(Dis)empowered whiteness: un-whitely spaces and the production of the good white home

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Anthropology Southern Africa, Volume 39, Number 1, p.46–57 (2016)




home, informal settlements, poverty, South Africa, space, whiteness


This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork in a white informal settlement in South Africa, to explore the ways in which poorer whites with perceived notions of whiteness and blackness negotiate living in informal settlements. In doing this, I argue, they deliberately identify as informal settlers, or squatters, while consciously displaying normative forms of whiteness. It is specifically through the organisation of their informal houses and homes that white informal settlers seek to construct a whiteness which mimics that subscribed to by poorer Afrikaners in the 1930s. In this way, they differentiate their living space from that of other — black African — informal settlers in South Africa while not completely abandoning the idea that they, too, are informal settlers. I argue that white informal settlers negotiate these different social identities by constructing the concept of a whitely squatter camp and are thus able to negotiate perceived contradictory identities.

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