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Paper, "Idioms of Return: Homecoming and Heritage in the Rebuilding of Protea Village, Cape Town" by Anna Bohlin

News: Sep 12, 2011

This article analyses 'heritage' as a conceptual category among current and former residents affected by the proposed redevelopment of Protea Village, a neighbourhood in Cape Town razed during apartheid. Former residents, who were forcibly resettled in townships on the outskirts of the city on account of being coloured, won their land back through the Land Restitution Programme in 2006. Some 86 families were planning to return. Based on fieldwork conducted intermittently between 2005 and 2008, this article analyses three different idioms through which former and current residents made sense of the pending return of the community. While those who supported it hailed the proposed redevelopment as a chance to right the wrongs of the past, to reverse the spatial legacy of apartheid and to put the new democratic South Africa into practice, others feared declining property prices and the development of 'shanty towns' on their doorstep. However, while relationships between former and current residents were fraught, various activities and events related to the return have resulted in new connections being forged between the returnees and the current residents. This article argues that the idiom of return as the reclamation of heritage served as a relatively uncontested and mutually intelligible frame of understanding to which both groups could relate.

Published: African Studies, 70:2, 284-301



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