‘Ghost Passports’: disembodiment, ethics of illegibility, and the negotiation of passage at the Beitbridge border of South Africa and Zimbabwe

21 April 2017

The African Centre for Migration & Society invites you to a public seminar titled ‘Ghost Passports’: disembodiment, ethics of illegibility, and the negotiation of passage at the Beitbridge border of South Africa and Zimbabwe presented by Xolani Tshabalala (Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society, Linkoping University). ‘Ghost passports’ are passports whose holders enlist the services of third parties, such as private cross-border transporters – omalayitsha, and regular bus drivers, to take to the border post to get them ‘stamped’ on their behalf. Low- and semi-skilled Zimbabwean migrants seeking work and other opportunities in South Africa must contend with a migration regime that robustly restricts their movement into the country, although they do find opportunities for precarious, often undocumented, work within the country’s mining, agriculture, hospitality, domestic, informal and other sectors. For those without work permits, a regular feature of their continued stay and work in South Africa is to regularly travel to the country’s ports of entry, such as the Beitbridge border post, to negotiate more residence days on their passports.

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Academy for African Urban Diversity (AAUD)

Call for participants

The Academy for African Urban Diversity, a joint project of the African Center for Migration & Society at the University of Witwatersrand, the African Center for Cities at the University of Cape Town, and the Department of Socio-Cultural Diversity at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity is inviting applications to participate in two intensive workshops. AAUD will bring together a cohort of 8-10 post-field work doctoral students exploring diversity in African cities to refine their research focus, promote professional development, and build trans-national scholarly communities. Half of each cohort will be reserved for scholars enrolled in doctoral programs at African Universities, while the other half is open to scholars of urban Africa based elsewhere. 

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The containment chronotrope: The European refugee 'crisis' and shifting sovereignties in sub-Saharan Africa

11 April 2017

As part of the Lunchtime Seminar Series, the African Centre for Migration & Society invites you to a seminar titled The containment chronotrope: The European refugee ‘crisis’ and shifting sovereignties in sub-Saharan Africa presented by Loren Landau (South African Research Chair in Mobility and the Politics of Difference, African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand). Always uneasy with transformations engendered by human mobility from outside the wealthy (largely Christian) west, Europe’s current moral panic has generated unprecedented levels of interventions within Africa’s ostensibly sovereign territory. This paper considers how Europe’s defensive posturing and extra-territorialisation will reshape its relationship to Africa and Africans’ relations to each other and space. It argues that the billions of Euros dedicated to border control and the prevention of mobility within and out of African countries is generating a ‘containment chronotrope’. 

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Migrant workers in the South African hospitality sector: A consultative training workshop on organising strategies and tools

6 April 2017

The African Centre for Migration & Society and FES are pleased to invite you to a workshop titled Migrant workers in the South African hospitality sector: A consultative training workshop on organising strategies and tools. 

There are 1,2 million migrant workers in South Africa, representing 4% of the labour market, The majority of these are from the region and are employed in precarious and low incomes sectors such as domestic work, agriculture and construction (Statistics South Africa 2012). Although the national Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has articulated a broad and inclusive vision for organizing workers, including migrants, in reality migrant workers, and more so migrant women remain amongst the most poorly protected in the labour market with disproportionate numbers being self-employed, in informal work or in vulnerable sectors of employment (Budlender 2014; Fauvelle Aymar 2014). Moreover, a unionisation rate in the country at 29% amongst all workers, which is already alarming, slips to just 12% amongst migrant workers (Budlender 2014:p32). This underlying precarity can be attributed to three interdependent factors: an insecure legal identity resulting from narrow provisions for entry and stay for low skilled regional workers, a weak labour movement that has seen increasing fragmentation and finally a national context fraught by persistent unemployment and xenophobic attitudes, and violence and rhetoric toward non-nationals in the country. This programme of work is animated by this reality and the broader principles of social democracy.

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Reflections on a Decade of South African Xenophobia and Violence


On 15 March 2017, the African Centre for Migration & Society and the School of Social Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand convened an informal round-table discussion about what the continuation of xenophobic violence – and reactions to it – say about South African society, politics, and the academy’s engagement in public and political debate. Commentators included Maxim Bolt (University of Birmingham); Alexandra Hiropoulos (University of the Witwatersrand); Achille Mbembe (University of the Witwatersrand); Emma Monama (University of the Witwatersrand); Dumisani Moyo and Shepherd Mpofu (University of Johannesburg); Tara Polzer-Ngwato (Social Surveys Africa) and Eric Worby (University of the Witwatersrand). To listen to the podcast click here.

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