Urban Forum

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 243–262 | Cite as

Enclaves on Edge: Strategy and Tactics in Immigrant Business Spaces of Johannesburg

  • Daniel K. Thompson
  • Richard Grant


Amidst the recurrence of xenophobic attacks across South Africa, immigration researchers have examined the nexus among immigrant business practices, xenophobic discourses, and specific contexts of inclusion and exclusion in South African cities. Recent migration literature has highlighted differentiation within immigrant business communities while also turning attention to the spatialities of immigrant businesses. Building on this research, we examine multiple fields of economic and political power at work in inner-city immigrant business areas of Johannesburg as capitalist business and economies of scale have begun to replace bootstrap entrepreneurship in certain areas. We employ Bourdieu’s conception of fields of power and de Certeau’s distinction between strategies of the powerful and tactics of the subordinate to examine immigrant economic practices at multiple levels within and between the business communities. Based on interviews and extensive site observation in inner-city Johannesburg, our study examines the broad strategies of immigrant groups, such as enclave formation and immigrant insertion in niche markets. We highlight how overlapping interests within and beyond immigrant groups create specific realms within the ambit of broad strategies—realms that informal workers, both foreign and local, navigate and appropriate.


Immigrant economies Ethnic networks Migrant spaces Strategy and tactics Johannesburg 



This work was supported by the National Geographic Society (grant 8851–10; NGS Young Explorers Grant 9007–11); and by an Arsht Research on Ethics and Community Grant (2011).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeographyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

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