Language and the Body as Sites of (Un)making the 'Other': Zimbabwean Migrants' Passage in Johannesburg, South Africa


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Sociology and Social Anthropology


The proposed project primarily focuses on two interrelated concerns in the lives of Zimbabweans in South Africa. On one hand, the study explores how within a context of symbolic as well as physical violence from both above and below, Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa craft spaces for themselves through language. On the other, it focuses on the emergent subjectivities, fantasies and imaginaries associated with migrants’ engagement with exclusion. The book offers a critical reading of language as a multilayered situated resource rather than a flat resource, and breaks with essentialist analytical positions that endow migrants’ languages a static predetermined use value outside of empirical processes of social interaction. Deploying a multisited ethnography in five Johannesburg neighborhoods, the book privileges migrants’ strategic modes of action-their body and language work- in various empirical sites of interaction whose internal logics- mirror the spatial, socioeconomic, cultural, linguistic and social fragmentations that characterize Johannesburg.