Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Leith Mullings

Committee Members

Setha Low

Don Robotham

Subject Categories

African Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Urban Studies and Planning


South Africa, post-Apartheid, Johannesburg, Urban, Evictions, Urban Anthropology


Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, this ethnographic study examines the phenomenon of eviction within the context of the post-apartheid constitutional right to housing and legal protections against evictions. Rather than view evictions as a singular event, evictions are treated as a lived experience intrinsically linked to the historical, political, and economic life of inner city Johannesburg and more broadly South Africa. I address how South Africa’s constitution creates both a platform for housing advocates to contest evictions and also allows property owners to evict tenants. To analyze evictions, I collected data through participant observation, media sources, archives, interviews, and legal documents. Working at the intersection of urban anthropology and contemporary studies of race and space, I begin by linking the historical process of land dispossession as a result of settler colonialism to current urban formations. I then analyze how the construction of evictions in popular media obscures the consequences of asymmetrical property relations established during the Apartheid era. Next I address how local activists organize to challenge evictions. Contributing to the broader anthropological study of the city, I conclude by concentrating on the limits of constitutional judgments on behalf of evicted tenants living in transitional housing facilities and explore the way evictions have become broader metaphors for the incomplete transformation of post-apartheid South African society.