Layering mobilities: charting place-making through performance in Johannesburg’s inner-city suburbia

Published in: Anthropology Southern Africa
Volume 42, issue 1: Secret affinities, 2019 , pages: 114–126
DOI: 10.1080/23323256.2019.1580592
Author(s): Alex HalligeySouth African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, Wits School of Architecture and Planning, South Africa


Drawing together Tim Cresswell’s work on mobilities with Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project, this article considers the Johannesburg suburbs of Bertrams, Lorentzville and Judith’s Paarl as produced and reinvented through the mobilities of their inhabitants. How might an artistic performance foreground the mobilities that contribute to daily place-making? In so doing, how might an artistic performance work into the history of a city space and the ongoing, evolving production of its contemporary moment? How might we place Cresswell’s notion of mobilities in productive tension with Benjamin’s Arcades Project to think through African city spaces? Both Cresswell and Benjamin speak to movement, what movement effects in the world and the kind of knowing it produces. This article seeks to unpack some of the ways in which a performance-based artwork can work across historical times to explore both whimsy and practicality in our trajectories through and between city spaces — how our trajectories are one of the key ways in which we have and continue to make place and know how to do so.

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