Translocal Optimisation: Assembling Rural and Urban Spaces for Later Life in Urban Namibia and Uganda
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It is often assumed that sub-Saharan African urban migrants return in later life to the villages from which they originated. This article challenges this model of circular migration by exploring the strategies of older adults who live permanently in urban areas. The empirical material comes from ethnographic case studies in two industrial towns formed by the apartheid and colonial housing policies of the 1950s and 1960s: Kuisebmond in Walvis Bay, Namibia, a former apartheid ‘location’; and Walukuba in Jinja, Uganda, a former ‘African’ rental estate. Older adults’ housing situation and its significance for their strategies and choices in later life provide the focus. The results show that even if many strategies appeared that are often associated with a return to the rural place of origin, for many the move back to the village was not a viable option. Participants in the study nurtured contacts with their places of origin, for example by making regular visits, sending remittances, contributing to housing in the village and receiving relatives in town. It is argued that these strategies, together with urban advantages – in particular a good housing situation – must be understood as translocal optimisation, in which potentialities emerge from an assemblage of various actors in different, connected locales. The optimal situation in which to age – in rural or urban areas – is a product of co-emergent actors and not necessarily an individual choice on the part of the older adult. The study concludes that urban living in later life seems to be an alternative choice for a group of older adults and must be acknowledged.
Keywords: potentiality, assemblage, housing, later life, urbanisation, migration, rural–urban connection
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Journal of Southern African Studies, 46:1, 109-127, DOI: 10.1080/03057070.2020.1718382
- Journal Article