Human Ecology

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 59–68 | Cite as

“The Trust is Over! We Want to Plough!”: Social Differentiation and the Reversal of Resettlement in South Africa



In the early 1980s residents of Hobeni, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, were subjected to forced resettlement, under “betterment” policy ostensibly aimed at soil conservation. They were moved into a spatially contiguous but socially differentiated village. South Africa’s political transition ended this policy, and in the early 1990s, some people, mainly from part of the resettlement area (Kunene) characterized by dense kinship networks who had faced pressure to leave, and began to return voluntarily to their former sites, opting to live in dispersed, flexible settlements. Few people resettled in Mhlanganisweni, a part of the village more diverse in its social composition, returned to their former sites. This research highlights the ways exclusion within “socially-embedded” land tenure systems, together with the layout of resettlement areas and other forms of social and economic differentiation, caused patterns of resettlement to diverge from planners’ intentions.


Involuntary resettlement South Africa Land tenure Planned villages Villagization 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of California, RiversideRiversideUSA

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