Urban health practitioners working in African cities require an in-depth understanding of the context within which they work in order to plan and implement effective urban public health programmes. This paper provides insights into the complexities of the urban African environment and its residents by describing and analysing the tactics employed by a population of rural migrants as they enter and navigate the City of Gold: Johannesburg. This population resides within inner-city areas that are broadly disconnected from local government initiatives, that I term here as ‘hidden spaces’. Reflecting on personal experiences and involvement in participatory photography and film projects within these ‘hidden spaces’, the paper considers the concept of ‘being hidden’ as something that can be both a deliberate tactic employed by particular urban populations to evade the state, and as a result of marginalisation where the state bypasses groups in need of intervention.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
During apartheid, cities were ‘off-limits’ to most black South Africans, who required special permission and permits in order to enter the city.
The province is responsible for maintenance of the physical hostel structures, the City is liable for the water, electricity and waste management costs. The men living in the hostels no longer pay rent to the City; it appears that where rent is collected, it is paid to the Induna.
The IFP is the Inkatha Freedom Party. Historically a Zulu nationalist party, the IFP attempted to gain independence for a Zulu Nation in the build up to the first elections. Bloody riots and fighting between IFP aligned hostel residents and ANC supporters from the townships took place along the Witwatersrand in the early 1990s. Several of the hostels in the Benrose area hold historical fame for their involvement in rioting and fighting in the inner-city of Johannesburg. The hostels acted as ‘recruitment sites’ for the fighting; residents would travel back to KwaZulu-Natal and recruit young men, bringing them back to the hostels in Johannesburg to participate in the fighting.
This paper contributes to doctoral research into the persistent urban health challenges of migration and informal settlements in the context of HIV, through which a framework to guide appropriate local-level developmental responses is being developed
Balbo, M., & Marconi, G. (2005). Governing international migration in the city of the south. Geneva: Global Commission on International Migration.
Beall, J., Crankshaw, O., & Parnell, S. (2002). Chapter 2: Reverberations from a Divided City, Uniting a divided city: Governance and social exclusion in Johannesburg (pp. 7–25). London: Earthscan.
Bouillon, A. (2002). Citizenship and the city: The Durban centre-city in 2000. Transformation, 48, 1–37.
City of Johannesburg (2002). Joburg 2030. Corporate Planning Unit.
City of Johannesburg (2005). Human Development Strategy: Joburg's commitment to the poor. Johannesburg: Office of the City Manager Corporate Planning Unit.
City of Johannesburg (2006). Growth and development strategy. Corporate Planning Unit.
City of Johannesburg (2008). Draft integrated development plan review. Johannesburg.
Coquery-Vidrovitch, C. (2005). Introduction: African Urban spaces-history and culture. In S. J. Salm & T. Falola (Eds.), African Urban spaces in historical perspective (pp. xv–xl). Rochester: University of Rochester Press.
Cornwall, A. (2007). Of choice, chance and contingency: 'Career strategies' and tactics for survival among Yoruba women traders. Social Anthropology, 15(1), 27–46.
de Certeau, M. (1984). The practice of everyday life. Translated by Steven Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Galea, S., & Vlahov, D. (2005). Urban health: Evidence, challenges, and directions. Annual Review of Public Health, 26, 341–365.
Grabska, K. (2006). Marginalization in urban spaces of the global south: Urban refugees in Cairo. Journal of Refugee Studies, 19(3), 287–307.
Harpham, T. (2009). Urban health in developing countries: What do we know and where do we go? Health and Place, 15(1), 107–116.
Harpham, T., & Molyneux, C. (2001). Urban health in developing countries: A review. Progress in Development Studies, 1(2), 113–137.
Harpham, T., & Tanner, M. (1995). Urban health in developing countries: Progress and prospects. London: Earthscan.
Jacobsen, K., & Landau, L. B. (2003). The dual imperative in refugee research: Some methodological and ethical considerations in social science research on forced migration. Disasters, 27(3), 185.
Keith, M. (2005). The Ghetto: Knowing your place and the performative cartographies of racial subordination. In M. Keith (Ed.), After the Cosmopolitan? Multicultural cities and the future of racism (pp. 61–88). London: Routledge.
Kok, P., & Collinson, M. (2006). Migration and urbanization in South Africa. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa.
Landau, L. (2005a). Migration, Urbanisation and Sustainable Livelihoods in South Africa. In J. Crush & V. Williams (Eds.), Migration Policy Brief. Southern African Migration Project.
Landau, L. (2005b). Urbanisation, nativism, and the rule of law in South Africa's 'forbidden' cities. Third World Quarterly, 26(7), 1115–1134.
