chapter  1
4 Pages

Introduction to a Divided City

For many people, Johannesburg has become the imagined spectre of our urban future. Global anxieties about catastrophic urban explosion, social fracture, environmental degradation, escalating crime and violence, as well as rampant consumerism alongside grinding poverty, are projected onto a city the fate of which has implications and resonance way beyond its borders. No doubt, the experience of Johannesburg is also very particular, not least because of its origins in gold production built on the sweat equity of black migrant workers and its reputation as the quintessential apartheid city. Nevertheless, it is no coincidence that Johannesburg evokes frequent comparison with cities across the North and South. For example, Teresa Caldeira (2000, p1) positions her recent study of São Paulo as a city of walls, alongside ‘cities as distinct as … Los Angeles, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires, Budapest, Mexico City and Miami’. Specifically, she equates the discourses of fear and practices of segregation associated with transitions to democracy in Latin America, the decline of socialism in Eastern Europe and the influx of immigrants into cities of North America with those fears and responses accompanying the end of apartheid in South Africa.