Propertied Citizenship in a Township and Suburb in Johannesburg

  • Barbara Heer
Part of the Frontiers of Globalization book series (FOG)


This chapter uses three different approaches to talk about middle classness in two South African neighbourhoods, a white suburb and a black township. Firstly, the author argues that property ownership is an important signifier of middle classness, one that has, so far, been underemphasized in debates about African middle classes. Using ethnographic comparison, Heer explores property ownership and middle classness as social categories. Secondly, she approaches social differentiation as it evolves in everyday urban lives through the concept of relational micro-milieus (Hradil, Soziale Ungleichheit in Deutschland. Opladen: Leske+Budrich, 1999) embedded in the contrasting urban spaces of Johannesburg’s neighbourhoods. Thirdly, she deploys the class definition of Seekings and Nattrass (Class, Race, and Inequality in South Africa. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), who developed a nine-fold classification scheme for South Africa based on occupational groups in the Weberian tradition, in order to point out the key socio-economic differences between the two groups in focus. The cases from Johannesburg presented in this chapter highlight the relationship between spatial arrangements and political attitudes in two contrasting social milieus, whose divergent social trajectories must be viewed in the context of South Africa’s past. The two milieus discussed in this chapter are surprisingly similar where their relationship to property ownership is concerned, and they display conservative political attitudes.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Heer
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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