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Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies - BIGSAS

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Mahlatsi, Malaika


Research interests:

Gentrification in African cities, Urban governance in Africa, Spatial reconstruction in post-colonial cities, Public spaces and placemaking in Africa, Urban food security in South African townships, Equity dimensions of water security in Africa

Geographical Area:

South Africa

Current Project:

Women on the margins of African cities: An analysis of gendered geographies of gentrification in South Africa

Gentrification is the economic, social, cultural, political and physical change to an area that results in class transformation and displacement for those living and operating businesses there. While there exists some literature on the question of gentrification in South Africa, all of which trace the history of the post-apartheid city and the socio-economic and spatial impacts of gentrification on the working-class poor, there is none with a specific focus on gendered geographies of gentrification. Because these studies are not specifically focused on the displacement of women in the gentrified spaces, women are rendered invisible and on thus, continue to be on the receiving end of these “urban regeneration” processes. These women are predominantly Black, working-class, and poor. A further limitation with gentrification research in Africa is that it transposes theorisation from the global North. While there are some notable similarities, post-colonial scholars have argued against the transposition of Western knowledge onto urban spaces or cities. They contend that employing theories transposed from Western realities is akin to permitting a colonial exertion of intellectual power.


Gentrification in South Africa has its roots in three interlinked factors: colonialism, the migrant labour system and the abolition of apartheid that resulted in massive internal migration. This qualitative study undertakes to address two specific research gaps: the African understanding and experience of gentrification, and the gendered nature of gentrification in African cities, with specific reference to South Africa. It aims to investigate the socio-spatial, economic and political impacts of gentrification on women in South African cities. Employing the theories of decoloniality and intersectionality - which are concerned with the interconnectedness of colonialism, imperialism, racism, sexism, ethnicism and regionalism – the study demonstrates how in post-apartheid South African cities, interlocking systems of power function to place Black women at the margins of economic activity and to deprive Black working-class women of productive power. In this way, they experience disenfranchisement as both an economic and socio-spatial construct. To make sense of this, narrative interviews will be used to investigate how South African women interpret their own individual experiences within gentrified geographies.

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