Landau, L. (2006). Transplants and transients: Idioms of belonging and dislocation in inner-city Johannesburg. African Studies Review, 49(2), 125–145.
Landau, L. (2008). Passage, profit, protection and the challenge of participation: building and belonging in African Cities, Discussion Paper Prepared for: UNU-WIDER Project Workshop. Beyong the Tipping Point: African Development in an Urban World. Cape Town, South Africa, 26–28 June 2008.
Landau, L., & Monson, T. (2008). Displacement, estrangement and sovereignty: Reconfiguring state power in Urban South Africa. Government and Opposition, 43(2), 315–336.
Minnaar, A. (1993). Communities in isolation perspectives on hostels in South Africa. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council.
Mitlin, D., & Satterthwaite, D. (2004). Chapter 1. Introduction. In D. Mitlin & D. Satterthwaite (Eds.), Empowering squatter citizen: Local government, civil society and urban poverty reduction. London: Earthscan.
Napolitano, V., & Pratten, D. (2007). Michel de Certeau: Ethnography and the challenge of plurality. Social Anthropology, 15(1), 1–12.
Peberdy, S., Crush, J., & Msibi, N. (2004). Migrants in the City of Johannesburg: A report for the City of Johannesburg. Johannesburg: City of Johannesburg.
Scott, J. (1996). Cities, people, and language. In J. Scott (Ed.), Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed (pp. 53–84). Yale: Yale University Press.
Shisana, O., Rehle, T., Simbayi, L., Parker, W., Zuma, K., Bhana, A., et al. (2005). South African National HIV Prevalence, HIV Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey, 2005 Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council.
Tonkiss, F. (2005). Spatial stories: Subjectivity in the city. In F. Tonkiss (Ed.), Space, the city, and social theory. London: Polity.
UNAIDS (2006). 2006 Report on the global AIDS epidemic. Geneva: UNAIDS.
Vearey, J. (2003). Initiating an HIV/STI programme for migrant men in inner city hostels: the challenges of engaging government and community within the urban South African context Unpublished MSc report. London: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
Vearey, J. (2006). HIV & Public Health Interventions: Testing a Model for Enhancing Quality of Life for Internal Migrants in Johannesburg. Presented at: Migration and Society Seminar Series, Forced Migration Studies, University of the Witwatersrand.
Vearey, J. (2008). Migration, access to ART and survivalist livelihood strategies in Johannesburg. African Journal of AIDS Research, 7(3), 361–374.
Vearey, J., & Oliff, M. (2006). HIV and public health interventions: Testing a model that enhances quality of life in inner-city Johannesburg, Research poster THPE0283. Toronto: XVI International AIDS Conference.
Vearey, J., Oliff, M., Gardner, J., Mbatha, T., Cebekhulu, V., & Delany, S. (2003). Quality of life—Long life: Questions raised while gaining access to inner-city hostels and informal settlements for research and interventions Reproductive Health Priorities Conference.
Vearey, J., Gardner, J., Mbatha, T., Mweli, S., & Oliff, M. (2005). HIV & Public Health Interventions. Testing a model that enhances quality of life in inner city Johannesburg, 12th Priorities Conference in Reproductive Health and HIV. Stellenbosch.
Vearey, J., Oliff, M., Moyo, W., Delany, S., & Rees, H. (2007). Hidden spaces, hidden livelihoods: Surviving the city of gold. Inclusive cities: Experiences and challenges in contemporary African Cities. Johannesburg: Wits.
Waelkens, M.-P., & Greindl, I. (2001). Urban health: Particularities, challenges, experiences and lessons learnt. A literature review (p. 136). Eschborn: GTZ.
Many thanks go to the residents of the ‘hidden spaces’ described above. The author is very grateful to Jacob Rasmussen and Loren Landau for their useful comments on the early drafts of this paper. The NEWAR Network is also warmly thanked. The author acknowledges the STI/HIV Research Directorate of the Reproductive Health and HIV Research Unit, Wits where the author was based between 2003 and early 2007, and the European Commission who provided funding for the Mpilonhle–Mpilonde programme. The author acknowledges the contribution of Monique Oliff, Jillian Gardner, Witness Moyo, Sinead Delany, Helen Rees and the fieldwork team in the design and implementation of the Mpilonhle–Mpilonde programme, and initial data analysis. The author warmly thanks the participants of the photography and film projects, MPW staff, PDP students and Day Fifty films for their commitment, involvement and energy in working to create such rich and successful participatory projects.
About this article
Cite this article
Vearey, J. Hidden Spaces and Urban Health: Exploring the Tactics of Rural Migrants Navigating the City of Gold. Urban Forum 21, 37–53 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12132-010-9079-4
- Urban health
- Local government
- Informal housing