Racialization and Racism

Apportioned city: Gendered delineations of asylum, work and violence in Cape Town

This paper addresses what it means to live with acutely restricted access to the city in the process of seeking urban asylum in post-apartheid South Africa. Our concept of apportionment specifies the gendered and racialised diminishment of space and time in the context of exclusionary and everyday violence. We focus on how the delineation and reduction of space and time is feminised, through the working lives of refugee and asylum-seeking women from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who live in Cape Town. Their embodied experiences incorporate the resonance of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, further sharpening their careful movements across Cape Town’s segregated geographies. Drawing on our conversations with non-governmental organisations and self-employed women over a nine-month period in 2020, we highlight how the deferral of refuge compounds precarity, significantly affecting women and those who are sexually minoritised. In connecting how state apportionment maps onto urban apportionment we reveal how an ecology of violence – of spatialised segregation, xenophobia and sexual violence – establishes a corporeal power that constrains access to the city. Crucially, these women deploy counter practices of apportionment and their precisely attuned navigations add to our understanding of the agile repertoires of working the city.

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Volume 40 Issue 1

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