Migrating Beyond Borders and States among informal South Asian Migrant Workers in South Africa

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 14:15
Location: John Bassett Theatre (102) (MTCC NORTH BUILDING)
Oral Presentation
Pragna RUGUNANAN, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
South Africa provides an interesting case study for unravelling the reasons for the increase in South to South migration. An Egyptian migrant in South Africa claims his right by stating “Egypt is still in Africa, not like Pakistan. It is still our home you know”. The dichotomy of inclusion and exclusion raises questions into how migrants claim a space, a sense of belonging and demarcate territory. Even though South African cities are marked by rising discontent and unemployment, emanating in violence and crime against specific immigrant groups, for many migrants in South Africa's informal sector, out-migration is seen as a form of upward mobility. South Africa's attractiveness as an alternative site for migration is growing, given the potential for entrepreneurial activity, access to new labour markets, freedom to practise their religion of choice, ease of movement and relative peace in the country. Based on empirical research among South Asian migrant workers in the informal sector, this paper examines the extent to which community, space, and belonging impact overtly and covertly on the relationship between migrants and informal work in terms of occupational choices and networks available to migrants under conditions of urban diversity. Even in the creation of ethnic enclaves there is a move towards a politics of inclusion that requires all parties to transcend ‘local-foreign’ divides that privilege other identities. The narratives show the complex interplay of multiple identities as migrants, workers, and South Asians, sometimes with ambivalent implications for social cohesion.