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
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



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.

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



  • Anthias Floya. 2008. “Thinking through the Lens of Translocational Positionality: An Intersectionality Frame for Understanding Identity and Belonging.” Translocations: Migration and Social Change An Inter-Disciplinary Open 4 (1): 5–20.

  • Antonsich Marco. 2010. “Searching for Belonging – An Analytical Framework.” Geography Compass 4 (6): 644–659.

  • Calavita Kitty. 2005. “Law Citizenship and the Construction of (Some) Immigrant ‘Others.’ ” Law & Social Inquiry 30 (2): 401–420.

  • Chereni Admire. 2014. “A Methodological Approach and Conceptual Tools for Studying Migrant Belongings in African Cities: A Case of Zimbabweans in Johannesburg.” Historical Social Research Historische Sozialforschung 39 (150): 293–328.

  • Chereni Admire. 2018. “Risk Vulnerability and Zimbabwean Migrants’ Post-Arrival Adaptation in Johannesburg: Reflections on Relational Aspects of Informal Social Protection.” Journal of Social Development in Africa 33 (1): 53–80.

  • Chow Y.F. S. van Wichelen and J. de Kloet. 2015. “Introduction: At Home in Asia? Place-Making Belonging and Citizenship in the Asian Century.” International Journal of Cultural Studies 1–14.

  • De Bree June Tine Davids and Hein De Haas. 2010. “Post-Return Experiences and Transnational Belonging of Return Migrants: A Dutch-Moroccan Case Study.” Global Networks 10 (4): 489–509.

  • De Genova Nicholas P. 2002. “Migrant ‘Illegality’ and Deportability in Everyday Life.” Annual Review of Anthropology 31 (1): 419–447.

  • De Genova Nicholas. 2013. “Spectacles of migrant ‘illegality’: the scene of exclusion the obscene of inclusion.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 36 (7):1180–1198.

  • De Genova Nicholas De Sandro Mezzadra and John Pickles. 2014. “New Keywords: Migration and Borders.” Cultural Studies 29 (1):1–33.

  • Dodson Belinda and Jonathan Crush. 2015. “Migration Governance and Migrant Rights in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Attempts at Harmonization in a Disharmonious Region.” Geneva.

  • Fabini Giulia. 2017. “Managing Illegality at the Internal Border: Governing through ‘Differential Inclusion’ in Italy.” European Journal of Criminology 14 (1): 46–62.

  • Friese Heidrun. 2010. “The Limits of Hospitality: Political Philosophy Undocumented Migration and the Local Arena.” European journal of social theory 13 (3):323–341.

  • Griffiths Melanie Ali Rogers and Bridget Anderson 2013. Migration time and temporalities: Review and prospect. COMPAS Research Resources Paper March 2013.

  • Jones Jeremy L. 2010. “ ‘Nothing Is Straight in Zimbabwe’: The Rise of the Kukiya-Kiya Economy 2000–2008.” Journal of Southern African Studies 36 (2): 285–299.

  • Kabwe Aurelia Wa and Loren Landau B. 2008. “Migration in Post-Apartheid South Africa Challenges and Questions to Policy-Makers” 1–236.

  • Khoo Gaik Cheng. 2014. “Introduction: Theorizing Different Forms of Belonging in a Cosmopolitan Malaysia.” Citizenship Studies 18 (8): 791–806.

  • Killias Olivia. 2014. “Intimate Encounters: The Ambiguities of Belonging in the Transnational Migration of Indonesian Domestic Workers to Malaysia.” Citizenship Studies 18 (8): 885–899.

  • Kinsey Bill H. 2010. “Who Went Where … and Why: Patterns and Consequences of Displacement in Rural Zimbabwe after February 2000.” Journal of Southern African Studies 36 (2): 339–360.

  • Krause Franz. 2013. “Seasons as Rhythms on the Kemi River in Finnish Lapland.” Ethnos 78 (1): 23–46.

  • Lähdesmäki Tuuli Tuija Saresma Kaisa Hiltunen Saara Jäntti Nina Sääskilahti Antti Vallius and Kaisa Ahvenjärvi. 2016. “Fluidity and Flexibility of ‘Belonging’: Uses of the Concept in Contemporary Research.” Acta Sociologica 59 (3): 233–247.

