The Price of Hope: The Fortification of Immigrants in Johannesburg

As part of the Lunchtime Seminar Series, the African Centre for Migration & Society invites you to a seminar titled The price of hope: The fortification of immigrants in Johannesburg by Simbarashe Nyuke (Department of Anthropology, University of the Witwatersrand).

This study explores the nuanced ways in which the immigrant in Johannesburg uses Pentecostalism as a medium to mediate the complex “sites of struggle” existing within the city of Johannesburg. By demonstrating the complex encounter of urbanism, Pentecostalism and the immigrant, this work also raptures the dominant discourses on religion and migration, which one-sidedly present Pentecostalism as an all-empowering force to the immigrant. Relying heavily on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork on the experiences of Pentecostal immigrants in and of the city of Johannesburg, Simbarashe argues that in as much as Pentecostalism is empowering to the immigrant, Pentecostalism is in itself a “site of struggle”. He engages with Bourdieu’s concepts of field, habitus and capital to understand the experiences of immigrants as they encounter the different social fields within the city. This study highlights that the city of Johannesburg presents for the immigrant a space with both physical and social obstacles, which calls for the need of the realignment of the habitus. Pentecostalism then provides the complex ways through which the immigrants’ habitus is reconfigured to cope or negotiate the exigencies of life in Johannesburg.


Simbarashe Nyuke holds a Masters and Honours Degree in Social Anthropology from University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Currently he is doing his PhD in Anthropology with the Department of Anthropology at Witwatersrand University. His PhDthesis explores the experiences of immigrants in Johannesburg through the lens of Pentecostalism. Simbarashe is also a research intern for Society Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at Witwatersrand University, working on a project on enchanted urbanisms. The project focuses on the role/significance of religion, magic, and ritualism in mediating violence (or fear thereof) in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is also interested in childhood studies. He looked at unaccompanied immigrant children for his Master’s thesis, social integration of immigrant children for his Honours thesis and experiences of orphans in orphanage homes for his undergraduate research.  Some of his research interests are in childhood disability studies, religion and violence, medical anthropology and urban studies.

Date: Tuesday 22 May 2018

Time: 12.30 -13.30

Venue: ACMS Seminar Room 2163, South East Wing, Second Floor, Solomon Mahlangu House, University of the Witwatersrand East Campus