The Parallel Claims of Gated Communities and Land Invasions in a Southern City: Polarised State Responses

Sophie Oldfield, Charlotte Lemanski
Environment and Planning A, 2009

This paper identifies and explores the parallels and differences between gated communities and land invasions as forms of residential territory in cities of the South. Using the case of Cape Town, South Africa, the parallel narratives regarding the reasons for invading or gating land are analysed and placed in contrast with an inconsistent state response. For while both ‘gaters’ and ‘invaders’ are driven by similar desires for a secure home and private autonomy, the state responds very differently, regulating the former as rational residents, and disparaging the latter as unreasonable criminals. Thus, we explore the legitimacy of the two territories, challenging traditional responses to gated communities and land invasions, and arguing for an understanding of both as reflective of citizens’ desire for a secure home. Although gated communities and land invasions represent diverse housing types, we suggest it is useful to analyse them in direct empirical relation. In doing so, we do not narrowly conceptualise southern cities as slum nuclei or divided postcolonial citadels (Robinson, 2003), but as complex and contradictory sites in which diverse residents and urban processes function in the context of state (dis)engagement.

South Africa, Cape Town, informal settlements, housing, gated communities, land invasions

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