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This thought-provoking book is an exploration of the ways religion and diverse forms of mobility have shaped post-apartheid Johannesburg, South Africa. It analyses transnational and local migration in contemporary and historical perspective, along with movements of commodities, ideas, sounds and colours within the city. It re-theorizes urban ‘super-diversity’ as a plurality of religious, ethnic, national and racial groups but also as the diverse processes through which religion produces urban space. The authors argue that while religion facilitates movement, belonging and aspiration in the city, it is complicit in establishing new forms of enclosure, moral order and spatial and gendered control. Multi-authored and interdisciplinary, this edited collection deals with a wide variety of sites and religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. Its original reading of post-apartheid Johannesburg advances global debates around religion, urbanization, migration and diversity, and will appeal to students and scholars working in these fields.

Year:
2016
Edition:
1
Publisher:
Palgrave Macmillan UK
Language:
english
Pages:
335
ISBN 13:
9781137588906
Series:
Global Diversities
File:
PDF, 3.93 MB

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G
SI

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ES

Edited by
MATTHEW WILHELM-SOLOMON,
LORENA NÚÑEZ,
PETER KANKONDE BUKASA
and BETTINA MALCOMESS

L

ER

Mobility, Diversity
and Religious Space in
Johannesburg

BA

IV

LO

D

Routes and
Rites to the City

Global Diversities
Series Editors
Steven Vertovec
Socio-Cultural Diversity Department
Max Planck Institute for the Study of
Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Göttingen, Germany
Peter van der Veer
Department of Religious Diversity
Max Planck Institute for the Study of
Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Göttingen, Germany
Ayelet Shachar
Ethics, Law, and Politics
Max Planck Institute for the Study of
Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Göttingen, Germany

Over the past decade, the concept of ‘diversity’ has gained a leading place
in academic thought, business practice, politics and public policy across
the world. However, local conditions and meanings of ‘diversity’ are highly
dissimilar and changing. For these reasons, deeper and more comparative
understandings of pertinent concepts, processes and phenomena are in
great demand. This series will examine multiple forms and configurations
of diversity, how these have been conceived, imagined, and represented,
how they have been or could be regulated or governed, how different
processes of inter-ethnic or inter-religious encounter unfold, how conflicts arise and how political solutions are negotiated and practiced, and
what truly convivial societies might actually look like. By comparatively
examining a range of conditions, processes and cases revealing the contemporary meanings and dynamics of ‘diversity’, this series will be a key
resource for students and professional social scientists. It will represent a
landmark within a field that has become, and will continue to be, one of
the foremost topics of global concern throughout the twenty-first century. Reflecting this multi-disciplinary field, the series will include works
from Anthropology, Political Science, Sociology, Law, Geography and
Religious Studies. While drawing on an international field of scholars; hip, the series will include works by current and former staff members,
by visiting fellows and from events of the Max Planck Institute for the
Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. Relevant manuscripts submitted
from outside the Max Planck Institute network will also be considered.
More information about this series at
http://www.springer.com/series/15009

Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon • Lorena Núñez
Peter Kankonde Bukasa • Bettina Malcomess
Editors

Routes and Rites to
the City
Mobility, Diversity and Religious Space in
Johannesburg

Editors
Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon
African Centre for Migration
and Society (ACMS)
University of the Witwatersrand
Johannesburg, South Africa
Lorena Núñez
Department of Sociology
University of the Witwatersrand
Johannesburg, South Africa

Peter Kankonde Bukasa
Max Planck Institute for the Study of
Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Göttingen, Germany
and
African Centre for Migration
and Society (ACMS)
University of the Witwatersrand
Johannesburg, South Africa
Bettina Malcomess
Wits School of Arts
University of the Witwatersrand
Johannesburg, South Africa

Global Diversities
ISBN 978-1-137-58889-0    ISBN 978-1-137-58890-6
DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-58890-6

(eBook)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2016962741
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016
The author(s) has/have asserted their right(s) to be identified as the author(s) of this work in accordance
with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether
the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of
illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or
dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed.
The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication
does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant
protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use.
The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book
are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or
the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any
errors or omissions that may have been made.
Cover image: Dean Hutton. Selected stills from Nightwach Zion (HD video), 2007
Printed on acid-free paper
This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by Springer Nature
The registered company is Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
The registered company address is: The Campus, 4 Crinan Street, London, N1 9XW, United Kingdom

Acknowledgements

This project was initiated and funded by the Max Plack Institute for the
Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity’s ‘Super-diversity, South Africa’
project led by Professor Steven Vertovec. This provided funding for the
editorial, conference and co-ordination work, and research support for
several of the chapters (additional funding is noted in author biographies).
This project was conceived by Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon, Lorena
Núñez and Peter Kankonde Bukasa as part of the Religion and Migration
Initiative at the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) at the
University of the Witwatersrand, and who were responsible for selection and editorial inputs on chapters. Bettina Malcomess provided the
visual editing for this manuscript, and the associated visual supplement,
along with contributing substantially to the conceptual development of
the project and text editing of the final manuscript. We thank Marian
Burchardt for his invaluable inputs on the draft manuscript. Finally, we
wish to thank Lenore Longwe and Vigie Govender for their support in
the administration and management of this project.

v

Contents

1	Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction   1
Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon, Lorena Núñez,
Peter Kankonde, and Bettina Malcomess
2	Valleys of Salt in the House of God: Religious
Re-territorialisation and Urban Space  31
Bettina Malcomess and Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon
3	Migration and the Sacred in Greater Rosettenville,
Johannesburg  61
Peter Kankonde and Lorena Núñez
4	“It’s Only the Glass Door, Which Breaks Every Day.”
Layered Politics of (Dis)Order at the Central Methodist
Mission  91
Elina Hankela
5	The Spirit of Hillbrow: Religion and the Ordering of
Social Space in Inner-City Johannesburg 117
Alex Wafer
vii

viii

Contents

6	Remaking Religion, Rethinking Space: How South
Asian and Somali Migrants Are Transforming Ethnically
Bound Notions of Hinduism and Islam in Mayfair
and Fordsburg 137
Zaheera Jinnah and Pragna Rugunanan
7	Enchanted Suburbanism: Fantasy, Fear and Suburbia
in Johannesburg 163
Obvious Katsaura
8	Eyes to See and Ears to Hear: Negotiating Religion
in Alexandra Township 191
Becca Hartman-Pickerill
9	A Man Spoke in Joubert Park: The Establishment
of a Transnational Religious Movement in South Africa 215
Bjørn Inge Sjødin
10	Angels and Ancestors: Prophetic Diversity and Mobility
in the City 239
Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon, Melekias Zulu, and Eric Worby
11	(Un)Rest in Peace: The (Local) Burial of Foreign
Migrants as a Contested Process of Place Making 273
Khangelani Moyo, Lorena Núñez, and Tsepang Leuta
12	Conclusion: Towards New Routes 307
Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon, Bettina Malcomess,
Peter Kankonde, and Lorena Núñez
Index 319

Author Biographies

Elina Hankela is a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the Department of
Practical Theology, University of Helsinki, and the Research Institute for
Theology and Religion, University of South Africa. Hankela is particularly interested in questions related to social justice in the context of urban faith communities in South Africa. Her academic interests further include understanding
belonging in the context of migration, the use of the liberation theological
method and the role of anthropological research methods in doing theology and
social ethics. The Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural
History in Turku, Finland, awarded Hankela the prize for outstanding research
into religion in 2014. Her doctoral research was published under the title
Ubuntu, Migration and Ministry: Being Human in a Johannesburg Church (Brill,
2014). She received supplementary support for the development of this chapter
by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity’s
‘Super-­Diversity, South Africa’ Project.
Becca Hartman-Pickerill promotes the civic value of religious pluralism
through her work at the Interfaith Youth Core, an NGO in Chicago, Illinois,
USA. Before returning to the public sector, she spent five years first in
Johannesburg, South Africa, and then in Hangzhou, China, studying, researching and editing within the field of migration. She holds an MA in forced migration from the University of Witwatersrand, African Centre for Migration &
Society and a BA in Philosophy and Religion from Northwestern University

