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People, policy, history: citizenship and black urban communities in South Africa


Year published: 2021
Categories: Journal Article

Author / Authors:

  • Theodore Powers


Journal of Contemporary African Studies, DOI: 10.1080/02589001.2021.1950911


State-led efforts to limit the presence of black South Africans in urban areas during the colonial and apartheid eras led to recurrent attempts at self-governance within black urban areas, which produced varying types of non-state socio-political organisation. Based on a historical analysis of policy and politics, I propose that the material needs and citizenship claims of black urban communities have been historically expressed via these non-state organisational intermediaries, which have taken form within different social, political, and economic contexts. Based on this position, I propose a reconsideration of Mahmood Mamdani’s (1996, Citizen and Subject: contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Colonialism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) analysis of the historical and institutional contradictions that derived from the colonial era in South Africa. In addition, I suggest that anthropologists of policy consider analysing longer, interconnected histories of policy process in order to more accurately situate the social, cultural, political, and economic conditions within which policies take shape.


  • Journal Article