Panic City
Crime and the Fear Industries in Johannesburg
Martin J. Murray



South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries of the world that is not at war.

Helen Epstein, “The Mystery of AIDS in South Africa”1

With the end of apartheid and the transition to parliamentary democracy in 1994, urban residents of Johannesburg were buoyed by the promise of political normalization and the hope for racial reconciliation. Yet with the passage of time, the mundane realities of everyday life have gradually overshadowed these great expectations of social stability. With sluggish economic growth and few appreciable benefits trickling down to the urban poor, the “new South Africa” has been inundated with noir visions of chaos and disorder, degeneration and decadence, disintegration and subversion, and invasion and contamination. Urban residents of Johannesburg have been consumed by a heightened anxiety about the uneasiness of everyday living and haunted by inarticulate fears about what the future might bring.

The unsettled circumstances of urban living in Johannesburg after apartheid have proven to be a fertile breeding ground for a variety of “alarmist fantasies” that occasionally spill over into genuine moral panics.2 As exaggerated expressions of popular mood, moral panics belong to the imaginative dimension of social life. They typically arise at times of political instability and uncertainty, usually after portentous moments of great upheaval when the certitudes of the past have been swept away and new ones are not yet firmly in place. Theories of moral panic do not dismiss concerns over the real dangers of urban living as purely fanciful or illusory. Rather they point to the importance of analyzing sociopolitical, ideological, and discursive frameworks within which certain kinds of seemingly inexplicable behavior come to be interpreted as cause for alarm or as socially threatening.3 The apprehension and anxiety linked to urban disorder can be accommodated more easily if traced to an identifiable cause and attached to a particular socially stigmatized menace. A feeling of victimhood engenders an urge to identify culprits, real or imagined, and to look for scapegoats on which to place blame for social ills.4

It is in this sense that those ordinary urban residents who fear their own victimhood construct cautionary tales about imaginary landscapes inhabited by menacing, spectral figures who are the embodiments of the perils of urban living. This juncture is where (white) class privilege and racial prejudices come together. Popular discourses framed around urban danger—sensationalized in newspaper accounts, theatrical performances, lurid television reports, or popular films and passed along through rumor, urban legend, and gossip—identify unwanted foreigners, international crime syndicates, unemployed urban youth, street-corner drug peddlers, and insalubrious prostitutes as sources of evil, carriers of perdition, and threats to urban order and social stability.5 Filtered through the always-present lens of racial stereotyping, black lives occupying the streets have become objects of suspicion.6 These alarmist stories about urban threats give voice to individual and collective anxieties of losing control of the public spaces of the city, and they provide both a convenient excuse for retreat behind fortifications and a justification for urban revanchism.7

Regardless of their varied sources of inspiration, moral panics in urban South Africa are not without historical precedent. One can identify similar alarmist fantasies in other places and in other historical periods. For example, municipal health officials in the early twentieth century used the threat of uncontrolled contagious diseases (the so-called sanitation syndrome) to justify forced removals from urban slums and the implementation of residential segregation; the swaart gevaar (black swamping) menace provided apartheid social engineers with a convenient excuse for tightening “influx controls” during the 1940s and 1950s; and the securocrats manufactured phobias about the Red Menace and the total (Communist) onslaught as useful rationales for the 1980s political crackdown on the internal anti-apartheid opposition.8 But what gives these alarmist fantasies that have come to the surface after apartheid their historical specificity is that they have emerged at a time of slow economic growth and intense competition for available jobs, of an AIDS pandemic that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, of unprecedented influx of immigrants from all corners of the world, of a visible and expanding gap between the frightened (largely white) rich and the desperately (largely black) poor, and of an overextended state administration unable to provide basic social services for those who cannot afford to pay. During these times of uncertainty, large numbers of urban residents of Johannesburg have become consumed with apprehension about the invasion of “illegal aliens,” the spread of contagious diseases, rising crime rates, and the contamination of drugs.9

This new dystopian dread has gone hand in hand with what has amounted to desperate efforts to remake the built environment of the city, to reshape the public spaces of the cityscape, and to redraw boundaries between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” The emergence of a new spatial politics of closure and withdrawal has not only reinforced old class and racial divisions and separations but also created new cleavages and fault lines that have decisively cut against the grain of the uplifting political discourse of a more egalitarian, integrated, nonracial future. In their haste to clean up the streetscape, urban planners, city officials, and municipal police have sometimes advanced a city that is more disciplined than governed—that is, a city in which the problems are swept away rather than addressed up front. This obstinate approach has focused on symptoms of urban disorder rather than its underlying causes.10

