Reimagining Residents and Habitation: Urban Geography and Socio-Cultural Relations In a Selection of Cape Town Fiction
David Jerel Callenberger
Grant Aubrey Farred
Thesis DT 3.5 2009 C355
vii, 84 leaves; 29 cm.
This thesis is born from broad intrigues into the affective power of urban geographic structures to imbue different socio-cultural ideologies onto the citizens who occupy that space. But one needs to keep in mind that the bond between people and place is a reciprocal relationship of influence. That is to say, while the symbolic power of urban geographies and spaces of the city influence individuals, conversely these socially defined structural spaces are influenced, articulated, and re-imagined according to the politics and ideology of the people, which affect the imagined representations of the spaces. Through a literary analysis of multiple fictional texts I examine the socially charged geographical representations by paying particular attention to the importance of geographic structures have on people's conceptions of individuality, personal psycho 10 gy, and group identity.
Three novels by non-white writers whose works are set in Cape Town serve as the case studies for developing the symbolic spatial-social connections, while limiting the time period to the latter half of the twentieth century between the mid -1950s to 2001. Works by these authors were chosen because they are not traditionally studied in the field of South African literature but which provide memorable contributions of critical importance to the genre of non-white literature.
Chapter one examines Alex La Guma's 1960 novella titled A Walk in the Night. I begin by building a brief history of District Six noting its intimate connection with Cape Town from its naming in the mid-nineteenth century until its final razing in 1982. Using the thinkers Zimitri Erasmus and Grant Farred I construct a definition of Coloured identity. I then use La Guma's novel to reveal the intimate connection between District Six and its residents and argue that the District provides them with a place to call home. Finally, I argue that A Walk in the Night presents (or foretells) the potential for nascent Coloured resistance in the production of new communal spaces that are no longer based simply on economic gain or vices such as gambling or alcohol consumption.
Chapter two uses Michel Foucault's notion of the heterotopia to examine the contested and deeply contrasting spaces of everyday life for characters in K. Sello Duiker's novel Thirteen Cents by comparing the security community, a residence common for wealthy whites, with the homeless communities who live underneath the unfinished bridges of Cape Town. Then building from this comparison, I reveal Duiker's obvious disgust with the glacial pace of change for the growing class of poor in post-apartheid Cape Town. Finally, I recommend that viewing the socio-political world in Cape Town from a broader perspective like the heterotopia represents the possibility of a better future than the apocalyptic destruction recommended by Duiker at the end of the novel.
Finally chapter three examines another K. Sello Duiker's The Quiet Violence of Dreams. Here I chart the broad trajectory of the main character Tshepo's journey, which I define less as a journey and more like what the French Situationists called a derive. More specifically, I examine in the text the intimate connection between Tshepo's alienated psyche and the symbolic socio-cultural power signified behind a selection of physical structure's Tshepo comes to occupy such as the repressive Valkenberg asylum and the "liberal" male brothel Steamy Windows. I end with a close reading of the conclusion ofthe novel and make broad comments on the connection between the importance of the psycho geographic space where Tshepo comes to his awareness, and what this means in regards to Tshepo's final decision about the city.