Post democracy, South Africa has been host to a large influx of migrants from Africa and South Asia. The focus of this paper reflects four years of ethnographic fieldwork researching how new migrant communities (re)construct space and place in the suburb of Fordsburg, Johannesburg. Established as a white immigrant community in 1888, the suburb undergoes several iterations of community. Post-1994, a diverse range of ethnic groups from Somalia, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Morocco, to migrants from China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Malaysia, claim a place of belonging to the suburb. It shows how communities are forged through education, religion, conflict, co-operation, reciprocity and solidarity. The paper examines how people cope in the face of adversity and argues that communities are forged and contested within a tangled web of power relations and rank ordering of migrant groups. Empirical findings, based on qualitative interviews with local South Africans as well as Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Malawian and Egyptian migrants and their understanding of the notions of community, belonging and identity is presented within a social capital framework, specifically looking at bridging and bonding capital. Community denotes a space or ‘place’ where we root ourselves, where we belong and it is this attachment to place that shapes our own personal identity in community. I argue that an instrumental and contingent solidarity, based on need and circumstance binds migrant communities. Even in the creation of ethnic enclaves there is a move towards a politics of inclusion that requires all parties to transcend ‘local-foreign’ divides that privilege other identities. The narratives show a complex interplay of multiple identities as migrants, workers, and South Asians, sometimes with ambivalent implications for social cohesion.
Pragna Rugunanan is an associate professor at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. Her research focuses on the construction of migrant communities among African and South Asian communities in South Africa. Her research interests include the Sociology of migration and labour studies; changing patterns of work, social networks, and community studies. She has published on migration, gender, xenophobia, education and citizenship. She is a current recipient of a NIHSS Brics Mobility Grant and an NRF Thuthuka grant holder in the post-PHD track. Pragna has served on the executive of the South African Sociological Association, was a council member and is currently a working group convener for the Industrial and Economic Group. Pragna is part of the Editorial Collective for Gender Questions, an accredited journal with the Department of Higher Education, for the period 2018-2020. Since her return to academia, she has been involved in NRF funded research projects on Family, Well-Being and Resilience; Social Capital and Citizenship; Refugee and Migration projects. Her current research project focuses on ‘Migration, identities and trans-continental linkages: Studying the Indian diaspora in South Africa’.
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This is the ninety-fifth in a series of Urban Workshops planned by the Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH), New Delhi and Centre for Policy Research (CPR). These workshops seek to provoke public discussion on issues relating to the development of the city and try to address all its facets including its administration, culture, economy, society and politics. For further information, please contact: Olivier Telle of CSH at firstname.lastname@example.org, Partha Mukhopadhyay at email@example.com or Marie-Hélène Zerah at firstname.lastname@example.org