, Volume 81, Issue 3, pp 489–502 | Cite as

(Re)constructing rural–urban spaces: gendered livelihoods, migration, and natural resources in South Africa

  • Ann M. OberhauserEmail author


Critical approaches to development theory and practice provide alternative perspectives that focus on counterhegemonic and discursive dimensions of the development process. Feminist development is one such approach that opens up new spaces and opportunities to promote socially progressive and sustainable economic strategies. This paper uses feminist development geography as a framework to highlight the intersection of diverse spaces and economic strategies at the household and community levels. The analysis focuses on gendered livelihoods that are linked to circular migration and use of natural resources as a way to understand the integration of rural and urban spaces of development. The empirical section of this paper examines demographic patterns and socio-economic trends in Limpopo Province, South Africa as a context for the case study of two community-based women’s producer groups. These examples illustrate how economic strategies and social identities are embedded in and integrate both rural and urban spaces. This analysis contributes to feminist and post-structural development theory and practice by highlighting the potential for progressive forms of economic and social empowerment.


Feminist development Rural–urban dynamics Gendered livelihoods South Africa 



The author would like to thank colleagues who have participated in this research project at various stages.  Agnes Musyoki, Virginia Maimela, Josephine Mudau, Madzinghe Nembudani, Marubini Ramudzuli and Amy Pratt provided invaluable research assistance. Brian King and an anonymous reviewer gave useful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Derek Springston applied his cartographic skills to produce the map.  This project was supported by generous funding from the National Science Foundation (#SBR 9906626) and the Fulbright Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.West Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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