The advent of a new democratic, multiracial order—underwritten by constitutional guarantees and enshrined in the lofty principles of equality, dignity, and freedom—has done little to alter the deeply ingrained structural imbalances of power and to challenge the vast disparities in opportunities and income that have been inherited from the past.11 The belief that the de jure end of apartheid established a level playing field for the equal enjoyment of formal legal rights across race lines ignores how the “law serves to legitimize the existing social order.”12 Despite the emphasis on “individual autonomy, color-blind constitutionalism, and race-neutrality” embedded in formal legal liberalism, this approach to the practice of law and legal institutions tends to overlook the ways in which racial hierarchies are woven into the social fabric of everyday life. As Joel Modiri has cogently argued, “Life under law after apartheid” has not only reproduced the protection of white privilege but also perpetuated the systematic deprivation of vulnerable black people “through direct and indirect forms of racial marginalization.”13

The law, legal ideologies, and legal culture are not “above politics” and “free from wider political influences” and pressures “but are in fact implicated in structuring and strengthening existing social arrangements and power relationships.”14 The emphasis in formal legal liberalism on law as objective “results in ‘race neutral’ laws which can only address the most blatant acts of racial discrimination but do not offer any insight” into the structural inequalities that disproportionately favor entrenched white privilege while simultaneously disadvantaging the black urban poor.15 The alleged impartiality of the law “normalizes the status quo.” Structural inequalities, including massive disparities in income and opportunity, are “enabled by law and tolerated by legal culture.”16

Imagining Johannesburg as the Scene of the Crime

In Johannesburg after apartheid, the specter of crime and lawlessness has captured the popular imagination.17 It matters little that the perceived threat of criminal violence is often incommensurate with the real risks to persons and property. For many middle-class residents of the affluent northern suburbs, the central city has become terra incognita, an inscrutable “no-go” zone to be avoided at all cost. The preoccupation with public order, law breaking, and policing is both a commentary on actual danger and risk and a reflection of a sometimes visible and sometimes hidden desire to rid the urban landscape of those considered to be potential criminals.18

What should be abundantly clear, especially for anyone who has been the victim of assault, robbery, or rape, is that crime itself (and the violence associated with it) is not socially constructed. It is real. Nevertheless, it can be said that the meanings attached to crime are social constructions.19 At a time of uncertainty, crime often becomes a grand metaphor for social breakdown, chaos, and decline. Lawlessness becomes a sociocultural marker for what has gone wrong with the expected order of things. The persistence of rumors, urban legends, and apocryphal stories of danger and foreboding indicate the instability of the boundaries between reality and imagination in the experience of city life. Reading or interpreting urban landscapes as visual or verbal texts, however, requires us to examine cityscapes not only in formal and functional terms but in figural and symbolic ways as well.20

The apparent disconnect between the fear of crime (along with the moral panics it invariably engenders) and the actual realities of crime requires some unpacking. What everyone acknowledges—from expert criminologists to public policing agencies in charge of collecting data and keeping statistical records of crime trends and patterns—is that criminality in Johannesburg (particularly residential neighborhoods) is a significant source of disquiet that does not seem to go away. The great difficulty with squaring the fear of crime with the actual realities on the ground is threefold. First, a great deal of crime goes unreported (residents feel, rightly so, that a resolution is very unlikely to come out of reporting a crime at a public police station). This “failure to report crime” is especially the case when black victims are faced with the choice of reporting a crime perpetrated by black assailants or just letting it go. Besides, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest that public policing agencies, especially in local police stations, notoriously falsely classify reported crimes as less serious than they are in order to ensure that statistics for their precincts do not look too bad in relation to other precincts. Staff promotions and public commendations depend on reducing crime. Second, private security companies operating under contract in residential neighborhoods are reluctant to report every crime (and to classify it under a serious crime category) since they keep their contracts because of their promise to reduce criminality. All private security companies release crime figures and statistics for residential neighborhoods in which they have contracts. They always report that crime has gone down once they were hired, and they never admit that crime has increased. Third, there is the confounding issue of overreporting. Insurance companies require that victims of crime report carjackings, burglaries, destruction of property, and the like. Again, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest that sometimes alleged “victims of crime” falsely report stolen property (especially automobiles and jewelry) just to “cash in” on fraudulent insurance claims. So in short, although it is possible to arrive at general assessments of crime, one cannot accurately claim, with any degree of reliability, the extent to which crime and crime categories ebb and flow over time, especially when referring to specific residential neighborhoods and police precincts.21

