Zaheera Jinnah

Zaheera Jinnah joined ACMS as a researcher in 2009. Her research interests include diaspora studies, labour migration and livelihoods.  Her PhD in anthropology was an ethnographic account of agency in Somali women’s migration and settlement in Johannesburg. Zaheera teaches the labour migration module on the MA programme, and supervises graduate students. She is the recipient of a Volkswagen Stiftung fellowship in humanities (2017-2020).

Current research projects:

Shifting families: exploring migration and families in Johannesburg, Fez, and Berlin  (2017-2020). This 3 year project funded by the VW and in partnership with the University of Oldenburg, the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in Fez and the Woodrow Wilson Centre, interrogates the changing concept of family in the context of contemporary African migration.

Artisanal Informal Mining in Johannesburg (2016- 2018). Informal mining in Johannesburg is a critical livelihoods activity of the urban poor and the migrant. This project, part of the broader migration and health initiative at ACMS, explores the structure of work in informal mining, unpacks responses by the state and offers insight into how ASM is embedded into the urban economy and social landscape of Johannesburg.

Previous research projects

MIWORC (2011-2014)

Three year research, policy influencing, and capacity building project which examined policy, data, sectoral dynamics and portability of social security in Southern Africa.

Migrant mobilisation (2009-2011)



Department of Labour, South Africa: Migrant worker handbook.

ILO: Labour migration strategy development (2012-3)

SADC: labour migration policy framework (2013)

Women’s Refugee Commission: Urban refugees, livelihoods and gender (2011)




Jinnah, Z (2016) In the Shadow of a State: Self-Settlement Strategies and Informal Governance Amongst Somalis in Johannesburg. Journal of International MIgration and Integration access online

Jinnah, Z (2016). Cultural Causations and Expressions of Distress: a Caste Study of Buufis Amongst Somalis in Johannesburg. Urban Forum. Access online.


Jinnah, Z. (2016). L’Afrique du Sud face aux migrations économiques. Politique étrangère, (1), 53-63. Access online


Jinnah, Z. (2015). Chapter 4. Rational routes? Understanding Somali migration to South Africa 43-54. In Mobility and Migration Choices. Edited by Martin van der Velde and Ton van Naerssen, Ashgate

Jinnah, Z., & Lowe, L. (2015). Circumcising Circumcision: Renegotiating Beliefs and Practices among Somali Women in Johannesburg and Nairobi. Medical anthropology34(4), 371-388.

Polzer- Ngwato, T., and Jinnah Z. (2013). Migrants and mobilisation around socio-economic rights, in Migrants Rights. Symbols or Substance? The Role and Impact of Socio-Economic Rights Strategies in South Africa,” Ed Langford, M., Cousins, B., Dugard, J., and Madlingozi,T. Cambridge University Press. Chapter 14.


Jinnah, Z. (2013). New Households, new rules? Examining the impact of migration  on Somali family life in Johannesburg, QScience 2013, Family, Migration & Dignity Special Issue, Volume 7 DOI.

Jinnah, Z. (2010). Migrant mobilisation: structures and strategies of claiming rights in Johannesburg and Nairobi, inHandmaker, J and Berkhout, R “Mobilising Social Justice” pp 137-178. Pretoria University Law Press.

Jinnah, Z. (2010). Making Home in a Hostile Land: Understanding Somali Identity, Integration, Livelihood and Risks in Johannesburg, in Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology, 1 (1-2) 91-99.

Technical and research reports

Jinnah, Z and Carazzo R.  2015. Making guests feel comfortable: Migrancy and labour in the hospitality sector in South Africa. MIWORC Research report. Johannesburg: African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand.

Jinnah, Z. and Munakamwe, J. 2015.  Migrant workers in the commercial agricultural sector in South Africa. Johannesburg: African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand.

Jinnah, Z. and Segatti, A. 2014. Internal Diagnostic Exercise and Strategy on Labour Migration in Africa. Prepared for the ILO-MIGRANT, Geneva.

Jinnah, Z. and Segatti, A. 2013.  SADC Labour Migration Policy Framework.  Policy framework prepared for the ILO Office in Southern Africa, Pretoria.


Jinnah, Z. 2013. Whose story? An academic response to  “it should have been little India”, by Jackee Batanda,  Writing invisibility, Conversations on the Hidden City. E-book published by the Mail and Guardian and ACMS pp 119-120.

Jinnah, Z. 2012. We Have to go Into the Bush: Understanding the Living and Working Conditions of Farmworkers and Responses From Civil Society and Government in Musina, South Africa. ACMS Research report. Wits University.

Jinnah, Z. 2009. Migrant Mobilisation: Structure and Strategies in Claiming Rights in South Africa and Nairobi. FMSP Research Report. 1-47. Wits University.

Policy briefs:

Blogs, and media:

Examining Labor Migration Policy in South Africa, World Policy Institute ,October 2015

Between rock and a hard place: informal mining in South Africa. London School of Economics African Perspectives, January, 2016.

Zama Zamas: Women of Stone, the Con Mag November 2016.

Migrants are not a threat: Reflections on the green Paper on Migration in South Africa,  IOL news, September 2016.

Areas of supervision: Labour and livelihoods, Somali Diaspora, gender, mobilisation.

Tel: +27(0) 11 717 4699