Hope in the debris of capitalist dys/utopia? Historical progress and the intricacies of everyday life in Lephalale

DOI: 10.1080/23323256.2019.1598277
Author(s): Thembi LuckettSociology Department, South Africa


In 2015, the local municipality of Lephalale in the Limpopo province of South Africa heralded the town as “the new Johannesburg” and the “future hub of power generation in South Africa.” The growth of the town is based on the expansion of coal extractivism in the area. The construction of the Medupi coal power station is celebrated as “creating a better life for all” despite the destruction and dispossession left in the wake of this resource extractivist mega project. China Miéville argues that this current period of global capitalism is the utopia of corporations and, therefore, a time of apocalypse or dystopia too. Drawing on Walter Benjamin’s explication of modernity and global capitalism through the city, this paper explores themes such as catastrophe, fragmentation, marginalisation, alienation and commodification. Benjamin brings to the fore contradictions of the dys/utopia of modernity through the city. This paper draws on ethnographic research in order to excavate the fragments of possibility for alternative futures in everyday life in the dys/utopia of corporations in the urban development of Lephalale.

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