Xenophobia and civil society: Durban's structured social divisions

Baruti Amisi, Patrick Bond, Nokuthula Cele, Trevor Ngwane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Xenophobia in Durban was of a lower intensity than in South Africa's other two main metropolises, Johannesburg and Cape Town, in the 2008-10 period, and yet was just as durable, with incidents continuing to reflect underlying social antagonism. The roots of the conflict are, we argue, to be found in the material processes of 'uneven and combined development' that are too rarely tackled in the public or policy spheres. These processes have been difficult for researchers and critical civil society forces to comprehend and counteract because they are structural in form. In the context of an overall economic crisis and rising inequality and urban poverty, these processes include a glutted labour market, housing shortages, township retail competition, highly gendered cultural differences, and apparently intractable regional geopolitical tensions. These root-cause pressures continue-as will xenophobia-because short of a national political shift in power and interests, they are extremely difficult to resolve. As a result, civil society will continue band-aiding the problems when they surface as social crises, or be compelled to generate much more explicit politics of regional solidarity, including in Durban, whose port and traditions of community politics already offer examples of the kinds of alliances required in future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-83
Number of pages25
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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