A Culture of Fearing ‘The Other’: Spatial Segregation in South Africa

Seminar at Centre for Civil Society, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (abstract)

Henrik Valeur, 2018

Cities can be seen as complex human environments in which people with different backgrounds and aspirations interact, thus creating possibilities for further increasing the complexity of the culture, economy and society. However, counter processes of spatial segregation seem to gather strength across the globe, as people increasingly tend to live in isolated islands of gated compounds, slum areas and other kinds of settlements inhabited by people who share the same ethnicity, socio-economic status, lifestyles, political beliefs etc. The potentially disastrous social consequences of these processes of spatial segregation may be further exacerbated by the proliferation of so-called “social” media and sophisticated systems of surveillance.

South Africa seems like a particularly extreme case of spatial segregation, even 24 years after apartheid. What is it that prevents the formation of a complex society in South African? It would seem that fear and suspicion of “the other” plays a decisive role. But is the only answer to this a further militarization of urban spaces, more fences and barbed wire, more barking dogs and signs of “armed response”?