The road to TRAs is paved with good intentions ...

8th Nov 2017

The road to TRAs is paved with good intentions: Dispossession through delivery in post-apartheid Cape Town

A new paper by Zachary Levenson is now available online.



Dispossession need not be the product of malicious intentions or a deliberate programme of accumulation. As I argue in this article, it may paradoxically be the consequence of social spending, or what I call dispossession through delivery. Using as a case study the proliferation of temporary relocation areas (TRAs) in post-apartheid Cape Town, I show how what appears as adequate housing from the municipal government’s perspective exacerbates social isolation, perpetuates squatting and aggravates unemployment, transport costs and interpersonal violence. I draw on 17 months of ethnographic fieldwork in TRAs and land occupations, NGO reports and interviews with housing officials to understand dispossession through delivery in these relocation sites. While TRAs began as emergency housing in cases of environmental catastrophes, they have become regularised as a form of state-provisioned housing even in non-emergency situations and, above all, in cases of land occupations. They are but one of a range of technologies of delivery that facilitate dispossession, and I conclude this article with a discussion of how formal housing distribution and informal settlement upgrading have similar effects. When these various technologies of delivery are understood as bound together in a single articulation, ‘dispossession through delivery’ challenges the standard opposition between neoliberalism and social spending that characterises much of the literature and begins to map novel socio-spatial effects of one trajectory of urbanisation in a Southern city.


You can access and read the full paper here

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