Freighted with symbolic meaning, such spatial interventions as private homes retrofitted to resemble fortified enclosures, the erection of physical barriers to close off public streets, high perimeter walls topped with electric fencing, the installation of CCTV cameras, and private security policing of the public streetscape of residential neighborhoods have acquired an excess of meaning as the material embodiments of defensive urbanism. This capsular logic reflects an obsession with security at a time of uncertainty.22 Instead of fitting organically into the existing social fabric of residential neighborhoods, these spatial interventions are artificially inserted into the suburban landscape in ways that appear to reflect a dystopian impulse.23 Taken together, these artificial spatial implants constitute the basic building blocks of a new urban configuration that has come into being—a metropolitan agglomeration that resembles what Paul Virilio has referred to as the “City of Panic,” or what Lieven de Cauter has called the “capsular logic” of the fortified city.24

These spatial interventions seek to establish secure beachheads in an otherwise uncertain and dangerous urban environment. As such, they establish their own rules of engagement, their own extralegal sovereignty, and their own protocols for inclusion and exclusion. They represent virtually self-contained microregimes of spatialized power concentrated in particular locations. These are “imaginary worlds” born out of an obsession with security.25

The spatial landscape of Johannesburg consists of a hybrid assemblage of fortified enclaves, securitized residential neighborhoods, and sequestered redoubts cut off from the surrounding streetscape. The “protection services” of private security companies, automated security gates, and high perimeter walls topped with electrified fencing that surround suburban homes have become ubiquitous features in the middle-class residential neighborhoods. The driving force behind this fortification aesthetic can be traced to the (real and perceived) threats linked to crime and disorder.26 This obsessive fixation on risk and danger did not originate with the formal end to racial segregation and the transition to parliamentary democracy. But the heightened anxieties about the insecurities of urban living have clearly assumed a historical specificity all their own over the past several decades.27

Along with other disappearing acts, the gradual fading away of American-style residential suburbs, with their tree-lined avenues, walkable streets, ample social gathering places, assorted commercial shops, and unencumbered views of homes and yards, has become cause for fond remembrance of a romanticized, idyllic past. This “mourning for the impossibility of a mythical return, for the loss of an enchanted world with clear borders and values,” as Svetlana Boym has put it, has produced feelings of bewilderment and disorientation.28 With the passage of time, these collective memories have become even more intense, blending with a sense of betrayal and the felt need to assign blame. Under the aegis of combating crime, new boundaries and fault lines have taken root. Almost overnight, border lines have entrenched themselves around private homes, and barricades have spilled over into residential neighborhoods. These bordering practices, once in place, infiltrate the collective memories of residents, providing a retroactive legitimation for their presence. Because they are so commonplace and routinized, the high walls, automated security gates, CCTV cameras, and proactive private security patrols have become standard features of suburban neighborhoods. For the most part, frightened homeowners have looked upon the piecemeal upgrading of fortification and increasingly draconian policing practices as the normal or “natural” outcome of efforts to combat crime in the residential neighborhoods of Johannesburg.29

In their feverish efforts to achieve a sense of security, paranoid homeowners have ironically become virtual prisoners in their own homes, afraid to walk the streets and to venture out after dark. This agoraphobia contributes to a growing sense of isolation, insularity, and individualism, which in turn breeds resentment and paranoia. Those middle-class urban residents who have not left the country have responded to their heightened feelings of unease by doing virtually everything possible to insulate themselves from it. In their frantic quest to ensure their own safety, suburban residents have turned to ever more sophisticated security measures. In the plush, formerly all-white suburbs, almost every house has a fully automated electronic security system with indoor and outdoor sensory detection devices. Frightened homeowners have raised their picturesque garden walls to more formidable heights, topping them with metal spikes and glass shards. They have unfurled reams of razor wire to block exposed perimeters. They have installed electric fencing that shocks when inadvertently touched and have hired armed human shields to screen themselves from the imagined criminals lurking outside and beyond their fortified bunkers. They have erected automated driveway gates, intercom systems, and surveillance cameras. They have added steel-plated security gates to restrict entry into their homes and have divided the interiors into any number of separate secure zones. Anxious suburbanites have enlisted the assistance of private security companies promising both immediate armed response to remote signals from ubiquitous “panic buttons” and full medical assistance in case of injury during an attack. In the sprawling townships, where crime can be even worse, schools, clinics, and other public buildings, as well as those private businesses that can afford it, also have their quota of armed guards and security alarms. In the business and commercial zones of the cityscape, every corporate headquarters complex and all office buildings have adopted their own intricate security arrangements that are subcontracted to private security firms providing everything from electronic monitoring systems to personal bodyguards.30

