Class Identity, Xenophobia, and Xenophilia

Nuancing Migrant Experience in South Africa’s Diverse Cultural Time Zones
  • Melissa Tandiwe MyamboEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Handbooks in Philosophy book series (HP)


In 2008 and 2015, South Africa’s most deadly and violent xenophobic attacks erupted. Dozens of people were killed and thousands displaced. The dominant storyline in the media and the academy cast the figure of the migrant as the perpetual victim of xenophobia and as the ultimate Other. There was not enough emphasis on nuancing that statement to indicate that it is not all migrants who run the risk of deadly xenophobia even though xenophobia is pervasive across all South African socioeconomic classes. Deadly attacks only took place in specific microspaces, or Cultural Time Zones (CTZs). Those living in the CTZ of the informal settlement (shanty town) were most vulnerable. Migrants in economically privileged CTZs like the wealthy suburbs do not typically become victims of xenophobic violence. In this paper, I attempt to examine the relationship between (micro)space and migrant experience. Through an analysis of South African cities as a cluster of radically different CTZs where language, skin color, race/ethnicity, education, socioeconomic class, etc. function in different ways to impact the migrant experience, I try to uncover the nuanced reasons why working-class migrants who work and live in socioeconomically deprived CTZs may experience violent xenophobia, while middle-class professionals, especially those from Western countries, often enjoy high levels of xenophilia. This chapter employs the philosophy of Cultural Time Zone theory to explain this paradox and explore how some migrants are considered culturally “closer” to the South African Self, while some are viewed as culturally more “distant” Others.


Frontier migration Xenophobia Xenophilia Uneven development Language Skin color Urban space 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, Wits City Institute Wits UniversityJohannesburgSouth Africa

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