The Elusive Metropolis
Sarah Nuttall and Achille Mbembe
With an Afterword by Arjun Appadurai and Carol A. Breckenridge
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 urbanisation have cast it as an emblem of irresolvable crisis, the spatial embodiment of unequal economic relations and segregationist policies, and 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 “city-ness” 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 an investigation of representation and self-stylization in the city, an ethnographic examination of friction zones and practices of social reproduction in its inner city, and a discussion of the economic and literary relationship between Johannesburg and Maputo, Mozambique’s capital. One contributor considers how Johannesburg’s cosmopolitan sociability enabled the anticolonial projects of Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Journalists, artists, architects, writers and scholars bring contemporary Johannesburg to life in ten short pieces, including reflections on music and megamalls, nightlife, built spaces, and life for foreigners in the city.
978 1 86814 473 0