Provincializing urban appropriation: Agonistic transgression as a mode of actually existing appropriation in South African cities

Mary Lawhon*, Joseph Pierce, Anesu Makina

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Urban appropriation is a key dimension of both Lefebvre's widely hailed ‘Right to the City’ and Bayat's concept of ‘quiet encroachment’. For Lefebvre, appropriation is a (generally unrealized) claim by those who do not ‘have’ the city of a right to ‘take’ it. Bayat, in contrast, characterizes actually existing appropriation as motivated by everyday needs, not aimed at wider social change. While both theorizations may be useful, we argue that a third mode of appropriation is apparent in South African urban contexts. Actors often act in ways that could be characterized as appropriative, yet do not work to consolidate an abrogated appropriative right or durable permission. Nor are they adequately explained as apolitical or individualistic; the logic used to justify them similarly is based neither on rights nor needs. We label such appropriation ‘agonistically transgressive’. We argue that agonistically transgressive appropriations are particularly evident in post-apartheid South Africa, in part because of changing urban conditions and consequent renegotiations of spatial regulation. Using examples of urban land appropriation for housing in South Africa, we briefly illustrate how thinking pluralistically about urban appropriation might help better understand its actually existing forms in—and beyond—the global South.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-131
Number of pages15
JournalSingapore Journal of Tropical Geography
Volume39
Issue number1
Early online date6 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

Keywords

  • informal sector
  • provincializing theory
  • quiet encroachment
  • Right to the City
  • South Africa
  • urban appropriation

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