"We are Gauteng People": Challenging the Politics of Xenophobia in Khutsong, South Africa

Joshua D. Kirshner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article seeks to shed light on the May 2008 violence against foreign Africans living in South Africa, and the issue of xenophobia more broadly, by examining the case of Khutsong, a poor township on the edge of Johannesburg that did not experience xenophobic attacks. Arguing against prevailing explanations that link xenophobia with poverty and deprivation, this study examines the opposition to xenophobia that developed in Khutsong. It highlights the centrality of a community-based organization, the Merafong Demarcation Forum (MDF), in halting the spread of violence. In its recent struggle against municipal demarcation, the MDF nurtured a collective sense of place that granted primacy to provincial boundaries while downplaying ethnic and national divisions. The article argues for the need to examine local social struggles and their intersections with broader political-economic trends when accounting for the presence or absence of violent xenophobia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1307-1328
Number of pages22
Issue number4
Early online date2 Nov 2011
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


  • Migration
  • Municipal demarcation
  • Social inclusion
  • South Africa
  • Urban rights
  • Xenophobia

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