Inner city anxieties: Fear of crime, getting by and disconnected urban lives

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Fear of crime, real and imagined, is a defining feature of contemporary life in Johannesburg. In the inner city, where crime remains prevalent, fear plays a decisive role in shaping residents’ experiences of the area, the ways they move through it, engage with public spaces and with each other. These fears contribute to shaping and restricting their urban subjectivities and ways of living the city. At the same time, broader structural issues are obscured or masked by ‘talk of crime’ (Caldeira, 2000). The ways in which residents articulate fears and concerns about crime also express their positionings within the inner city’s social order. In many cases, residents fixate on issues of crime in the absence of long-term attachments to the area and channels for expressing collective identities and aspirations. Intense regulation inside residential buildings shuts down potential avenues for engagement and limits residents’ senses of agency. Furthermore, precarious and stressful living conditions and the pressures of everyday life propel residents to disengage and eschew forms of identification, both with each other and with the spaces in which they live. In place of attachments to the area and their neighbours, residents fall back on discourses about crime and longings for physical security when articulating their aspirations. It therefore becomes apparent that crime limits or restricts people’s experiences of contemporary Johannesburg in very real ways, but that anxieties about crime are also symptomatic of broader societal inequalities and forms of stratification and obscure more troubling issues around belonging and ownership of urban space.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnxious Joburg
Subtitle of host publicationThe Inner Lives of a Global South City
EditorsNicky Falkof, Cobus van Staden
Place of PublicationJohannesburg
PublisherWits University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9781776146284
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • crime
  • Fear
  • Belonging
  • urban citizenship
  • Participation


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