Original Articles

On law and legality in post-apartheid South Africa: insights from a migrant street trader

Published in: Anthropology Southern Africa
Volume 36, issue 3-4, 2013 , pages: 108–115
DOI: 10.1080/02580144.2013.10887034
Author(s): Jürgen SchratenThe Human Economy Project, Faculty of Humanities, South Africa


This article focuses on the experience of law and legality by a migrant street trader in post-apartheid South Africa. The experiences of this stall vendor are analysed alongside theoretical notions of law and the legal system. The ways that law and legality are constructed in everyday situations are highlighted by two events. In each social situation, legal texts were a central element in the negotiation between the migrant and representatives of the South African state. In both cases the interpretation of these texts reflected the power of those involved in negotiation rather than the abstract legal norms they represented. Therefore, differences between individuals in social and political power are determining factors in the production of a legal situation. This insight underlines a separation between the experience of law and the concept of legality in post-apartheid South Africa.

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