Making Freedom

Apartheid, Squatter Politics, and the Struggle for Home

Making Freedom

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 16 illustrations Published: October 2015

African Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Geography

In Making Freedom Anne-Maria Makhulu explores practices of squatting and illegal settlement on the outskirts of Cape Town during and immediately following the end of apartheid. Apartheid's paradoxical policies of prohibiting migrant Africans who worked in Cape Town from living permanently within the city led some black families to seek safe haven on the city's perimeters. Beginning in the 1970s families set up makeshift tents and shacks and built whole communities, defying the state through what Makhulu calls a "politics of presence." In the simple act of building homes, squatters, who Makhulu characterizes as urban militants, actively engaged in a politics of "the right to the city" that became vital in the broader struggles for liberation. Despite apartheid's end in 1994, Cape Town’s settlements have expanded, as new forms of dispossession associated with South African neoliberalism perpetuate relations of spatial exclusion, poverty, and racism. As Makhulu demonstrates, the efforts of black Capetonians to establish claims to a place in the city not only decisively reshaped Cape Town's geography but changed the course of history.


"Making Freedom, an exciting and provocative book about Cape Town’s informal settlements during and after apartheid, engages precisely with the spaces between those foregrounded by official categories." — Maxim Bolt, Anthropological Quarterly

"In so many ways, Making Freedom is a tour de force. Not only does it open up new ways to make sense of unauthorized squatting in struggling cities, it also challenges mainstream urban studies to look beyond negative stereotypes of so-called 'illegal' squatting. Makhulu weaves her analysis through all sorts of debates—informal work, selfbuilt housing, the “right to the city,” and many more. For this reason and more, Making Freedom is a book worth reading and engaging with." — Martin J. Murray, International Journal of African Historical Studies

"A thoughtful, sobering and provocative read for anyone interested in the recent history of South Africa’s urban development on a highly political landscape.... Reading Making Freedom is an intersectional literary experience in its careful consideration of not only economics and politics but gender, race and culture."
  — Lené Le Roux, Southeastern Geographer

"This is a useful book and an insightful framework for understanding apartheid and the anti-apartheid movement. Revolutions depend on what Makhulu calls 'the space of the ordinary': shelter, pleasure, food, and employment, all of which were demanded by squatter groups (10). It is critical to understand these forces, not only in understanding how revolutions are sustained, but in the demands that they make. For post-apartheid South Africa, this is essential, and Makhulu does a commendable job." — Zeb Larson, Journal of Global South Studies

"Makhulu’s recounts and comments with insight on the stories told by some squatters, mostly in respect of Crossroads.... There is much in this book that is of interest." — Richard Tomlinson, American Historical Review

"The book is well written and offers a fluid account of the plight of and solution to Black South Africans’ struggles in a divided South Africa. Makhulu’s ethnographic fieldwork allows for an intimate presentation of the context, and inclusion of interview excerpts adds the voices of people on the ground."  — Crystal Powell, Journal of International and Global Studies

"Making Freedom is a strongly argued and well executed book. It is a great addition to the literature offering a stimulating and insightful analysis of Cape Town’s informal settlements, exploring the problems and contradictions at play, while posing important questions regarding freedom in post-apartheid South Africa." — Matthew Graham, Social History

"Makhulu’s book is a major contribution to apartheid and post-apartheid housing studies. The book’s major strength comes from learning from the squatters themselves about how they made freedom and home in urban South Africa. . . . The book is a great contribution to the historiography of South African anthropology and history, among other disciplines, and it reminds us that making freedom and making home is what all societies struggle for irrespective of gender, class, race, religion and generation." — Joyce M. Chadya, Canadian Journal of History

"[Makhulu] show[s] how the worlds of the formal and informal collide on the city’s streets, outside Cape Town’s peripheries, and within its fringe settlements." — Dawne Y. Curry, African Studies Review

"We tend to think of South Africa in terms of its heroic struggles. Anne-Maria Makhulu shows us just how much we can learn by appreciating its quieter and less dramatic subaltern moments. In doing so, she places the expansion of shack settlements in post-apartheid Cape Town within the larger transformations of a global context."
— Donald L. Donham, author of Violence in a Time of Liberation: Murder and Ethnicity at a South African Gold Mine, 1994

"Anne-Maria Makhulu sketches a moving picture of the often desperate struggles of squatters against the apartheid state in their efforts to make possible some sort of combination of work and family life. She also highlights important shifts and continuities under post-apartheid and the turn to neoliberal policies. Making Freedom is a major contribution that will impact the historiography of South Africa, urban studies, political economy, and anthropology of the state, market, and violence."  — Peter Geschiere, author of Witchcraft, Intimacy, and Trust: Africa in Comparison


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Anne-Maria Makhulu is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Duke University. She is a coeditor of Hard Work, Hard Times: Global Volatility and African Subjectivities.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii

Prologue  xi

Introduction  1

1. Migrations  27

2. Counterinsurgency  63

3. Transitions  95

4. "Reckoning"  129

Conclusion. Making Freedom  153

Notes  169

References 199

Index  221
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5966-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5947-0
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