ix

x

Author Biographies

Zaheera Jinnah joined the African Centre for Migration & Society as a
researcher in 2009. Her research interests include Somali migration, social networks, gender and migration and labour. She has worked on an EU-funded
project on the impact of migrant labour on South Africa’s labour market. She
has previously worked and published in the area of migrant mobilisation in
South Africa. Zaheera has a background in development studies and has recently
completed a PhD on Somali women in Johannesburg. This research was funded
by a grant from the National Research Foundation, South Africa. She received
supplementary support for the development of this chapter by the Max Planck
Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity’s ‘Super-Diversity,
South Africa’ Project. The author is grateful to the editors for their insight and
support in the development of this chapter.
Peter Kankonde Bukasa coordinates the Religion and Migration Research
Initiative at the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), University of
the Witwatersrand, and is currently a visiting research fellow at the Kroc Institute
for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame. Peter Kankonde did
his PhD in sociology at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, while being a
fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic
Diversity. Prior to this, he obtained an LLB degree in public law from the
University of Kinshasa and BA honours and MA degrees in migration and displacement studies from the University of the Witwatersrand. In the past few
years, Peter Kankonde’s research has focused on exploring the conditions under
which migrant-initiated Pentecostal and mainline churches situated in migrant
neighbourhoods generate social legitimacy and how they manage socio-cultural
diversity issues in the conflict-prone post-apartheid South African context. More
broadly, he looks at how contextual politics of difference affect the management
of local multicultural religious congregations and the innovative ways these
organisations attempt to “make things work” in a context characterised by racial
and ethnic social resentment, anti-migrant violent forms of social exclusion and
xenophobia. He also produces ethnographic documentary films on the dynamics of mutual perceptions between local and foreign populations, social transformation and cohesion in Johannesburg. Parallel to this, Peter Kankonde researches
also on African diaspora’s transnational participation in home countries’ conflicts, democratisation, as well as peacebuilding processes, particularly the
Congolese Combattant diasporic movements’ socio-political mobilization and
what he terms long-distance political religion, focusing on the new Congolese
diasporic Bana Nvuluzi Kimbangu Afro-centric religious movement and its
diaspora youth “awakening” political theology. His research and editorial work

Author Biographies

xi

for this volume was supported by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of
Religious and Ethnic Diversity’s ‘Super-diversity, South Africa’ project managed
through the ACMS, University of the Witwatersrand.
Obvious Katsaura is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of
the Witwatersrand. He is a fellow of the Volkswagen Foundation’s Postdoctoral
Fellowships in the Humanities in sub-Saharan and North Africa which funded
the research for this chapter, and a research associate of Society Work and
Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand. Under
the auspices of the Volkswagen Foundation-funded postdoctoral fellowship, he
is working on a three-year research project entitled ‘Violence and Enchanted
Urbanisms: Magico-Religion, Ritualism and Mediation of Violence in
Johannesburg’. His research interests are in the themes of urban violence, urban
politics, urban ethnopolitics, religious urbanisms and transnational urbanism.
Tsepang Leuta is a PhD fellow in the School of Architecture and Planning, at
the University of the Witwatersrand. Her thesis explores how cemetery planning
can be reconceptualised through the social–ecological resilience lens. Her professional experience spans across spatial planning and analysis, policy research in
housing, land and urban development. Her interests explore, among others, the
meaning of resilience and how diverse land uses can be designed and managed
to ensure adequate use and thus attain urban sustainability. Leuta is currently
working on a publication that investigates the management and use of cemeteries as a form of innovation in responding to urban development challenges in
the City of Johannesburg.
Bettina Malcomess is a writer and an artist, working occasionally under the
name Anne Historical. She is the co-author with Dorothee Kreutzfeldt of the
book Not No Place: Johannesburg, Fragments of Spaces and Times (Jacana, 2013).
Her practice is interdisciplinary, collaborative and research-led, often shifting in
response to the material she works with. She has curated several group exhibitions and site-specific public projects. She was one of the co-founders of the
Keleketla! Library Project in Johannesburg. She teaches at the Wits School of
Arts in Fine Arts and occasionally in the School of Architecture. Her research
and editorial work for this volume was supported by the Max Planck Institute
for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity’s ‘Super-Diversity, South Africa’
Project.
Khangelani Moyo completed his MA in 2010 at the African Centre for
Migration & Society entitled ‘Street level interface: the interaction between
health personnel and migrant patients at an inner city public health facility in

xii

Author Biographies

Johannesburg’. He is presently a PhD student in the Department of Architecture
and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. His articles have appeared
in several journals and volumes including the Journal of Southern African Studies,
African Journal of AIDS Research and the book Changing Space, Changing City
Johannesburg after Apartheid, edited by Philip Harrison, Graeme Gotz, Alison
Todes and Chris Wray. This research was supported by Carnegie Corporation of
New York through the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute
(GCSRI) at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Lorena Núñez is Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of the
Witwatersrand. Her academic interests are on topics that intersect culture,
health and mobility. Her PhD research was on social exclusion and its impact on
mental and reproductive health among Peruvian migrant workers in Chile and
was conducted at the Leiden University in the Netherlands. She coordinates the
Masters in Health Sociology program in the Department of Sociology at the
University of the Witwatersrand and conducts research on Zionist and
Pentecostal churches and faith-based healing. She has also researched on issues
of dying and death among cross-border migrants. Her articles have appeared in
numerous journals including Health & Place, African Studies, African Journal of
AIDS Research and Journal of Latin American Studies. She is the co-editor of the
book Healing and Change in the City of Gold (Springer, 2015). Her research and
editorial work for this volume was supported by the Max Planck Institute for the
Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity’s ‘Super-diversity, South Africa’ project
and managed through the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS),
University of the Witwatersrand.
Pragna Rugunanan is an academic at the University of Johannesburg. Her
doctorate focused on African and South Asian migrant communities in South
Africa. She has served on the executive of the South African Sociological
Association and is currently a council member and a working group convener.
During her break from academia, she was involved in training and consulting
for various manufacturing concerns under the Manufacturing, Engineering and
Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (MerSETA). Upon
her return to academia, she has been involved in National Research Foundation
(NRF)-funded research projects on Family, Well-Being and Resilience and
Social Capital and Citizenship. Her research interests include the sociology of
migration and labour studies and changing patterns of work, social networks
and community studies. She has published on migration, gender, xenophobia,
education and citizenship. For this research, she received funding from the NRF,

Author Biographies

xiii

South Africa. The author is grateful to the editors for their insight and support
in the development of this chapter.
Bjørn Inge Sjødin finished his MA studies at the Department of Social
Anthropology, University of Oslo, in 2014. With a focus on knowledge production and ritual healing, he conducted a six-month-long fieldwork with the spiritual community the ‘African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem’ in South Africa. He
is now pursuing a career in education. He would like to dedicate his chapter to
Mikaiyahel Ben Shaul.
Alex Wafer is a lecturer in Geography at the University of the Witwatersrand
and previously a postdoctoral research fellow at MMG participating in the
GLOBALDIVERCITIES project that examines superdiversity in public spaces
in a neighbourhood in Johannesburg. He completed his doctorate at the Open
University in the UK entitled ‘Informality, infrastructure and the state in post-­
apartheid Johannesburg’ and has published in several journals and collected
­editions. Research for this article was undertaken within the GlobaldiverCities
Proje (http://www.mmg.mpg.de/subsites/globaldivercities/about/) funded by
the European Research Council Advanced Grant, Project No: 269784, awarded
to Prof. Steven Vertovec and based at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of
Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany (www.mmg.mpg.de).
Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon is a researcher at the African Centre for Migration
& Society (ACMS), and the lead researcher on the Routes & Rites project. His
research and editorial work for this volume was supported by the Max Planck
Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity’s ‘Super-Diversity,
South Africa’ Project and managed through the ACMS. Elements of his chapters
here were presented in narrative form in the e-book Writing Invisibility:
Conversations on the Hidden City produced in collaboration between the ACMS
and Mail & Guardian, and also funded by the ‘Super-Diversity, South Africa’
project.
Wilhelm-Solomon completed his doctorate from the University of Oxford
in development studies which focused on HIV/AIDS treatment to displaced
communities in northern Uganda. Presently, he is also working on a monograph
focusing on migration and urban regeneration in inner-city Johannesburg. His
articles have appeared in a number of international journals and books including The African Cities Reader, Medical Anthropology, Current Anthropology and
Healing and Change in the City of Gold, among others. He has also been a recipient of the Volkswagen Foundation ‘Knowledge for Tomorrow’ Postdoctoral
Fellow in the Humanities and a writing fellowship under the Migration &

xiv

Author Biographies

Health, South African project funded by the Wellcome Foundation. He wishes
to thank all those who provided interviews for this work, and to his partner
Adriana Miranda da Cunha for her constant support throughout this project.
Eric Worby is the Director of the Humanities Graduate Centre at the University
of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. His research interests and publications
derive from work undertaken in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania
and Bangladesh on a very wide range of themes including state violence and the
contestation of sovereignty; colonial and postcolonial discourses of law, ethnicity and development; transformations of labour and sexuality in agrarian society; Islam and public life; the ethical dimensions of migrant experience; and the
expression of race, identity and desire in informal soccer. For a decade prior to
joining University of the Witwatersrand in 2006, he taught Anthropology at
Yale University, where he held a joint appointment in the School of Forestry and
Environmental Studies and served several terms as Acting Director of the
Program in Agrarian Studies.
Melekias Zulu is a PhD candidate at the African Centre for Migration &
Society (ACMS) at University of the Witwatersrand. He completed his MA at
the ACMS, a study of Zionist churches in South Africa and has been a researcher
with the Religion & Migration Initiative at the ACMS since 2012. He is a contributor to the volume Healing and Change in the City of Gold (2015, Springer,
135-148). His work on this project as a co-author and research assistant was
supported by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic
Diversity’s ‘Super-Diversity, South Africa’ Project.