Anxious Urbanism

Johannesburg is a city inundated with suspicion. Nervous residents imagine the urban landscape as an uneven distribution of risks in which safety and security are relative terms. In the popular imagination, criminal subjects are cast in opposition to the socially constructed “normative identity” of law-abiding citizens who bear witness to the ideal conception of the orderly city and its well-functioning regulatory regimes and hence fully enjoy the rights and “protections of the due process of law.”31 Yet the criminal is not simply some shadowy counterpart to (or mirror opposite of) the law-abiding citizen but is an overdetermined spectral figure who represents all that is impure, unwanted, and disruptive. Criminality represents the antithesis of the rights of property ownership and the personal freedoms of law-abiding citizens. The phantasmagoric specter of criminality provides rhetorical justification for cleansing urban spaces of the unwanted poor.32

The specter of violent crime (and the dread that it engenders) has haunted the residential neighborhoods of Johannesburg for at least the past two decades, leaving in its wake a “structure of feeling” that amounts to a deeply embedded existential anxiety about potential risks.33 These “crime troubles” represent a deeper “ontological insecurity” that is reflected in distrust of public authorities, fear of bodily harm, and suspicion of strangers.34 The disturbing presence of suspected criminals (real or imagined) unsettles the longed-for stability and integrity of urban living and, as such, seems to embody the mismatch between the utopian ideal of the “good city” and the dystopian reality of disorderly urbanism. With dwindling faith in the effectiveness of public policing agencies to provide effective protection from criminal predations, frightened homeowners in affluent residential neighborhoods have experimented with various risk management strategies, which have made them increasingly dependent on the purchase of ever-more sophisticated security devices and have cemented their reliance on the “protective services” of private security companies.35

Unexpected encounters with strangers lurking beyond spatial boundaries of the familiar bring urban residents into contact with the “otherness” of the city. At a time of uncertainty, the seemingly capricious movement of strangers has added new layers of complexity to the idea of the unknown and the unfamiliar in the city. Unknown “others” disrupt and destabilize the expected flow of time associated with familiar places.36 As John Rundell has argued, “The image of the stranger invariably accompanies the one of the alien, as someone who, whilst coming to live in the city, appears always as the outsider, and thus is always at hand as a subject of and for fear.”37 Banded incongruously together in residential associations in suburban neighborhoods, affluent homeowners have grappled with the strangeness of strangers by turning inward, by blocking out the unfamiliar. Viewed through the introverted lens of the deliberate design of enclosed places, the security-driven logic associated with the architecture of fear has produced the serial repetition of defensible enclaves and “hermetically sealed fortresses” catering to the social insulation, or social imprisonment, of frightened urban residents in their luxury laagers.38

Often depicted as disorderly and chaotic, the unfamiliar places of the city indicate where unexpected, unpredictable encounters are freighted with danger. The obsession with unknown figures who traverse urban space appears in “spatial stories” that depict fear and anxiety, threat and vulnerability, and victims and victimhood.39 The unknown city becomes a dystopian place of paranoia in which the proverbial stranger becomes embodied in the phantomlike figure of the dangerous criminal whose unannounced ghostly presence sows unease and disquiet.40

The agoraphobic response to the unprotected open spaces of the city has produced particular social practices in which affluent suburban residents navigate the public streetscape according to rather strict protocols governing their tactics of movement and circulation. They hardly ever venture away from their fortified homes on foot, parking their vehicles behind automated security gates and keeping a vigilant eye on the rear-view mirror in case they are followed home. These rules of engagement reflect the militarizing impulses that have come to dominate the production of urban space, in which risk management and crime reduction occupy center stage.41

