The Realm of Compassion: Humanitarian Interventions and the Everyday Life of Migrants in Johannesburg


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships




This project seeks to examine two issues arising out of a specific locality in innercity Johannesburg- the Central Methodist Church- a labyrinthine six-storey building that for a number of years accomodated thousands of displaced individuals from Zimbabwe. In the first instance the project focuses on the practicalities, rationalities and understandings that inform humanitarian organizations and the interventions instituted to assist individuals. Secondly, the project examines how these interventions articulate with the realities and aspirations of individuals that have traditionally moved in pursuit of livelihoods by detailing their experiences and livelihood strategies. The study will provide an ethnographic and nuanced analysis of what happens when individuals living within the margins of society are forced, through circumscribed options, to access social benefits and rights through acsribing to humanitarian categories. The project aims to make a contribution to the discourse on migration, indigence, victimhood and the practices of humanitarian institutions.