Spaces of alienation: Dispossession and justice in South Africa – Petrus T. Delport; Tshepo Lephakga

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Theories and philosophies of space and place have seen a rise in prominence in recent times, specifically in the disciplines of theology, law and philosophy. This so-called spatial turn in contemporary theory is one that attempts to think through the vicissitudes and conceptual lineages related to the existence of space as both a physical and a social reality. The politics of space in South Africa, however, cannot be thought of separately from the concept of alienation. South Africa is a space whose existence is predicated upon a relationship of alienation to its located place. South Africa, like most other settler colonies, is a space that was created through occupation and alienation: the occupation of a territory and the alienation of the indigenous people from this occupied territory. This relationship of alienation is not only observable in the physical reality engendered by this occupied space but also by its social reality. In this paper we reflect on the intersections of the physical and social manifestations – in Bourdieu’s sense – of an occupied space and consider its effects of alienation on the indigenous people. To this end we will proceed to interrogate current South African geographical markers – such as the existence of townships and suburbs – from its positionality within the history of South Africa as an occupied space. To discern a theological agenda for the issue of spatial justice would also require an investigation into the theological agenda that prohibited the realisation of spatial justice in South Africa or, in other words, the religious reconciliation preached post-1994 at the expense of justice.

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