1
Routes and Rites to the City:
Introduction
Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon, Lorena Núñez,
Peter Kankonde, and Bettina Malcomess

Overview
This book is an exploration of the ways religion and diverse forms of
mobility have shaped post-apartheid Johannesburg. By mobility, we refer
M. Wilhelm-Solomon (*)
African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg, South Africa
L. Núñez
Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand (WITS),
Johannesburg, South Africa
P.B. Kankonde
Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity,
Göttingen, Germany
African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS),
University of Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg, South Africa
B. Malcomess
Wits School of Arts, Johannesburg, South Africa
© The Author(s) 2016
M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al. (eds.), Routes and Rites to the City,
DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-58890-6_1

1

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M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

From top left: St Mary’s the Less Anglican Church, Rosettenville Synagogue,
Rosettenville Catholic Church, Pure Fire Miracles Ministries International,
Watchman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement, Universal Church of the
Kingdom of God (Rosettenville Branch). Photographs by: Bettina Malcomess
and Shogan Naidoo. 2014–2015

to not only transnational and intra-national migration but also movements of commodities, ideas and forms, the traffic of objects, sounds and
colours within the city. By taking this approach, we aim to re-theorize
religion and urban super-diversity (Vertovec 2007, 2015a, b): here super-­
diversity is viewed not simply in terms of the plurality of religious, ethnic, national and racial groups, but conceived in terms of the multiple
movements and enclosures through which religion produces and permeates
urban space. The relationship between religion, mobility and urbanization involves both temporal and spatial diversity and the shifting borders
of spatial production, belonging and exclusion. This is a constant process
of territorialization and de-territorialization of physical, aesthetic and
symbolic forms of the city. We argue here that while religion allows for a
sense of belonging and capacitates movement, freedom and aspiration in
the city, it is also complicit in establishing new forms of enclosure, moral
order and spatial and gendered control.
In reading the city through the intersecting phenomena of religion and
mobility, we aim to provide a reading of post-apartheid Johannesburg that
has been widely neglected in the literature on the city, as well as engaging with and advancing global debates around religion, urbanization and
diversity. Here we focus on Johannesburg in its singularity not only as a

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

3

recently “post-apartheid” city, with particular configurations of situated
histories, but also as a case study of a city of the Global South or “near-­
South” (Simone 2014)—post-colonial cities characterized by extreme
disparities and proximity both to capitalist urban development and to
extreme instability. After the end of apartheid in 1994, Johannesburg
remains a city characterized by high levels of social inequality, a post-­
colonial legacy, defined by highly diverse forms of mobility, social identity, economic strategies and collaborations. This approach is not in any
way to deny the persistence of apartheid-era racial and class inequality in
the city, nor the continual processes of marginalization and dispossession
through post-apartheid capitalism: rather our aim is to trace how religious forms and mobilities produce and saturate the circulation of capital
and labour, and the spatiality of the post-apartheid city. These are imbricated in intersecting forms of social and moral order, exchange, belonging and exclusion in the urban context. Hence, this volume explores the
intricate cartography of religion in Johannesburg, covering a great diversity of practices and spaces. Here we draw on perspectives from religious
history, anthropology, urbanism, aesthetics, critical theory, sociology and
theology. Adding to the flourishing body of theory on religion, migration
and urbanism, we show how the transnational dimensions of migration
and religion are continually being territorialized and de-territorialized,
and also the ways these processes operate within the city.
Whereas most recent volumes addressing religion, migration and urbanization (discussed below) have adopted a transnational comparative perspective, our approach focuses on a single city: Johannesburg. While this
is a multi-authored volume, it was developed through a series of dialogues
and collaborations hosted by the African Centre for Migration and Society
(ACMS) at the University of the Witwatersrand though including a diversity of scholars from different universities and insitutions, and funded by
Max Planck’s Super-­Diversity South Africa project. The process involved a
transnational group of authors involving South Africans, Zimbabweans, a
Congolese, two Scandinavians, a Chilean and a North American. However,
the project was developed and situated within a University of the Global
South and located within the site of study. Several of the authors collaborated with one another on research, and even those who have sole authored
their pieces attended a series of conversations and workshops discussing
material in progress—hence there are themes and arguments which recur

4

M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

across chapters, illuminating diverse dimensions of the city. In this sense,
this volume is closer to what Susan Reynolds Whyte (2014) calls a “polygraph” rather than a typical edited collection. We argue that a case study
of a single city viewed through multiple and transnational perspectives
allows us to view the forms of mobility and diversity operating within
and beyond the city. In this introduction, we will provide a broad background to the city of Johannesburg and situate this book’s theoretical and
empirical engagements.

 iversity, Dispossession and Religion
D
in Johannesburg
The city of Johannesburg was born in 1886 as a mining encampment,
after the discovery of gold-bearing quartz.1 From a piece of uitvalgrond
or abandoned land in the middle of eight farms, public diggings were
declared—an explosive moment giving rise over the century that followed to one of Africa’s largest metropolises. From all over the country
and world, prospectors gathered in Johannesburg. While white prospectors competed over digs and fortunes, particularly with the onset of deeplevel mining, continued processes of colonial dispossession ensured that
there was cheap black labour to exploit: mining compounds were created.
Johannesburg, initially under the control of the Afrikaner leader Paul
Kruger became a key site in the inter-colonial war between the British
and the Afrikaners, into which many black Africans were conscripted. In
the early twentieth century, the demand for cheap labour led to migrant
labour coming in, not only from all over the region but also from India
and China.
The city from its outset was characterized by biblical references as “the
new Babylon” and “new Nineveh”—defined as it was by illicit markets in
liquor, crime and sex work, as well as the equally shadowy and speculative
nature of gold prospecting (Van Onselen 2001, 3). Compelled by a sense of
moral dissolution and decay, religious groups and institutions established
For an overview of the history of Johannesburg and its origins, see Beavon (2004) and Van
Onselen (2001).
1

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

5

themselves in the city. While mainline churches—Catholic, Presbyterian
and Anglican along with Jewish synagogues—were established in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, emergent religious forms linked
to migrant labour were also a feature of the city’s earliest history. In particular, Christian Zionism was a form adopted from an American evangelical movement, the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church (CCAC)
founded in Chicago in 1896, eventually establishing a Zion City, and
drawing its following from marginalized urban populations. In 1904,
proselytizers from Zion City came to Johannesburg to grant membership
to a group of black South Africans. The Zionist movement spread across
the country, being adapted and innovated into various urban and rural
local forms, the largest of these being the Zion Christian Church (ZCC)
established in 1925, with its headquarters Zion City Moria in Limpopo
province (Comaroff 1985; Sundkler 1961; West 1975).
What is clear here is that a super-diversity of ethnic, national, racial
and religious groups was a feature of Johannesburg from its early
decades—but this diversity was highly stratified and characterized by
exploitation and repeated dispossession. As Chipkin (1993, 195) notes
with regard to the early migration into Johannesburg: “the growing tide
of migration that took countrymen into the industrial towns of South
Africa cannot be divorced from large-scale dispossession.” The history
of Johannesburg in colonial and apartheid times was also one of intense
dispossession. The first mass evictions in Johannesburg, as Keith Beavon
(2004) has documented, were in 1904 and involved burning down the
houses of an Indian community in the city, justified by the threat of
bubonic plague. The 1923 Natives (Urban Areas) Act aimed to regulate black migration and residency in Johannesburg and laid the basis
for apartheid-era urban segregation throughout the 1920s and 1930s,
with mass evictions of black residents from the inner city to the urban
peripheries. After 1948, apartheid-­era legislation was to solidify the racial
division of South Africa and its cities, and black workers had to live in
townships like Soweto on the urban peripheries (Tomlison et al. 2003).
The 1950s saw the mass removals of black communities in Sophiatown
in the northwest of the city. While the period from the 1970s to 1980s
saw continued evictions from inner-city areas, these slowed in the 1980s
due to anti-eviction activism and legislation leading to increased multi-

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M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

racial residence in inner-city areas (Beavon 2004; Marx and Rubin 2008;
Winkler 2013). In the latter years of apartheid, while the government
attempted to stop racial mixing and exclude black populations, civil
society activism in Johannesburg managed to partially prevent evictions from the city (Winkler 2013). During the 1990s and 2000s, however, there was heightened mobility of white capital and residents from
inner-city Johannesburg to previously whites-only suburbs, resulting in
increased dereliction of inner-city infrastructures (Chipkin 2008; Zack
et al. 2010). The post-apartheid city was to be reshaped substantially, not
just by the breakdown of racially structured influx control but also by
new patterns of migration. However, the role of religion in these changes
has been substantially ignored—it is to this end that this volume aims
to contribute.

