‘Running Them Out of Time:’ Xenophobia, Violence, and Co-Authoring Spatiotemporal Exclusion in South Africa

Immigration governance scholars often focus on formal, national regulations and how local implementation and resistance rations access to space and resources. Research into ‘xenophobic’ exclusion across South Africa suggests recalibrating research along two spatial and temporal dimensions. First, while legal and political discourse often evoke national principles, exclusive speech and action can be highly spatialised and distinctly sub-national. Consequently, people objectively belonging to the same, excludable category (e.g., international migrants; sexual or ethnic minorities) face varied vulnerabilities corresponding to where they work or reside. Moreover, when mobilising nationalistic discourses of exclusion and belonging, subnational actors customise and emplace them. Such coauthoring infuses them with particularistic interests and language while imposing spatial limits on their legitimacy. This in turn generates a dynamic patchwork of regulatory regimes where local variations may be more practically important than national policy. Second, the effects of coauthored exclusion are spatial, but their foundations may be temporal. South Africa’s national political project rests on forms of restorative justice: of building futures for those materially disadvantaged and disenfranchised by Apartheid’s racist machinations. For South Africans, making claims to a future in place (i.e., in the country or a given site) are predicated on one’s position in this national temporal arc. Even if apartheid disadvantaged millions across Southern African, non-citizens are historiographically excluded from these claims. Immigrants are, in effect, run out of time. By eliding shared pasts, officials and citizens deny the possibility of a spatial future shared with non-nationals. These elements help explain the popular legitimacy of anti-immigrant mobilisation and surface the multiple modes of citizenship and exclusion operating across the country. Recognising this, the article ultimately encourages scholars to re-spatialise and temporalise the study of migration governance in ways that also recognise the dialogical dimensions of bordering and emplacement. Read more about it here:

Share your thoughts