Year: 2010
Working paper number: 275
Author: Muyeba, Singumbe
Unit: SSU

Since the end of apartheid, many scholars of South Africa have shifted from a position of optimism about the prospects for racial desegregation and integration to one of scepticism. Racial segregation and antipathy appear to have deep and enduring roots in South Africa. Very few people live in racially integrated neighbourhoods. Most such neighbourhoods are middle-class or elite neighbourhoods, where integration is due to the rapid upward mobility of some 'African', 'coloured' and 'Indian' people into the middle class and elite. This paper examines a different and more unusual set of people living in racially-integrated residential neighbourhoods: low-income coloured and African people living in atypical new public housing projects, where state-subsidised houses were (unusually) allocated so as to create a mixed neighbourhood. Because people living in Delft South or Tambo Square – two neighbourhoods in Cape Town – did not choose to live in a racially-integrated, the study of their evolving inter-racial interactions helps to understand anew the possibility of transcending racial division in a society like South Africa. We find that residents of these neighbourhoods retain a highly racialised discourse and subscribe to some racial stereotypes. At the same time, however, a variety of positive inter-racial interactions occur, and friendships form, beyond people's expectations.

Publication file: wp275.pdf