Re-reading Post-apartheid Johannesburg
An indication of the lack of attention to religion in the study of the
post-apartheid city is in the fact that the introduction of the Harrison
et al.’s (2014) expansive edited volume Changing Space, Changing City:
Johannesburg After Apartheid, in an exhaustive overview of the literature
on the city, makes little mention of religion. Their volume does, however,
contribute to redressing this absence, containing Winkler’s contribution
on Hillbrow arguing that “credoscapes” formed by faith-based organizations of different denominations have been important in creating “nodes
of hope, order and stability amid perceived chaos and decay” (Winkler
2014, 492), a narrative piece by Kuljian (2014) on migration and the
Central Methodist Church and two pieces on the dynamism of Islam in
Johannesburg (Dinath et al. 2014; Sadouni 2014) and drawing attention
to the contemporary and historical dynamism of Islam in Johannesburg.
Routes and Rites traverses some of the same spaces, though it is, however,
the first volume to offer an explicit focus on religion in Johannesburg and
a sustained engagement with its implications for theorizing urban spaces,
mobilities and materialities—looking not only at issues of belonging
and exclusion but also at the super-diverse forms and processes through
which religion is enmeshed in urban life.

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

7

Much of the literature on post-apartheid Johannesburg has primarily
been concerned with racial and class segregation, criminality and security,
the expansion of private sector regeneration is shaping urban space or its
architectural heritage and public memorials (see inter alia, Beall et al.
2002; Tomlison et al. 2003; Murray 2008, 2011). A primary debate on
the post-apartheid city has been of the effects of the expansion of neoliberal instrumentality and marketization on managing urban regeneration,
and the ways in which these have re-inscribed class divisions, albeit with
some limited de-racialization. Religion in the city is mostly considered an
epiphenomenon or in a functionalist sense as a lost refuge for the marginalized, a “sanctuary in a heartless world” (Murray 2011, 171), but it
is not accorded real force in shaping and reading the post-apartheid city.
A second body of theory has been primarily concerned with emergent
lines of migration, affiliation, alliance and cultural form. The reshaping
of the city through patterns of migration, both within South Africa and
from across its borders, has led to a plurality of new social identities, alliances and engagements and evasions of the state and police (Hornberger
2011; Nuttall and Mbembe 2008; Simone 2008; Vearey 2010; Wanjiku
Kihato 2014; Landau 2009; Landau and Freemantle 2010). Notably,
Mbembe and Nuttall’s (2008) Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis has
given attention to the Afropolitan form of Johannesburg—its emergent
forms of consumption, migration and cultural production. Malcomess
and Kreutzfeldt (2013), inspired by the work of Walter Benjamin, trace
the historical evolution of the city, its passages, waterways and uitvalgrond (surplus ground), along with its archives, as a way of reading the
interplay between aesthetic and material forms, and the inscriptions of
memory and dispossession onto these. However, they acknowledge that
the religious and spiritual dimensions of the city are not reflected in their
work, and it is in part from this absence that this project departs.
In particular, it has been through studies of migration, or migrant
spaces, that religion has re-entered urban theory. For instance, Landau
(2009, 197) has argued that “religion is one of a number of strategies for
negotiating inclusion and belonging while transcending ethnic, national
and transnational paradigms” and “by using strategies of partial inclusion
and claiming rights, the religious practices of international migrants find
ways to meld a normative social order, and to claim rights and transience”

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M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

(Landau 2014, 301). Tanja Winkler’s (2013, 2014) study of Hillbrow, one
of the most diverse areas of the country, and a primary residential area for
non-national migrants, has given attention to the significance of faith-­
based organization in the inner city and the role these could play in urban
regeneration policies, while being significantly excluded by state and private
sector-driven policies. In particular, the xenophobic violence of May 2008
which began in the township of Alexandra, but spread throughout the inner
city leaving thousands displaced, has provoked a major re-evaluation of our
understanding of the city and post-apartheid South Africa more generally
(Landau et al., 2011 for an account of this violence). Nationwide, it led to
over 60 deaths and more than 100 000 displaced. It began in the township of Alexandra on the outskirts of Johannesburg, but spread into the
inner-city, and nationwide. Religious groups played a major role in response
to this crisis, and this in turn drew attention towards the role of religion
in the city (Bompani 2013; Sadouni 2013; Kuljian 2013; Hankela 2014;
Hartman-Pickerill, this volume). A volume Healing and Change in the City
of Gold edited by Palmary, Hamber and Núñez (2015), and also developed
at the ACMS, addresses the issue of religion in Johannesburg but primarily
from a social-­psychological rather than urbanist perspective. Hence Routes
& Rites is the first full volume that aims to rethink post-apartheid diversity
in the city of Johannesburg through the lens of urbanism and religion.
In the volume, we have chosen to take a broader perspective and to focus
on spatiality and mobility, rather than only on migration. Johannesburg
has often been framed as a city of migrants with a “long history of local
and international migration” (COJ 2013). The 2000s in particular elicited
a radical shift in migratory patterns in South Africa and Johannesburg,
particularly due to the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe, which
led to South Africa becoming one of the largest recipients of asylum seekers in the world in the first decade of the millennium; although in recent
years, with the civil conflict in Syria and the so-called Migrant Crisis in
Europe, this has changed. At present, it has almost 300,000 asylum seekers and refugees,2 though certainly many more undocumented migrants.
Though census data may not reflect the actual dynamics of migration,
given the high numbers of undocumented migrants in the city, they do
reflect some of the changing dynamics of migration. In 2001, 97.1 % of
2

http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e485aa6.html

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

9

the residents of Johannesburg were born in South Africa, while in 2011
this decreased to 84.6%. The majority of non-nationals in 2011 came
from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region
(7.5 %), with 0.7 % coming from the rest of Africa, 0.5 % of the UK and
Europe and 0.5 % from Asia. This reflects overall an increase of 9.8 % in
international migration in the decade from 2001 to 2010. However, we
cannot only view migration as a trans-border phenomena: 48 % of the
residents of Johannesburg were born outside of the province of Gauteng
in 2011, compared to 2001 in which only 7.4 % were born.
This reflects that migration to the city is predominantly from within
South Africa and not cross-border migration. Hence, the most radical
shifts in the city cannot be thought of as a result of trans-border migration. Nonetheless, in the inner-city areas the diversity of groupings is evident and well documented in ethnographic studies, reflected also in this
volume. We do not, however, draw a clear distinction between national
and non-national migrants; our concern here is with the diversity of processes of emplacement, rather than with a taxonomic categorization of
migrants. Inasmuch as the apartheid regime aimed at rendering black
populations “temporary sojourners” in the city, this effectively aimed to
territorialize belonging in “ancestral homelands”: however, in the post-­
apartheid era, borders between insiders and outsiders, citizen and non-­
citizen continue to structure and constrain mobility (Burchardt 2013;
Nyamnjoh 2006). Hence, we must consider the “migrant” a particular
effect of territorializing bureaucratic and military regimes (both the apartheid state and the contemporary asylum and deportation regime). Hence,
while we give much attention to processes of human mobility, we do not
aim to re-­impose borders between citizens and migrants. Furthermore, in
recent studies of mobility and globalization in Africa, mobility has been
treated in terms of not just the mobility of people but also “resources,
ideas, finances and objects” (Langwick et al. 2012, 8). An analysis of
mobility hence provides a broader and more encompassing lens than an
analysis of “migration” and also allows the focus to encompass broader
assemblages of people, spaces and things. Here we follow this idea again
not only with the attentiveness to transnational forms of mobility but
also in terms of attempts at class mobility and the ways in which religion
shapes forms of economic and social aspiration.

