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Bates College

Publication Date

Fall 2021

Program Name

South Africa: Multiculturalism and Human Rights


South Africa went through a gruesome system of segregation known as apartheid, from 1948 until 1994 which enforced spatial and racial divisions through limiting access to spaces, places and (im)mobilities. Despite the formal ending of apartheid in 1994, and some changes it brought to the divided and wounded country, the neo-apartheid spatial structure of the regime lives on in some form or other, particularly in Cape Town. This research paper sought to explore the racial segregation in the mother city further, by examining the daily movements of students from the University of Cape Town (UCT), who are part of the so-called ‘born free’ generation, which in the South African context includes anyone born after apartheid into “freedom”. Through a series of mapping and semi-structured interviews, I investigated student mobilities and their access to spaces, to answer the question: do young people of different racial groups access spaces and the city equally in present-day Cape Town? I hypothesized that, although these people are mobile physically, their movements and access to spaces are bounded by politics and history and are unequal; hence, some are ‘immobile’ relative to others around them. The maps and interviews revealed that most female participants had limited access and avoided places purposefully because of safety, particularly from men. However, all students who were white, had a car, or originally from or grew up in Cape Town were more likely to access spaces way beyond the southern suburbs than those who didn’t. Therefore, one’s mobility and access to space were most dependent on their race, class, gender as well as birthplace. These maps were able to shed light on the hidden barriers of race, class, racism, and crime, which remain tied due to the lingering effects of apartheid. Access is no longer bounded by law, as it was during apartheid, yet it’s still bounded by geography, class, race, and gender. The research project revealed that inequality of access and mobility are just a microcosm of larger social inequalities still present in Cape Town.


African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Higher Education | Inequality and Stratification | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Urban, Community and Regional Planning


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