Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Article | Open Access

“It’s a Two-Way Thing”: Symbolic Boundaries and Convivial Practices in Changing Neighbourhoods in London and Tshwane

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Abstract:  While there is a considerable body of literature on symbolic boundaries that engages with long-established/newcomer configurations, work on conviviality has only rarely taken this angle, despite its general focus on contexts of immigration-related diversity. This article connects these works of literature by examining insider-outsider configurations between long-established residents and newcomers in two very different contexts of rapid demographic change, where the established population is already marginalized and feels further threatened by newcomers. Drawing on ethnographic research in Newham, UK, and Mshongo, South Africa, we advance debates on conviviality by revealing how perceptions of inequality, lack of civility, and lack of reciprocity shape symbolic boundaries against newcomers, which may, in turn, be softened by convivial practices. We also consider what the differences between the sites might reveal about the enabling conditions for conviviality in such neighbourhoods.

Keywords:  conviviality; exclusion; inequality; informal settlements; marginalization; migration; reciprocity; squatters; struggle discourse; symbolic boundaries



© Susanne Wessendorf, Tamlyn Monson. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.