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M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

A final point to make here is that the absence of religion in contemporary studies of Johannesburg is striking, particularly given the rich
historiographic and ethnographic study of religion in South Africa and
Southern Africa (see inter alia, Comaroff 1985; Comaroff and Comaroff
1991, 2009; Chidester 2012; Sundkler 1961; Gunner 2004; Ngubane
1977; West 1975). These studies among others have traced how religious
orders, rituals and mobilities have shaped Southern African history, indelibly inscribed within both the colonial past and post-colonial present.
However, the impact of these studies on reading the post-apartheid city
has often been elided. A central concern in this volume is that contemporary forms of religious diversity must be understood from an historical
perspective. As such, we view the urban as a dense constellation of spatial
and temporal forms of diversity. In developing this volume, in addition
to contributing to re-theorization of diversity, we also aim to contribute
to the emerging and vital study of urbanisms in Africa and the Global or
“near-” South (Pieterse 2011; Simone 2014).

 ites and Rights: Engaging the Religious Turn
R
in Urban Studies
The chapters in this volume are shaped by encounters with two diverse
streams of theory: first, religious sociology and anthropology stemming from Weber and Durkheim, and encompassing the rich tradition
of religious studies in Southern Africa, and, second, recent trends in
urban theory particularly informed by urban geography and the work
of Lefebvre (1991, 2000), along with recent work in assemblage theory,
particularly informed by the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari 2004,
among others. As a point of departure, let us begin with Durkheim’s
conception of “rite.” He argues that “rites can be distinguished from
other human practices—for example, moral practices—only be the special nature of the object … The special nature of that object is expressed
in the belief ” (Durkheim, 2008, 40). Durkheim classifies the object of
religious rites in his well-known distinction between the sacred and the
profane, and the rite requires a sacred object. Durkheim writes that the
“sacred and the profane are always and everywhere conceived by the

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

11

human intellect as separate genera, as two worlds with nothing in common” (Durkheim, 2008, 42). Almost all the c­ hapters of this volume
show, however, that the relations between the sacred and the profane
are fluid and unstable: rites are not simply structured by belief; rather
­rituals and material practices involve the constant reworking of categories and objects of belief. Rites or rituals are generative, creative, unstable
and innovated (Appadurai 2013, 192). Rites produce their objects and
are shaped by them, rather than the materiality of rites being ordered
through an abstract belief. The chapters in this volume show that the
objects and spaces of rites not only are shaped and produced by transnational and urban movements but also are themselves mobile. Religious
rites are enfolded into the movement of trans-border migration, traffic,
commodity circuits, security enclosures and so on.
From here, we enter the domain of urban theory: how then do we
understand the spaces and objects of rites, and what is the relation of
rites to rights? The connection is more than simply that these are homophones: at stake is the production and transformation of urban space.
As Lefebvre in his well-known essay writes that the “right to the city”
can only be formulated “as a transformed and right to urban life” (Lefebvre
2000, 158)—of which, he notes, “only the working class can become the
agent, the social carrier or support of the realisation.” Lefebvre (1991)
views space as socially produced and relational, encompassing lines of
movement, and not as an abstract container. David Harvey (2012, 23),
Lefebvre’s most prominent contemporary exponent, has reformulated
Lefebvre’s vision by arguing that “the right to the city is, therefore, far more
than a right of individual or group access to the resources that the city
embodies: it is a right to change and reinvent the city more after our heart’s
desires. It is, moreover, a collective rather than individual right, since reinveinting the city inevitably depends on the exercise of collective power
over the process of urbanization.” Harvey frames this collective struggle, as
Lefebvre does, in Marxist terms of global working-class struggle.
Our emphasis on rites rather than explicitly formulated “rights” is not
that we deny that urban regeneration schemes continue to dispossess and
dislocate precariously placed residents in Johannesburg and globally (see
Wilhelm-Solomon 2016) nor that the struggles for the rights in the city
can be collective and transformative. Rather, such a perspective seems

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M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

to bracket out the lives of many who seek personal mobility and selftransformation through other forms, notably spirituality or religion, and
that claims to urban space are often made through religious rites and
appropriations of space, not collective rights-based movements. In fact,
with the exception of the Central Methodist Mission (Hankela, this volume), few religious organizations in this study have actively mobilized for
socio-economic and legal rights through formal civic, political and legal
mobilizations. The relation of rites to rights is hence formed through
social and material practice within the urban fabric.
Lefebvre’s work has had a profound impact on thinking about the
relation between religion and spatiality, and provides a basis for the
reflections of several contributors to this volume, as it has inspired other
studies theorizing the religious shaping of urban forms. The recent volume Rescripting Religion in the City: Migration and Religious Identity in the
Modern Metropolis addresses this convergence most explicitly. The focus
of this collection is “on the ways in which religious constructions of identity and the ways of imagining the world have engaged with the contingencies and pluralism of migrational life” (Garnett and Harris 2013, 2).
The editors draw attention to the complex relationship between space
and place and draw particularly on a Lefebvrian notion of space to highlight the historical, sensorial and affective relationship to religious spaces
in the city.
Another emergent theme in urban religious studies is the engagement with the work of Deleuze and Guattari and assemblage theory
more widely (see MacFarlane 2011; Farias 2011; Simone 2014), and the
complex relationship between territorialization and space. The collection Global Prayers by the Metrozones Project provides a transnational
and trans-disciplinary approach to understanding the ways in which “the
urban and the religious reciprocally interact, mutually interlace, producing, defining and transforming each other” (Lanz 2013, 26). The work is
oriented around three theoretical manoeuvres: first, drawing on the concept of ‘worlding’ (see Ong 2011) which involves the localized appropriation and reworking of globalized commodity circuits, imaginations and
flows of signs and value. Second, they draw on the Deleuzian concept of
the assemblage focusing on the dense interconnections between multiple
forms, both material and spiritual. Their third theoretical manoeuvre is

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

13

the inclusion of multiple methodologies and modes of research, such as
artistic practice, in interrogating the relation between religious and aesthetic forms of the city.
The collection Topographies of Faith (edited by Becci et al. 2013)
explores the ways in which religion and urbanity “are transformed
together by current social processes” and pose the questions of how “the
spatial organization of cities and spatializations of religious communities, practices and aspirations” are related to one another (Burchardt
and Becci 2013, 13). They argue that social relations can be spatialized
through two primary processes: first, drawing on Berking (2006, cited in
Burchardt and Becci 2013, 13), the demarcated and territorialized borders of political authority, and in particular the nation state; and second,
drawing on Castells (1996, cited in Burchardt and Becci 2013, 13), a
de-territorialized form that exceeds the boundaries of national borders
and enclosures and that form around global flows. They argue that “the
deterritorialisation of religion is primarily made visible through the ways
in which transnational migration both uncouples and reconfigures place
and territory from religious identity and community,” showing how
“the entanglements of religion and nationalism on the one hand, and
global denominationalism on the other are two crucial horizons through
which religion is folded into urban modernity and must be interpreted”
(Burchardt and Becci 2013, 14–15).
Another key domain of debate has been regarding the role of the
“sacred” in the city in light of critiques of Durkheim. The volume
The Sacred in the City (eds Gomez and Van Herck, 2013) poses questions about the problem of the sacred and the magical in the modern
metropolis. It deals with the sacred as a political, aesthetic, cultural and
architectonic category for understanding modernity and modernization.
The sacred is treated as circumscribed to the religious sphere and instrumental in forming identities of the urban multi-cultural dwellers. The
sacred is also treated as an aesthetic experience, which helps to understand non-rational and non-intentional social binding, as a form of primary sociality. Another key example of the exploration of the sacred in
the urban is the work of De Boeck (2013, 529) who explores the ways
“in which urban cultures and infrastructures mediate diverse practices,
discourses and affects in the various domains of the sacred.” With refer-

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M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

ence to Kinshasa, he introduces the term ­“Polis-­Sacred” to indicate that
“sacred and the polis have become intricately intertwined” (ibid., 537).
An emergent theme in this work, as in others within the religious turn
in urban theory, is the unstable relation between sacral and secular space
(see Lanz 2013), along with the blurring of distinctions between sacred
objects and commodities.
What is distinctive in our approach in this volume within this current religious turn in urbanist research is that it takes the case study of a
single city rather than providing a transnational comparative dimension.
We believe that, more than just a matter of scale, this approach reveals
the dense spatial and territorial inscriptions at play within a particular
city. We argue that this provides a route into re-theorizing the relation of
religion to urban diversity.

 ethinking Religious Diversity
R
in Johannesburg
“Super-diversity” in Vertovec’s (2007, a, b) formulation is intended to
account for the proliferation of multiple categories and subdivisions of
groups in the contemporary metropolis—based on religion, ethnicity,
history of migration, race and so on. This formulation also accounts for
the layering of multiple historical forms of migration and diversity. While
we are influenced by this approach, we aim to re-theorize an understanding of this layered temporal and spatial diversity in relation to urban
space, as well as viewing diversity in terms of the multiple processes by
which religion and mobility shape the urban. In South Africa, according to Blom Hansen (quoted in Vertovec 2015b, 14) “Urban dwellers
… have developed a kind of agility and ability to live simultaneously in
many different spheres”—here we give attention to the ways in which
rites and religion are enfolded into the very plurality and proximity of
these spheres.
Vertovec (2015b) proposes a triadic model of understanding the
relation of diversity to complex social environment in terms of “configurations—representations—encounters.” Configurations refer to the