No longer trusting public policing agencies to provide protection from criminal threats and no longer believing in the effectiveness of the criminal justice system to apprehend and punish wrongdoers, anxious residents have turned to private security companies to aggressively respond to unwanted intruders, to systematically police suburban streets, and to discipline criminal suspects.42 This approach to security management corresponds to what Adi Ophir, Michal Givoni, and Sari Hanafihave called a “logic of inclusive exclusion”—a condition of existence that presupposes not only the exclusion of “unwanted Others” from the protections of the law but also the normalization of the “state of exception.” Under these circumstances, suspected “potential criminals” do not enjoy the right to claim rights and are simultaneously exposed to arbitrary violence and the coercive regulation of everyday policing.43

In Johannesburg after apartheid, the unbundling of policing services has meant the loosening of dependence on public law enforcement and expanded importance of private security provision. Private security companies have fed on the crime-related moral panic, adding to the unnerving sense of foreboding and the dreaded feeling of being hemmed in by alien and hostile forces. Fear of crime has forced the well-to-do into a hyperinsulated existence that at times resembles urban science fiction, with its Blade Runner–like vision of miasmal dystopia.

The abrupt turn toward private security companies that sell protective services has gone hand in hand with the shift to new modes of spatial governance. In their modus operandi, private security companies have shifted from a focus on law enforcement to strategies designed to manage the risk of crime by cleansing urban spaces of would-be or suspected criminals. As Christine Hentschel has persuasively argued, “Governing (through) space has become a sophisticated polyphonic under taking.” In the affluent residential suburbs of northern Johannesburg, hybrid policing arrangements involve a complex triangular relationship between public policing agencies, private security companies, and “responsibilized” citizens grouped together in neighborhood associations. Properly understood, the creation and maintenance of these new regulatory regimes requires a conceptual vocabulary more nuanced than the all-encompassing, blunt language of “neoliberal urbanism,” “privatization,” and “neo-apartheid.”44 Although the use of these concepts provides some important insights into understanding new modes of security governance in the affluent residential neighborhoods of Johannesburg, painting the urban landscape with such broad brush-strokes fails to grasp the historical specificity of what has happened on the ground and why. The unbundling of public policing and the rise of private security management—which can be called “extended security networks”—has happened not as the result of a deliberate, top-down imposition of new modes of neoliberal urban governance but as a consequence of a great deal of serendipitous improvisation and experimentation without an originating, a priori end point in mind. These new regimes of security governance function as vehicles or expressions for the imbrication and circulation of new kinds of social power that arise from the management of urban space.45

In Johannesburg, the retreat of public law enforcement agencies from everyday policing in the public spaces of the city has gone hand in hand with the meteoric rise of private security as the principal mechanism for combatting crime and lawlessness in residential neighborhoods and gated communities, in commercial districts, and in business office parks. This shift in security governance from a system built on public responsibility to one dependent on private service reflects the turn toward state unmaking, in which public law enforcement has given way to private crime prevention. The widening terrain of private security governance in the everyday policing of urban space has eroded exclusive state sovereignty and the monopoly in the legitimate use of physical force that public policing agencies have claimed as the normative ideal of modern state making. Fragmented regimes of security governance have reshaped state sovereignty in ways that both suspend the rule of law and intensify the use of arbitrary force.46 Rather than simply reflecting a simplified kind of neoliberal privatization of policing, the hybrid qualities of these security regimes represents the ambiguous overlapping, the cross contamination, and the collaboration between public law enforcement agencies and private security companies.47

In the rhetoric of policy makers, cooperation between public policing agencies and private security companies marks the beginning of the creation of an integrated “policing family” that is better able to reduce crime and prevent disorder.48 But in practice, the relations between public law enforcement and private security companies are characterized by suspicion and mistrust. The failure of public policing agencies to provide security in sufficient measure to reassure anxious residents of the city has generated a climate of insecurity that has in turn triggered consumer demand for the multiplying products of the private security market.49

Yet when referring to extended security networks, it is important not to overemphasize the degree of integration. Although there is considerable overlapping of functions, public law enforcement agencies and private security companies still operate in largely independent spheres, governed by different goals, guidelines, and norms.50 Skepticism and wariness about each other’s motives has prevented the two sides from working together in mutually satisfying ways. Although public law enforcement agencies have pressed for coordination in well-defined public-private policing partnerships, the fusion of public and private policing has not occurred in any sustained way. Some joint partnership-policing initiatives have been implemented, but there is often little cooperation between public law enforcement agencies and private security companies in sustained, working relationships that deal with everyday crime prevention and law enforcement activities.51

