Institutt for sosialantropologi

Negotiating Urban Spaces. Xhosa migrants' movement in and through Cape Town's social and spatial structures, South Africa


Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, spring 2015.

By: Oda Eiken
Supervisor: Associate Professor Cecilie Ødegaard

This thesis is an ethnographic exploration of social and spatial structures in Cape Town and individuals’ personal experiences in the urban city spaces.

The Apartheid regime was formally abolished in 1994 but the legacy of apartheid is still visible. The apartheid regime built a society based on inclusion and exclusion and these racial segregation policies continue to influence the power structures and social formations in post-apartheid South Africa.

The analytical foundation in this thesis is based on Doreen Massey’s space and place theory (1994). Within this framework I am able to explore women’s positioning, in particular, in the city spaces on various levels. The first section contextualises the cultural background of my interlocutors and their living situations. The middle section gives a broader overview of Cape Town and how social and spatial dynamics work in relation to race, ethnicity, gender and class. The last section investigates women’s experience in urban spaces and the gendering of the spaces through the discourse of mistrust and how this mistrust is negotiated and expressed in intimate relationships. The purpose is to unfold the lives of lower-class Xhosa migrants living in Cape Town, a city that continues to negotiate its past, its present and its future.