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

15

“structural conditions within which people carry out their lives” (Vertovec
2015b, 15). Representations refer to the cognitive, discursive and symbolic forms shaping social power relations; and, finally, “encounters” refer
to the domain of “human interactions.” In our perspective, these formulations are powerful, but lack a theorization of spatiality and mobility, that
is the ways in which these triadic forms become territorialized, connect
with one another and are reworked in particular settings. We argue here
that diversity is not something that only takes place within urban spaces
and territories; rather, its forms are part of the very processes through
which urban spaces are produced and formed. A case study of a single city
testifies to the very plurality of ways in which flows of people and objects
become entangled in religious rites and forms, and in doing so become
implicated in the city’s spatial and temporal formation. In developing this
position in relation to religion, it is important to briefly account for how
religious diversity has been framed in social science literature.
Religious diversity or pluralism generally conveys the idea that there
exists today an astonishingly diverse range of religious beliefs and practices in many societies around the world (King 2008). Scholars mainly
use, depending on their disciplinary perspective, the concept of religious
diversity to refer to either positions or attitudes regarding the issues of the
truth claims of one religion vis-à-vis others, or the plurality of religious
offerings, or again the sociological effects of religious diversification in a
given society (Wilde et al. 2010; Miller 2002). Sociologists of religion
have mainly debated the effects of religious diversification on the salience
of religion in people’s lives and their religious participation. Hence, religious diversity has been discussed mainly as demographic reality.
Historically, religious plurality has been perceived to have a negative
impact on religious beliefs and activity (Hume 1762, cited in Eswaran
2011). The first classical theory against religious diversity was proposed
that it would lead to conflict and public disorder and reduce the authority of religious claims by infusing doubt about the truth of those claims
(Hume 1762, cited in Eswaran 2011; Stark 1995, 431). The second
classical theory assumed modernism’s secularization effect on industrialized societies. Eminent scholars such as Emile Durkheim, Max Weber
and Peter Berger (in his early work) all argued that increased industrialization and religious pluralism in most western societies accounted

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M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

for a perceived diminishing religiosity (Berger 1967; Van Tubergen and
Sindradóttir 2011; Eswaran 2011). These academic discussions of the
“old” pluralism saw the existence of a wide variety of Christian denominations as evidence of a pluralistic society (Machacek 2003, 146). The
argument that over time modern and industrialized societies would experience the withering and disappearance of religion has long been taken
to be self-evident. However, these theses have been firmly rebutted in
recent scholarship on religion in the city as discussed above (Burchardt
and Becci 2013; Becker et al. 2013).
While the above discussion is concerned mainly with inter-­
congregational religious pluralism at a societal level, a variant literature has
instead spawned considerable work focusing on intra-congregational or
individual-level belief diversity within denominations and within congregations understood to be the primary cause of religious diversity (See Gill
2003; Stark and Finke 2000; Olson 1999; Stark and Bainbridge 1985).
This literature shows that there is diversity, for example, between mainlines and liberal denominations, while there is comparatively less diversity of belief in conservative denominations (Poloma 1989 and Yamane
2007, cited in Reimer 2011). Even within orthodoxy, for example, there
is a degree of variety between congregations in the same denomination
(Reimer 2011).
Recent work in urban studies has developed the themes of diversity in relation to the urban. In particular cities in the Global South,
exhibit what Ajay Ghandi (2013, 191, 204) calls, with reference to Old
Delhi, “radical heterogeneity” where we witness a complex play between
“demarcation and border crossing.” While ethnic or religious lines may
be established in discourse or at times of violence, these are frequently
transgressed in daily life. Burchardt and Becci (2013) call attention to
both the horizontal diversity between groups and the importance of the
“pragmatic historicity” of the religious diversity involving “demarcating
pasts, confronting presents and envisioning futures.” Kihato et al. (2010,
3) develop the notion of urban diversity as involving “ethnic, racial,
national, religious, gender, class and sexual differences, which are at once
sources of creativity and innovation but also of conflict and contradictions.” These theorizations point to the multiplicity and fluidity of diversity in contemporary urban spaces, and the fact that they are a source of

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

17

both conflict and creation. Knott (2015, 90–91) argues that “religion is
undoubtedly an important facet of contemporary superdiversity, influenced by migration, transnational circulations and diasporic interconnections.” She frames this diversity primarily in terms of differentiated
“selves, groups, creatures, things, times and places … distinguished or
set apart by others. Arguably, where religion is present, there is diversity,
or at least the potential for it.” Similarly, Adogame (2010) emphasizes
the complex dynamics of self-identity and place-making in relation to
transnational religious forms. While we engage with these approaches,
we also argue that theorizing diversity needs to be analysed at the level of
the processes and forms of spatial production and the mobilities of those
who practice and produce these religious forms in urban spaces. Here,
difference is a product of not only structural divides and conflicts but also
internal divergences.
One key theme that emerges from our study is that while religious
competition and differentiation is pervasive, religion in Johannesburg is
not a source of outright violence and conflict in the ways that it has
been in other cities of the Global South. Furthermore, in contrast to
the concerns with multi-culturalism in Europe raised by popular fears of
migration and rising Islamaphobia, religion plays very little part in social
tensions and violence in South Africa, where race, class and nationality have been defining historical and contemporary forces. Hence, one
may ask what is the value of studying religious diversity? Our approach
here is to address, firstly, the ways in religion and rites become articulated within (and outside of ) other forms of differentiation and division.
Furthermore, we understand religious diversity as productive—in this
sense, to paraphrase Lefebvre (1991), we read religious diversity as productive of urban spaces, producing forms of mobility and passage within
and through the city. What we term religious space is thus characterized
by a plurality of internal forms, of differentiations, movements, passages
and enclosures, which are not simply a product of divisions between self-­
identified groups. Here, we think of super-diversity not only in terms of
the horizontal diversity of groups of different ethnic, racial and religious
composition but also in terms of both spatial and temporal diversity, and
the way these layers form part of the urban fabric. Religious diversity is
conceived of as not only diversity between religions but also historically

18

M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

determined processes of re-assembling lines of inclusion and division;
diverse traditions, moral orders and ontologies; and disparate spatial relations. Religious rites become implicated and enfolded in these processes.
Religious diversity thus represents a plurality of “pathways” through the
city, not only assuming symbolic and aesthetic forms but also actively
blocking and regulating the daily movements of bodies according to gender, class and race.
Kankonde and Núñez show how religious diversity involves the overlay of religious traditions within a specific site—a synagogue used by
both a diminishing white Jewish population and a Congolese Pentecostal
church. This space involves not only mutual inhabitation but also a
respectful difference mediated by the worship of Yawheh. Religious rites
become implicated and enfolded in these processes. In contrast, Sjødin’s
study of the African Hebrew Israelites, reveals how transnational forms
of worship become re-territorialized in the space of the city. Without any
direct Jewish lineage, this group adopts Jewish idioms of worship and
views Israel as a spiritual home. In these studies, we see the constant play
of how historically localized and transnational religious forms produce
super-diversity in the city. Jinnah and Rugunanan’s chapter shows how
the area of Mayfair has become diversified much more in terms of different branches of Islam, along with historical relations between Hindu
and Muslim communities which were formed during the colonial and
post-apartheid era. More recently, these areas have undergone increased
diversification with new and post-apartheid lines of migration from
Somalia and elsewhere. This study relates to the production not only
of space through the proliferation of mosques and temples but also of
private spaces of worship and reveals the importance of the interactions
between historical and contemporary lines of mobility and enclosure and
the ways they are inscribed upon urban spaces. However, while the area is
undergoing increasing intra-religious diversification, apartheid-era racial
divides persist.
Katsaura’s chapter in this regard is important for arguing how racial and
class-divides are being re-inscribed in the city; ironically, fear is becoming
a new form of religion, and habits of securitization take on a ritualistic
character. He invokes the concept of “enchanted suburbanism” to grasp
the ritualization of security. Even while there may be limited and suspi-

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

19

cious inter-racial diversity, there is little class diversity in these spaces,
these are held together by fear and consumerism, bound up in a neo-­
Pentecostal and corporate form. Similarly, Wilhelm-Solomon, Zulu and
Worby show how, while evangelical prophetic churches provide spaces
for international and class diversity and capacitate aspirational hopes for
physical and social mobility in the city, they also legitimate class-divides.
Hankela’s study of the Central Methodist Mission reveals how division
emerges within a single “congregation” and how the dynamics of migration and refuge produce new forms of segregation. Hartman-Pickerill’s
chapter traces diversity in one of the oldest townships of Johannesburg,
Alexandra. While townships, later designated as locations under apartheid, were zones demarcated for dwelling for black urban subjects,
they have also been a space of intense political and cultural production: diversity has been characterized by both conflict and solidarity (see
Bonner and Nieftagodien 2008). She provides a study of the aftermath
of xenophobic violence in 2008 in Alexandra township where churches
pushed for peaceful relations between South Africans and non-nationals
and an end to violence. Finally, Moyo, Núñez and Leuta show how in
cemeteries and burial yards, the graves of non-nationals are often anonymous. While the bodies of migrants who die in the city are returned to
their ancestral homes, many are buried in unmarked graves. Hence, there
is distinction between the populations of the living, and the memorials
of the dead, their nameless graves are simply traces of an absence, itself
another process of displacement.
Together, these studies not only show how the layered temporal and
spatial super-diversity of Johannesburg is inscribed upon but also produces the urban space of Johannesburg. Furthermore, religious rites
are not confined to discrete spatial zones—rather they are constantly
enfolded into quotidian urban movements, passages and enclosures. To
develop Vertovec’s (2015b) triadic structure of diversity, the chapters
in this volume show how religious rites become articulated with plural configurations, representations and encounters which are assembled
and dissembled in particular urban nodes and pathways. Thus, the city
is not only shaped by a diversity of ethnic, racial and religious groups
(although historical divides and inequalities persist), but also produced
through a diversity of religious rites and practices. Religious super-

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M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

diversity can hence be reframed not only as a super-diversity of groups
but also as a super-diversity of movements, passages, spaces, processes
and moral, social, and ontological orders that characterize the city. We
elaborate on the theoretical implications of this below.