The Symbolic Meaning of Crime in the Sociocultural Landscape

Spatial strategies of separation operate, both materially and symbolically, by marking boundaries and registering differences, imposing partitions and distances, building barriers, multiplying rules of exclusion, designing spaces of avoidance, and restricting unimpeded movements. It is under these circumstances that the urban residents of Johannesburg try to figure out how to make their way through the labyrinthine passageways that cut over and through the urban landscape.52

When middle-class residents of these sequestered enclaves are forced to leave their safety zones, they do so within the protective armor of their cars, dreading every moment they are “out there” in the illegible public spaces of the city, exposed to the mercy of unknown predators who lie in wait for victims. In the popular imagination, these public spaces are the putative “war zones” of the city—no-go areas of crime and violence that threaten the very existence of those seeking a safe haven in their private fortresses. These unsecured places are also the living (and breathing) spaces of the urban poor who have no choice but to face the everyday dangers of the “disorderly city” with little or no protection. The urban poor have filled in the voids, those leftover spaces in the cityscape, abandoned by the anxious middle-class residents who have retreated behind walls, barriers, and fortifications. As a general rule, middle-class residents have dispensed with the utopian ideal of sharing and using the public spaces of the city in equal measure. Only those who do not have a choice are left to fashion their everyday lives in these derelict and dangerous areas.53

These conflicting kaleidoscopic images of city life invariably give rise to different perceptions of urban space. Because the evolving urban form of Johannesburg can be viewed from many different angles, focusing on its physical qualities and material embodiments alone does not allow for a comprehensive understanding of the city after apartheid. Urban residents typically experience cities through their spatial practices.54 Hence, making sense of urban space also requires that we focus attention on those informal rules or normative prescriptions governing the sociospatial routines of everyday life. In other words, it is necessary, as Henri Lefebvre insisted, that we “read,” or decipher, the spatial codes that come into existence under historically specific conditions.55 As urban residents navigate and traverse the cityscape, the practical and metaphorical (along with the real and symbolic) clash with one another. It is out of this confusing conundrum of fleeting confrontations and conflicts, negotiations and compromises that the durable qualities of urban life take shape and crystallize into recognizable patterns. It is out of these intersecting currents that shared meanings are attached to specific places.56


1. Helen Epstein, “The Mystery of AIDS in South Africa,” New York Review of Books (20 July 2000), 50.

2. For a review of the different literatures on moral panics, see Arnold Hunt, “‘Moral Panic’ and Moral Language in the Media,” British Journal of Sociology 48, no. 4 (1997): 629–48.

3. See Erich Goode and Nachman Ben-Yehuda, Moral Panics: The Social Construction of Deviance (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994), 124–43.

4. See Omar Bartov, “Defining Enemies, Making Victims: Germans, Jews, and the Holocaust,” American Historical Review 103, no. 3 (1998): 771–816 (esp. 773–74).

5. See Albert Fu and Martin J. Murray, “Cinema and the Edgy City: Johannesburg, Carjacking, and the Postmetropolis,” African Identities 5, no. 2 (2007): 279–89; Leon de Kock, “From the Subject of Evil to the Evil Subject: ‘Cultural Difference’ in Postapartheid South African Crime Fiction,” Safundi 16, no. 1 (2015): 28–50; Lindiwe Dovey, “Redeeming Features: From Tsotsi (1980) to Tsotsi (2006),” Journal of African Cultural Studies 19, no. 2 (2007): 143–64; and Rosalind Morris, “Style, Tsotsi-Style and Tsotsitaal: The Histories, Politics and Aesthetics of a South African Figure,” Social Text 28, no. 2 (2010): 85–112.

6. See Achille Mbembe, “Aesthetics of Superfluity,” Public Culture 16, no. 3 (2004): 373–405 (esp. 380–81, 383).

7. Wilf Nussey, “After Apartheid, Hope and Decay,” Guardian Weekly (London), 19 November 1995; and Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, “Alien-Nation: Zombies, Immigrants, and Millennial Capitalism,” The South Atlantic Quarterly 101, no. 4 (2002): 779–805. See also Setha Low and Neil Smith, eds., The Politics of Public Space (New York: Routledge, 2006).

