Language and the Geo-Politics of (dis)Location: A Study of Zimbabwean Shona and Ndebele Speakers in Johannesburg

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 8:45 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Lloyd HILL , Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Gugulethu SIZIBA , University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa
This paper explores the language repertoires and survival strategies of Zimbabwean migrants in Johannesburg.  In the aftermath of the May 2008 attacks – now widely termed ‘xenophobic attacks’ – the status of African migrants in South Africa has been the subject of much critical discussion.  By virtue of a multifaceted crisis in their country, Zimbabwean Shona and Ndebele speakers have a particularly marked presence in South Africa. In this paper we explore the geo-politics of ‘otherization’ within in the metropolitan boundaries of the “City of Johannesburg.” We begin with a GIS-based study of speakers designated “other” in the 2011 census; focusing particular attention on the distribution of foreign others at neighbourhood (sub-place) level. This section provides the backdrop to a more focused study of Zimbabwean migrants, drawing on ethnographic research conducted in five neighbourhoods. Using Bourdieu’s “economy of social practice” as an analytical framework, we show how each neighbourhood is a social universe of struggle that is inscribed with its own internal logic and relational matrix of recognition, and how language repertoires are adapted to fit these matrices. We discuss these patterns critically, and relate them to the wider “field of power”, a complex sociolinguistic economy that belies the post-1996 Constitutional enshrinement of eleven official languages.