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The GendV Project

Urban Transformation and Gendered Violence in India and South Africa


Across the road from where I currently live, Alexandra township has been battered and bruised by the violence in South Africa over the last few days. Several places in the township like the Pan African Mall where I carried out interviews have been completely destroyed and looted. Amongst research participants living in Alex there is great fear and a general sense of anxiety as their township is now overrun with military officers and large armoured vehicles. In the adjoining wealthy suburb of Sandton where my flat is, there are fears that the violence from Alex will ‘leak’ into Sandton. Several shopping malls and banks have now beefed-up security and our local parks remain shut. As images of events unfolding in Alex and various other Black townships are beamed on TV screens in Sandton, narratives of ‘those people’ and ‘their looting’ are also increasing in Whatsapp groups and social media discussions within Sandton. As I reflect on these extraordinary events and the different ways in which they are playing out in Alex and Sandton, it seems essential to draw out the gendered story within all of this. When I spoke to a young Black middle-class woman from Alex, who has now moved out of the township, she told me that she was worried about her mother’s safety in Alex and that it was too early for her to talk about what had happened. As the news settles and the tensions in the country begin to ease, several questions around why, what, how of these events need to be unpacked from a gendered perspective.


Shannon Philip

August 2021