Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis
Edited by Sarah Nuttall and Achille Mbembe
Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis is a pioneering effort to insert South Africa’s largest city into urban theory on its own terms. Johannesburg is Africa’s premier metropolis. Yet theories of urbanization have tended to cast it as an emblem of irresolvable crisis, the spatial embodiment of unequal economic relations and segregationist policies, a city that responds to but does not contribute to modernity on the global scale. Complicating and contesting such characterizations, the contributors to this collection reassess classic theories of metropolitan modernity as they explore the experience of ‘citiness’ and urban life in post-apartheid South Africa. They portray Johannesburg as a polycentric and international city with a hybrid history that continually permeates the present. Turning its back on rigid rationalities of planning and racial separation, Johannesburg has become a place of intermingling and improvisation, a city that is fast developing its own brand of cosmopolitan culture. The volume’s essays include and investigation of representation and self-stylisation in the city, and ethnographic examination of frictions zones and practices of social reproduction in inner-city Johannesburg, and a discussion of the economic and litereary relationship between Johannesburg and Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. One contributor considers how Johannesburg’s cosmopolitan sociability enabled the anti-colonial projects of Ghandi and Mandela. Journalists, artists, architects, writers and scholars bring contemporary Johannesburg to life in ten short pieces which include reflections on music and megamalls, nightlife, living as foreigners in the city, and built spaces.