The People Behind the Walls: Insecurity, Identity and Gated Communities
Delete the word ‘Los Angeles’ and the above quote from Mike Davis’s celebrated book, City of Quartz, could apply as well to Johannesburg as to California’s most notoriously divided city. Former white suburbs, now home to a predominantly white, but increasingly non-racial post-Fordist, middle class, range from ranch-style houses on large stands, to the more recent phenomenon of compact and often overpriced ‘cluster homes’ in secure housing complexes. What residents of both forms of housing share in common, with each other and with Davis’s picture of Los Angeles’s Westside, are the ubiquitous ‘armed response’ signs and a collective paranoia about ‘security’. However, whereas Davis presents a picture of ‘fortress LA’ as a city where there is ‘civil warfare’ between those who can afford to protect themselves from the urban jungle and those who cannot, our picture of Johannesburg suggests that, in a city fractured by past divisions and reeling under the onslaught of new ones, it is not only the wealthy who find ways to barricade themselves behind protective barriers.