8. For the “sanitation syndrome,” see Maynard Swanson, “Sanitation Syndrome: Bubonic Plague and Urban Native Policy in the Cape Colony, 1900–1909,” Journal of African History 18, no. 3 (1977): 387–410.

9. Martin J. Murray, “Alien Strangers in Our Midst: The Dreaded Foreign Invasion and ‘Fortress South Africa,’Canadian Journal of African Studies 37, nos. 2–3 (2003): 440–66; and Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, “Criminal Obsessions, after Foucault: Postcoloniality, Policing, and the Metaphysics of Disorder,” Critical Inquiry 30, no, 4 (2004): 800–824.

10. Lindsay Bremner, “Bounded Spaces: Demographic Anxieties in Post-Apartheid Johannesburg,” Social Identities 10, no. 4 (2004): 455–68 (esp. 457–58).

11. These ideas are taken almost verbatim from Joel Modiri, “The Colour of Law, Power and Knowledge: Introducing Critical Race Theory in (Post-) Apartheid South Africa,” South African Journal on Human Rights 28 (2012): 405–36 (esp. 424).

12. Modiri, “Colour of Law,” 408.

13. Modiri, 405, 406.

14. Modiri, 435.

15. Modiri, 416.

16. Modiri, 407, 412.

17. See Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, The Truth about Crime: Sovereignty, Knowledge, Social Order (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), xiii, 5.

18. Comaroff and Comaroff, “Criminal Obsessions, after Foucault,” 800–801.

19. See Carl Smith, Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 10–11.

20. M. Christine Boyer, The City of Collective Memory: Its Historical Imagery and Architectural Entertainments (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996), 19.

21. Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, “Figuring Crime: Quantifacts and the Production of the Un/Real,” Public Culture 18, no. 1 (2006): 209–46; Chandre Gould, Johan Burger, and Gareth Newham, “The SAPS Crime Statistics: What They Tell Us—and What They Don’t,” South African Crime Quarterly 42 (2014): 3–12; and Gail Super, “The Spectacle of Crime in the ‘New’ South Africa: A Historical Perspective (1976–2004),” British Journal of Criminology 50, no. 2 (2010): 165–84.

22. See, for example, Roger Tijerino, “Civil Spaces: A Critical Perspective of Defensible Space,” Journal of Architectural and Planning Research 15, no. 4 (1998): 321–37.

23. Martin J. Murray, City of Extremes: The Spatial Politics of Johannesburg (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011), 210, 213–44.

24. Paul Virilio, City of Panic, trans. Julie Rose (New York: Berg, 2005), 68, 70–71; and Lieven de Cauter, The Capsular Civilization: On the City in the Age of Fear (Rotterdam: NAi, 2004), 65–66, 85–87.

25. See Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 33.

26. See Christine Hentschel, Security in the Bubble: Navigating Crime in Urban South Africa (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), 1.

27. Andy Clarno and Martin J. Murray, “Policing in Johannesburg after Apartheid,” Social Dynamics 39, no. 2 (2013): 210–27.

28. Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001), 8.

29. From dozens of interviews with representatives of security initiatives attached to neighborhood associations, what is unquestionably clear to me is that residential homeowners see no realistic alternative to fortifying their homes in ways that mimic what their neighbors have done. See Andy Clarno, Rescaling White Space in Post-Apartheid Johannesburg,” Antipode 45, no. 5 (2013): 1190–1212.

30. Philip Harrison and Alan Mabin, “Security and Space: Managing the Contradictions of Access Restriction in Johannesburg,” Environment & Planning B 33, no. 1 (2006): 3–20; and Claire Benít-Gbaffou, “Unbundled Security Services and Urban Fragmentation in Post-Apartheid Johannesburg,” Geoforum 39, no. 6 (2008): 1933–50. See also interviews with Josie Adler and Chris Zenferna, 11 June 2012; Cecile Loedolf, 7 July 2008; Gareth Newman, 11 July 2011; and John Penberthy, 19 June 2003.

31. Nicolas Dieltiens, “The Making of the Criminal Subject in Democratic South Africa” (master’s thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, 2011), 2.