  • Landau Loren B. 2010a. “Loving the Alien: Citizenship Law and the Future in South Africa’s Demonic Society.” African Affairs 109 (435): 213–230.

  • Landau Loren B. 2010b. “Passage Profit Protection and the Challenge of Participation: Building and Belonging in African Cities.” Urban Forum 21 (3): 315–329.

  • Landau Loren B. and Iriann Freemantle. 2010. “Tactical Cosmopolitanism and Idioms of Belonging: Insertion and Self-Exclusion in Johannesburg.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 36 (3): 375–390.

  • Lucas Susan and Bandana Purkayastha. 2007. “ ‘Where is home?’ Here and there: transnational experiences of home among Canadian migrants in the United States.” GeoJournal 68 (2):243–251.

  • Mand Kanwal. 2010. “ ‘I’ve Got Two Houses. One in Bangladesh and One in London … Everybody Has’: Home Locality and Belonging(s).” Childhood 17 (2): 273–287.

  • Maxwell David. 2006. African Gifts of the Spirit: Pentecostalism and the Rise of a Zimbabwean Transnational Religious Movement. Oxford: Oxford: James Currey.

  • Mcdonald David A. 2012. “Introduction to Special Issue: Evaluating South African Immigration Policy after Apartheid Jonathan Crush” 48 (3): 1–13.

  • McNevin Anne. 2006. “Political Belonging in a Neoliberal Era: The Struggle of the Sans-Papiers.” Citizenship Studies 10 (2): 135–151.

  • Mezzadra Sandro and Brett Neilson. 2013. Border as Method or the Multiplication of Labor. Durham: Duke University Press.

  • Muzvidziwa Victor Ngonidzashe. 2010. “Double-Rootedness and Networking among Urban Migrants in Zimbabwe”. Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology 1 (1–2):81–90.

  • Ni Laoire Caitríona Fina Carpena-Méndez Naomi Tyrrell and Allen White. 2010. “Introduction: Childhood and Migration – Mobilities Homes and Belongings.” Childhood 17 (2): 155–162.

  • Olwig Karen F. 1998. “Contesting Homes: Home-Making and the Making of Anthropology.” In Migrants of Identity: Perceptions of Home in a World in Movement edited by Nigel Rapport and Andrew Dawson 225–236. Oxford: Berg.

  • Papadopoulos Dimitris Niamh Stephenson and Vassilis Tsianos. 2008. Escape routes: control and subversion in the twenty-first century. London: Pluto Press.

  • Parreñas Rhacel Salazar. 2010. “Homeward Bound: The Circular Migration of Entertainers between Japan and the Philippines.” Global Networks 3 (February): 301–323.

  • Poe Melissa R. Joyce LeCompte Rebecca McLain and Patrick Hurley. 2014. “Urban Foraging and the Relational Ecologies of Belonging.” Social & Cultural Geography 15 (April): 1–19.

  • Potts Deborah. 2010. Circular Migration in Zimbabwe and Contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa. Suffolk: James Currey.

  • Ralph David and Lynn A. Staeheli. 2011. “Home and Migration: Mobilities Belongings and Identities.” Geography Compass 5 (7): 517–530.

  • Rutherford Blair. 2008. “An Unsettled Belonging: Zimbabwean Farm Workers in Limpopo Province South Africa.” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 26 (4): 401–415.

  • Tomaney John. 2015. “Region and Place II: Belonging.” Progress in Human Geography 39 (4): 507–516.

  • van Riemsdijk Micheline. 2014. “International Migration and Local Emplacement: Everyday Place-Making Practices of Skilled Migrants in Oslo Norway.” Environment and Planning A 46 (4): 963–979.

  • Wright Sarah. 2015. “More-than-Human Emergent Belongings: A Weak Theory Approach.” Progress in Human Geography 39 (4): 391–411.

  • Yanow Dvora and Marleen Van Der Haar. 2013. “People out of Place: Allochthony and Autochthony in the Netherlands’ Identity Discourse-Metaphors and Categories in Action.” Journal of International Relations and Development 16 (2): 227–261.

  • Ye Junjia. 2017. “Managing Urban Diversity through Differential Inclusion in Singapore.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 35 (6): 1033–1052.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 123 123 15
Full Text Views 128 128 2
PDF Downloads 16 16 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0