The Making of a Black Middle Class: Race, Law and Property in Johannesburg, South Africa - Maxim Bolt
From Pete Kingsley on January 18th, 2018
The Making of a Black Middle Class: Race, Law and Property in Johannesburg, South Africa
South Africa’s urban black middle class has grown exponentially since apartheid, and has increasingly been a focus of attention in and beyond the academy. This paper takes an unusual perspective on this stratum, by exploring the legal and bureaucratic aspects of passing on property in Johannesburg. Doing so draws attention to the significance of accumulation across generations. It takes us away from more conventional questions of work and employment, or of lifestyle and distinction, illuminating instead how people’s economic lives, experiences and problems weave in and out of formal arrangements. And it shows how a racialised history of administration inflects the apparently deracialised system of the post-apartheid era. Especially important are houses, and the networks through which they move in and out of state purview. Accumulation across generations – itself fragile – is shaped by law and official process in ways that have particular consequences for Johannesburg’s black township dwellers, and for those who constitute a nascent middle class.