32. Mark Salter, “When the Exception Becomes the Rule: Borders, Sovereignty, and Citizenship,” Citizenship Studies 12, no. 4 (2008): 365–80.

33. Asa Boholm, “Situated Risk: An Introduction,” Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 68, no. 2 (2003): 157–58.

34. Jock Young, The Vertigo of Late Modernity (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2007).

35. Clarno and Murray, “Policing in Johannesburg,” 210–27.

36. For a theoretical exposition of the notion of the stranger, see Vince Marotta, “The Stranger and Social Theory,” Thesis Eleven 62 (2000): 121–34.

37. John Rundell, “Imagining Cities, Others: Strangers, Contingency and Fear,” Thesis Eleven 121, no. 1 (2014): 10.

38. See Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles (New York: Vintage, 1992), 227, 229, 239, 244.

39. See Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 115–22.

40. Steve Pile, “The Un(known) City . . . or, an Urban Geography of What Lies Buried Below the Surface,” in The Unknown City: Contesting Architecture and Social Space, ed. Iain Borden et al. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 262–79 (esp. 269).

41. Robert Warren, “Situating the City and September 11th: Military Urban Doctrine, ‘Pop-Up’ Armies and Spatial Chess,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 26, no. 3 (2002): 614–19; Jon Coaffee, “Urban Renaissance in the Age of Terrorism: Revanchism, Automated Social Control or the End of Reflection?,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 29, no. 2 (2005): 447–54; Stephen Graham, “The Urban ‘Battlespace,’Theory, Culture & Society 26, nos. 7–8 (2009): 278–88; and Stephen Graham, “When Life Itself Is War: On the Urbanization of Military and Security Doctrine,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 36, no. 1 (2012): 136–55.

42. See Tessa Diphoorn, Twilight Policing: Private Security and Violence in Urban South Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016), 6–23.

43. Adi Ophir, Michal Givoni, and Sari Hanafi, introduction to “The Power of Inclusive Exclusion,” in The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, eds. Adi Ophir, Michal Givoni, and Sari Hanafi (New York: Zone Books, 2009), 15–30.

44. I would like to acknowledge Christine Hentschel as the source of these ideas. See Hentschel, Security in the Bubble, 2.

45. See De Cauter, Capsular Civilization, 78–81.

46. See, for example, Adam Ramadan and Sara Fregonese, “Hybrid Sovereignty and the State of Exception in the Palestinian Refugee Campus in Lebanon,” Annals of the American Association of Geographers 107, no. 4 (2017): 949–63 (esp. 950–51, 953).

47. For the source of some of these ideas, see Sara Fregonese, “Beyond the Weak State: Hybrid Sovereignties in Beirut,” Environment and Planning D 30, no. 4 (2012): 655–74.

48. Les Johnston, “From ‘Pluralization’ to ‘the Police Extended Family’”: Discourses on the Governance of Community Policing in Britain. International Journal of the Sociology of Law 31, no. 3 (2003): 185–204.

49. Michael Kempa, Philip Stenning, and Jennifer Wood, “Policing Communal Spaces: A Reconfiguration of the ‘Mass Private Property’ Hypothesis,” British Journal of Criminology 44, no. 4 (2004): 562–81.

50. Tim Newburn, “The Commodification of Policing: Security Networks in the Late Modern City,” Urban Studies 38, nos. 5–6 (2001): 829–48 (esp. 833).

51. See Anthony Minnaar, “Private–Public Partnerships: Private Security, Crime Prevention and Policing in South Africa,” Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology 18, no. 1 (2005): 85–114; and interview with Anthony Minnaar, 6 July 2011.

52. Lindsay Bremner, “Closure, Simulation, and ‘Making Do’ in the Contemporary Johannesburg Landscape,” in Under Siege: Four African Cities. Freetown, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos. Documenta 11_Platform 4, ed. Okwui Enwezor et al. (Ostfildern-Ruit, DE: Hatje Catnz, 2002), 153–72.

53. See, among others, AbdouMaliq Simone, “Straddling the Divides: Remaking Associational Life in the Informal City,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 25, no. 1 (2001): 102–17.

54. See de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 91–110.

55. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1991), 16–18.

56. For a useful comparison, see James Donald, “This, Here, Now: Imagining the Modern City,” in Imagining Cities: Scripts, Signs, Memory, eds. Sallie Westwood and John Williams (London: Routledge, 1997), 181–201.