Levenson publishes research on South African Social Movements for Housing

PhD candidate Zachary Levenson has published three papers on his research on social movements for housing in Cape Town, South Africa:

Levenson, Zachary. 2017. “Precarious Welfare States: Urban Struggles over Housing Delivery in Post-Apartheid Cape Town.” International Sociology. doi:10.1177/0268580917701586.
Abstract: This article demonstrates how popular struggles over housing distribution lead to the transformation of the welfare state. In post-apartheid South Africa, municipal governments distribute free, formal housing to recipients registered on waiting lists. But as formally rational distribution fails to keep pace with growing demand, residents begin to organize mass land occupations. Municipalities respond to these land struggles by either organizing repression, making clientelistic exceptions, or providing transitional housing in temporary relocation areas (TRAs). The growth of TRAs – a direct response to land occupations – signals the institution of a new form of housing distribution alongside the old: substantively rational delivery. This argument engages recent work on the rise of new welfare states in the global South, demonstrating the limits of viewing social expenditure in narrowly quantitative terms. Instead, drawing on 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Cape Town, it interrogates the emergence of qualitatively novel logics of distribution.
Levenson, Zachary. 2017. “Social Movements beyond Incorporation: The Case of the Housing Assembly in Post-Apartheid Cape Town.” Pp. 89-104 in Global Resistance in Southern Perspective: The Politics of Protest in South Africa’s Contentious Democracy, edited by Marcel Paret, Carin Runciman, and Luke Sinwell. London: Routledge. 

Abstract: In this chapter, I draw on participant observation fieldwork to explain the emergence and genesis of a social movement in contemporary Cape Town called the Housing Assembly. Instead of limiting its repertoire to resisting evictions and demanding housing, the Housing Assembly frequently bypasses the state altogether by encouraging land occupations on private property as well as municipally owned land. Where the state proves to be an instrument incapable of actually delivering land or housing, direct seizure may be a viable option. This account challenges the social movements literature, which tends to impute motives onto organizations, reading incorporation into policy as a success and all other outcomes as failures. Beyond the state, I argue, the Housing Assembly is one of many social movements that explicitly targets the market, and only by taking its politics seriously can we avoid teleological accounts of social movement organizations’ trajectories. 


Levenson, Zachary. 2017. “Living on the Fringe in Post-Apartheid Cape Town.” Contexts 16(1):24-9. 
Abstract: South Africa’s post-apartheid government tried to use urban policy to reverse racial segregation. But as shack settlements proliferated on urban peripheries, squatters came to be viewed as a threat to the state rather than its beneficiaries. In Cape Town, urban policy has entrenched, rather than reversed, racially segregated settlement patterns.