Transnational Habitus and Sociability in the City: Zimbabwean Migrants’ Experiences in Johannesburg, South Africa
Keywords:transnationalism; transnational habitus; Zimbabwean migration; Johannesburg
Drawing on field research and a survey of 150 Zimbabwean migrants in Johannesburg, this paper explores the dimensions of migrants’ transnational experiences in the urban space. I discuss the use of communication platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook as well as other means such as telephone calls in fostering the embedding of transnational migrants within both the Johannesburg and the Zimbabwean socio-economic environments. I engage this migrant-embedding using Bourdieusian concepts of “transnational habitus” and “transnational social field,” which are migration specific variations of Bourdieu’s original concepts of “habitus” and “social field.” In deploying these Bourdieusian conceptual tools, I observe that the dynamics of South–South migration as observed in the Zimbabwean migrants are different to those in the South–North migration streams and it is important to move away from using the same lens in interpreting different realities. For Johannesburg-based migrants to operate within the socio-economic networks produced in South Africa and in Zimbabwe, they need to actively acquire a transnational habitus. I argue that migrants’ cultivation of networks in Johannesburg is instrumental, purposive, and geared towards achieving specific and immediate goals, and latently leads to the development and sustenance of flexible forms of permanency in the transnational urban space.