Religious Spaces and Mobilities
Defining religious spaces and mobilities poses a continual question in this
volume. As discussed above, religious spaces and objects cannot be delineated into a division between the sacred and the profane, nor by fixed or
demarcated structures, or orders. Religious forms and rites are continually in motion; rituals form assemblages with other urban processes and
materialities. In contrast to a conception of the large-scale productions of
space, religious rites constitute continual flows and movements, demarcations and inscriptions, territoritorializations and de-territorializations.
Furthermore, the relation between religious rites and the city are also
about sound, movement, clothing, colour and aesthetics and not only
physical and territorial demarcations. Finally, religion becomes enfolded
in the urban through affective attachments and relations. The various
chapters in this volume express how these dynamic processes define and
change the same city.
Jinnah and Rugunanan develop the Lefebvrian conception of the production of space, showing how the areas of Mayfair and Fordsburg become
overlaid and divided conceptions of space, which produce a fragmented
“spiritual landscape.” They pay particular attention, with reference to
the Muslim and Hindu area of Fordsburg to the historical inscription
and production of difference in the same locality. Hankela draws on
both Douglas and Tuan to argue that spatial divisions are formed not
only through classifications of dirt and purity but also through affective
attachments. She argues that the Central Methodist Mission is “a fluid
and multi-layered place, that is, as an outcome of the organizing of space
into centres of meaning,” paying particular attention to affective relations and “fields of care.” Similarly, Kankonde and Núñez develop the
notion of a site as characterized by the paradox of fixity and mobility, and that attachments to spaces are based on personal histories and

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

21

nostalgia, and not only forms of sacralization. Wafer conceives of the two
spaces in the inner-city neighbourhood of Hillbrow, a commercial fastfood chain and a soup kitchen, as involving overlapping moral orders and
the perforation of the borders of sacred and profane, existing as much
materially as in a collectively produced imaginary. Katsaura develops the
concept of “enchanted suburbanism” to reveal how suburban spaces are
produced by alluring fantasy, in fact constructed around rituals of security and fear—inseparable from intersecting class and racialized patterns
of mobility and enclosure.
Transnational territorializations and de-territorializations are a constant theme throughout this volume. Sjødin, as noted above, in his
account of the African Hebrew Israelites, living on the western peripheries of Johannesburg, draws on notions of territorialization and de-­
territorialization to explain the complex process of transnational belonging
(formed between the USA, Africa and Israel), produced not only through
migrant journeys but also through imagined homes, and the transfer
of rituals to create sacred spaces in the city. Malcomess and WilhelmSolomon, however, argue that mobile assemblages and territorializations
are not simply taking place transnationally but within the city on multiple scales—from the stones and inscriptions on mountainsides to the circulation of commodities, along with the embodied movements of song,
voice and clothing. Hartman-Pickerill argues for an analysis focusing on
the political economy of space, and the way in which religious spaces
form part of broader social and economic categories. Hartman-­Pickerill
traces the radical diversity in the congested space of Alexandra township,
which was one of the hotspots of the xenophobic violence of 2008. In
this setting, a multiplicity of African Independent Churches, mainline
churches and Pentecostals demarcate the space illustrating the variety of
place-making strategies of division and refuge, in post-­apartheid South
Africa. Moyo, Núñez and Leuta explore the question of whether it is
possible to understand decisions around burial places through the lens of
place-making. With reference to these overlapping studies, we argue that
to focus on the highly localized inscriptions of religious practices is not to
bracket out the transnational but rather to be attentive to the dense constellations inscribed into different aspects of suburban and urban forms.

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M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

Along with tracing the complex interplay between emplacement and
territorialization, a further question of this volume is how to think about
the radical diversity of processes of ordering and their relationship to
demarcations between the sacred and profane, as themselves highly unstable. The sociological theme of order recurs in chapters including those
of Malcomess and Wilhelm-Solomon, Hankela, Wafer and Wilhelm-­
Solomon, Worby and Zulu. In contrast to the vision of Johannesburg as a
“disorderly city” (Murray 2008), these chapters show the city to be constituted by a multiplicity and plurality of contested orders. Finally, mobility
here is conceived as mobility not just across space but also between classes,
or in terms of aspirations for upward mobility. As Katsaura expresses it
in this volume, “mobility becomes a rite of passage into the status and
privileges of black middle class life.” Wilhelm-Solomon, Worby and Zulu
explore how prophets in Johannesburg not only provide a vision of future
status but also claim to clear away the obstacles to achieving this. Religion
promises to capacitate upward mobility through removing material and
spiritual obstacles to wealth, success and status. These studies point to
the plurality of the ways in which religion not only produces material
sites and infrastructures in the city but also describes and gives weight to
the more intimate and ephemeral processes by which religious processes
inscribe mobilities and diverse assemblages within the spatio-temporal
fabric of the city.

Religious Symbolism, Visuals and Aesthetics
A significant part of this project has been a visual research component,
which has formed an important parallel process that has complemented
the fieldwork and writing with a small selection of material included in
this volume, and a visual essay that is available online. This dual approach
has precedents in both large-scale transnational projects like Global
Prayers and the collaborations of anthropologists with photographers,
such as Kinshasa: Tales of an Invisible City (De Boeck and Plissart 2004).
More than a parallel process, the visual component of the project, in
fact contributed directly to some of the formations and writing of the
chapters during workshops and exhibitions of work in progress. Thus, it

1 Routes and Rites to the City: Introduction

23

seems appropriate to enter the volume through a description of this visual
research process.
The visual research has been defined by a focus on the diversity of spiritual and religious spaces within the city and on its edges, and the multi-­
modal movements of its practitioners. This approach echoes that of the
volume, tracing how diverse religious practices and processes occupy and
transform urban and suburban spaces. As such, the production of sacred
or religious space is what is conveyed in these images, often making visible the contestation of territories or the proximities of different practices.
The photographic series, as opposed to the singular image, seemed to be
the best form to convey the mobility and diversity of religious spaces in
the city where each series forms a visual essay in itself, not always directly
linked to the case studies. Some series are arranged in sequences in order
to convey a sense of movement through space and time, often drawing
on the visual language of the filmstrip. Here images convey the journey
through a building, the movement on foot through the open veld or
from a moving vehicle on the highway, or temporal passage from night
into day during a 24-hour prayer vigil, taken by Dean Hutton, which
forms the cover of our volume. This sense of continual motion defines
the visual language of the photographs, a direct evocation of the theme
of mobility in the book’s written research. Often people are present in
the photographs only through the traces they leave—from the interiors
of the Central Methodist church where neatly stacked piles of clothing
index the role of the church as refuge, to the white stones that demarcate
the spaces of worship of Apostolic groups in the open veld. This approach
sees these physical traces and markers as signs of the active production
of religious space. It attempts to capture both the aesthetics of these processes and the conflicts and allegiances with other forces that shape urban
space.
The photographic series, like the chapters themselves, move between
points of view, zooming in from wide to close, in some instances remaining distant, indicating the position of the researcher and photographer
as alternatively observer and outsider, listener and participant. While in
others, an intimacy is set up which is possible only because the photographer or researcher has a personal relationship with the subjects, and
an affective attachment to the spaces. In Simangele Kalisa’s images, the

24

M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al.

