The xenophobic attacks in South Africa earlier this year highlighted the tenuousness of migrant life in South Africa. South African attacks on foreigners are overwhelmingly directed at African immigrants (particularly Somalis working in South Africa’s townships), although recently Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have been targeted as well. The flare-ups in early 2015 are only heightened versions of what many migrants experience on a day-to-day basis in South Africa. Violent forms of exclusion from the “host society” (which is not necessarily a unitary entity in itself) structure immigrant business practices; and importantly, it is not only South African nationals who cause problems for African immigrants. Two articles that we recently published in academic journals highlight immigrant business strategies and the differentiation between and within certain immigrant groups within the context of post-apartheid Johannesburg. Below I provide a brief overview of the articles and include links to the publishers’ pages.
The first article, published early this year, focused on broad immigrant business strategies and experiences of African immigrants in three areas of Johannesburg. In “City on edge: Immigrant businesses and the right to urban space in inner-city Johannesburg” (Urban Geography), Richard Grant and I drew on nearly a year of fieldwork in three neighborhoods of Johannesburg to sketch a comparison of how the business strategies of different immigrant groups mapped onto the urban landscape of post-apartheid Johannesburg. The study compared business dynamics and immigrant viewpoints on life in South Africa in three areas known as immigrant-dominated neighborhoods in and around Jo’burg’s inner city: the Jeppe/Delvers Ethiopian business district, the Somali ethnic enclave in Mayfair, and the diverse area along Rocky/Raleigh Street in Yeoville.