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The pothole pandemic: South African exceptionalism, modernity and state failure for the middle class

When: Tuesday, 20 February 2018 - Tuesday, 20 February 2018
Where: Braamfontein Campus East
First Floor Seminar Room, John Moffat Building
Start time:16:00


Alli Applebaum, South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand will present this seminar.

South Africa’s belief in its own exceptionalism within the African continent has a long history, and South African (white) middle-class identity has been, at least partially, constructed in relation to Africa as the ‘Other’. A large part of the binary construct between South Africa and the rest of Africa, in the eyes of the South African middle class, is the ‘modern’ infrastructure that typifies South Africa’s cities, as opposed to the perceived rural and chaotic Africa. Middle-class concerns about flaws in the South African road surface are so great as to shape the governance strategies for local municipalities. A key argument of the paper is that the predominantly white middle class hysteria about potholes is driven by fear that the white diasporic modern vision for South Africa, inculcated under apartheid, is crumbling. Tracing the historical and contemporary discourse of potholes in South African media, this paper uses potholes as a lens to explore the relationship between the middle class and the state, as well as the way in which the South African middle class construct their identity; express anxiety, and understand their position in South Africa. 

This seminar will be presented as part of the Faces of the City series.

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