Rethinking Urban South Africa

This reflection on the past treatment of urban segregation in South Africa begins with the assertion that the implicit acceptance of ‘race’ as a legitimate and primary category of inquiry has impoverished the understanding of residential segregation in the South African city. The first section of the paper illustrates the prevalence of racially defined empirical urban studies and explains why this categorization remains unchallenged. In the second section the authors demonstrate that where efforts are made to explain the emergence of a racialized urban structure, inappropriate or inadequate points of reference are involved. Particular attention is given to studies on the economic base of urban segregation, feminist perspectives on urban policy, the literature on white supremacy and the city, and the literature on ‘race’. The final section suggests an alternative approach to exploring urban segregation. Specifically, it addresses the questions: what did urban administrators try to achieve in the early part of the 20th century and why did they do things the way they did? This provides a platform for a discussion of the emergence of local government in the 1910s and 1920s, emphasizing concerns with urban growth, urban design and urban management. This is followed by an examination of the influence of modernist planners in the shaping of the ‘racially’ segregated city after the Second World War. Notes, ref., sum.

Title:Rethinking Urban South Africa
Authors:Parnell, Susan
Mabin, Alan
Year:1995
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Volume:21
Issue:1
Period:March
Pages:39-61
Language:English
Geographic term:South Africa
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/2637330
Abstract:This reflection on the past treatment of urban segregation in South Africa begins with the assertion that the implicit acceptance of ‘race’ as a legitimate and primary category of inquiry has impoverished the understanding of residential segregation in the South African city. The first section of the paper illustrates the prevalence of racially defined empirical urban studies and explains why this categorization remains unchallenged. In the second section the authors demonstrate that where efforts are made to explain the emergence of a racialized urban structure, inappropriate or inadequate points of reference are involved. Particular attention is given to studies on the economic base of urban segregation, feminist perspectives on urban policy, the literature on white supremacy and the city, and the literature on ‘race’. The final section suggests an alternative approach to exploring urban segregation. Specifically, it addresses the questions: what did urban administrators try to achieve in the early part of the 20th century and why did they do things the way they did? This provides a platform for a discussion of the emergence of local government in the 1910s and 1920s, emphasizing concerns with urban growth, urban design and urban management. This is followed by an examination of the influence of modernist planners in the shaping of the ‘racially’ segregated city after the Second World War. Notes, ref., sum.