent in post-apartheid South Africa: using a theoretical literature that includes state theory, govemmentality studies and critical post-colonial geography I suggest that mutual imaginations of state and citizenship intersect in particular nodes of encounter. In a context where the institutions of state have neither a coherent nor a singular view of everyday associational life in the city, the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality has developed a strategy of building formal market places in an attempt to intersect the informal networks that most street traders are implicated into. Markets such as the high-profile Metro Mall in the inner city of Johannesburg therefore serve as nodes of encounter between state and citizens, or what Law (2004) might refer to as Obligatory Points of Passage. Through these markets, the municipality has attempted to encourage traders to imagine themselves as responsible entrepreneurs, and to therefore implicate traders into new networks of association that allow traders to share in an imagination of the post-apartheid developmental state. However, these encounters do not always produce predictable outcomes, and I demonstrate how the Metro Mall serves also as a context for traders to represent to the municipality different expectations of citizenship.

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