Within the Borders but Not Really in South Africa

Narratives of Home and Belonging among Zimbabweans in Johannesburg and Their Implications for Circular Migration

In: African Diaspora
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  • 1 University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


This article explores the relationship between economic and social aspects of differential inclusion in South Africa as well as migrants’ notions and practices of home and belonging. It is based on narratives provided by Zimbabweans in Johannesburg, and considers what this relationship might imply for how we understand circular migration. It finds that, differential inclusion – emanating from migrants’ experiences of deportability, insecure residence, marginal economic practices, uncertain futurity and temporal disruptions, that punctuated their post-arrival everyday life – shapes migrants’ perceptions of home as a concrete site left behind to which migrants strive to return. Conversely, negative evaluations of livelihood opportunities in Zimbabwe fuel an orientation towards an imminent yet continually deferred eventual return.

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