photographer herself has dressed up in the clothing of certain Christian
denominations. Here the performative nature of the portraits points to
the self-consciousness with which the religious subject fashions themselves, a set of significant aesthetic choices thus codify the body itself as
religious site.
What is conveyed in the writing and the visuals is not only this ceaseless
movement of religious actors, objects and processes but also the movements of the photographers and researchers themselves. What emerges
in the written and visual components of the project is an aesthetics, or
perhaps poetics, of religious diversity and mobility. This speaks to what
this volume hopes to make legible, and indeed visible: the nature of religious space is a series of shifting assemblages and processes that shape not
only the urban form but also the bodies and voices of those who populate
and navigate the city of Johannesburg, itself a continually unfolding and
uncertain imbrication of territories.
Excerpts from the visual supplement are included in this volume; the full
visual supplement can be accessed at https://routesrites.wordpress.com/

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2
Valleys of Salt in the House of God:
Religious Re-territorialisation and Urban
Space
Bettina Malcomess and Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon

Introduction
Cadestral images of Johannesburg’s inner city (that we purchased from
an arcane geo-planning office in the labyrinthine Metropolitan Council
complex) indicate the scale of the religious conversion of urban space.
Large-scale office blocks, shopping arcades and industrial warehouses
have been converted into religious sites throughout the city in the post-­
apartheid era. Yet, it is not simply large-scale redevelopments that mark
religion’s transformation of the post-apartheid city: pavement stalls sell an
array of religious badges; supermarkets sell salts for spiritual cleansing and
good fortune alongside daily household items; stores in crowded malls sell

B. Malcomess
Wits School of Arts, Johannesburg, South Africa
M. Wilhelm-Solomon (*)
African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg, South Africa
© The Author(s) 2016
M. Wilhelm-Solomon et al. (eds.), Routes and Rites to the City,
DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-58890-6_2

31

32

B. Malcomess and M. Wilhelm-Solomon

From top left: Village Main (view from M2 highway); African Gospels Church,
Marban Christian shop, Revelation Church of God/Old Synagogue (view from
Smith Street). Photographs by Bettina Malcomess. 2014

bound Bibles translated into African languages alongside self-help books
and guides for financial success, themselves punctuated by metaphors of
salvation: “The Magic Ladder to Riches”; “I believe in Miracles”. Tailors
in markets weave multi-coloured gowns that are transformed into a fluid
procession of worship on Sundays while hymnal voices and loudspeakers distorted in supplication resonate in the streets and parks. The mine
dumps and hills that encircle the city are littered with the remains of
religious ceremonies and the healing rituals of Inyangas and Sangomas.1

Sangomas and inyangas are practitioners within indigenous Southern African religious and healing
systems who also play ceremonial and political roles; they fulfill roles of healing, divination, birthrites and burial, along with communication with ancestors. As Ashforth (2005, 52-53) points out
although sangomas are widely associated with being “religious practitioners” and inyangas as
“­medical practitioners”, there is significant blurring of these categories as both can invoke both
religious and therapeutic roles.
1

2

Valleys of Salt in the House of God: Religious...

33

The diversity of the religious spaces and practices forms the major content of this chapter, which traces how the religious ordering of space and
time extends across other modalities of city life: the moral, the economic,
the somatic, the governmental. The research for this chapter was carried
out between 2013 and 2015. We aim to show how religion shapes the
city’s spatio-temporal fabric through multiple processes of demarcation,
territorialisation and movement in a constant play between formal structures and mobility. We argue here that religious groupings in the city aim
to establish sites of belonging and moral order through the administration
of spaces, objects and bodies, both in tension and in harmony with coexisting orders and territories. Religious groups, formally and informally
organised, thus form territories within the built form of the city, but they
are also perpetually in motion, perpetually territorialising. Our fieldwork
consisted of an immersion within these religious geographies: physically
walking the city, surveying maps and planning documents, conducting
interviews with different individuals and groups and observing specific
sites and ceremonies. Our approach attempts firstly to show how religious orders are produced not only materially and spatially but also in the
imaginaries of their practitioners and congregations, thus a poetics of religious forms are present in language through narrative and allegory, and in
the affective and symbolic encoding of colour, objects, clothing and song.
We argue here that religious space is not only the large-scale production of sacred demarcations but also rather constituted by different
modalities of movement, relational forms and fluid forces, described by
flow and blockage, enclosure and openness, the solid and the ephemeral.
In other words, our study extends beyond the conversion of physical sites
involving the dialectics of the infrastructural and ephemeral (De Boeck
2013; Quayson 2014): the amplification of song through speakers onto
the street, the quieting of voices in prayer, the myriad of shapes, colours
and sounds by which the religious infiltrates and redefines the spatio-­
temporal experience of the urban (cf. De Witte 2008).
A central organising concept of our chapter is Deleuze and Guattari’s
(2003, 2004) related conception of assemblage and territorialisation. The
influence of assemblage theory on urban theory (see McFarlane 2011;
Farías 2012) has been notably discussed and critiqued by Brenner et al.
(2011), who argue that this approach lapses into a “naive o­ bjectivism”,

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and does not provide the tools to account for structural processes of capital accumulation, state territoriality and dispossession. They argue that for
assemblage theory to be meaningful, it must be articulated within urban
critique and political economy. Here, we are concerned not with political
economy as such but with the ways in which the territorial inscriptions of
religious formations is articulated within broader urban processes: forms
of spatial mobilisation, administration and control.
The use of territorialisation and assemblage theory have been explored
in relation to religion, migration and urban space (Burchardt and Becci
2013; Garbin 2011; Wong and Levitt 2014) but primarily in relation to
transnationalism and transnational migration—our concern here is rather
how these processes operate within a single city. Although transnationalism is a powerful force shaping urban spaces and identities, we argue that
religious diversity produces multiple demarcations and enmeshments
within a singular urban space on multiple scales.
Lanz (2013, 29) has characterised assemblage urbanism as focusing
on the “dense description of the agency, apparent in everyday urban life
and on the mutually defining practices which generate urbanism”, rather
than “focusing on spatial categories or formations”. Lanz argues that the
power of assemblage is in analysing the relationship between the urban
and the religious as a “practice of mediation”. Lanz (2013, 30), drawing
on Simone, argues that assemblage urbanism emphasises potentiality and
provides a conceptual framework that is “capable of doing justice to the
diversities and ambiguities in the connections between city and religion”.
Furthermore, “urban-religious configurations” are “assemblages of material, social, symbolic, and sensuous spaces, processes, practices, and experiences where the religious and the urban are interwoven and ­reciprocally
produce, influence and transform each other”. Here we develop these
themes with a specific emphasis on the ways in which diversity and
mobility in the city become inscribed in the urban form on multiple spatial scales. We are hence interested in religious territorialisation as a “spatialization of a specific relation to the sacred” (Garbin 2011, 149), and
a means to understand the ways in which religious and ritual forms are
enmeshed in the urban form, its daily flows, transactions and mobilities.

2 Valleys of Salt in the House of God: Religious...

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Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari (2004), we understand ongoing
processes of territorialisation as a fluid movement between three forms:
the assemblage, the refrain and the territory. The assemblage is that
operation of “‘holding together’ heterogeneous elements” (Deleuze
and Guattari 2004, 323) which has been adopted in social science
writing to describe sets of relations in social, geographical and urban
fields. It essentially describes a field of social relations as continually
shifting, performative and generative rather than a fixed structure.
Territorialisation refers to the constant re-inscription of the borders
between inside and outside: a never-ending production and re-organisation of the orders of the social, spatial, temporal and economic.
We adapt the term “refrain” to refer to not only the ephemeral markings of religious passage within urban spaces—including sound and
song—but also the marking of the bodies of those who move through
them. The refrain most simply refers to the recurring theme of musical
composition, but it can also be gestural or optical. Thus we treat as a
refrain not only the songs of religious groups but also a blessing given
on a street corner, or the green and silver badges worn daily by members of the Zionist Christian Church, a coloured stripe on a white robe
indicating membership to a specific Apostolic group. It is essentially
that which produces or marks out a territory in the very same moment
that it de-territorialises and “moves on”; it is both of a space and of a
body. It is continually in “passage”, and also itself a passage between
assemblages. It’s passage is not only spatial but also temporal—forming temporary relations, affects, feelings of belonging or separation,
safety and protection—and then dissolving these in the next moment
as it produces a new set of relations. Thus de-territorialisation follows
territorialisation. The process of territorialisation is described as the
production of rhythm, not the same as melody, rather a kind of oscillation; it is the formation of relations both between and within assemblages: “[t]erritorialising marks simultaneously develop into motifs and
counterpoints, and reorganize functions and regroup forces” (Deleuze
and Guattari 2004, 322). Finally, the territory can be not only a closed,
transitory and demarcated space but also a form of passage.

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Multiple Sites, Diverse Assemblages
We argue that the religious spaces of the city are formed in relation to multiple assemblages, continually in a process of re- and de-territorialisation.
Religious refrains re-organise and infiltrate the exchange of commodities,
the language of urban development, even politics,