Start main page content

Features of Modernity, Development and ‘Orientalism’: Reading Johannesburg through its ‘Chinese’ Urban Spaces

In recent years, Chinese spatial markers in Johannesburg have expanded in unpredictable and manifold ways, leaving a more or less visible ‘ethnic’ imprint on the city. Often perceived as different (implicit for ‘oriental’) and enclaved, while underpinned by economic ambitions, these spaces of Chinese capital have none the less become active (yet accidental) participants in the making and shaping of a multifaceted urbanity. In a context that is torn between real development challenges and world-class city ambitions, the recent spatial unfolding of Chinese capital in Johannesburg points towards broader questions about the nature and direction of urban economies, in particular the dynamic interplay between local and global, and between formal and informal. As such, the study of specific Chinese cases – from shopping malls and a Chinatown to a project for a newly built city – offers alternative, differentiated ways to reflect on centrality, modernity and socio-economic development in a stubbornly segregated urban environment.

For the full paper, visit Journal of Southern African Studies