Morgan L.C. Buck

Doctoral Candidate, Environmental ScienceCity University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center

Award Information

2016 IDRF Program

Environmental ScienceCity University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center

Domesticated Landscapes: Public Housing and the Cultural Politics of Domesticity in Johannesburg, 1930–1994

From its consolidation as a centralized policy objective in the early 1930s, South Africa's national housing program served as the infrastructural backbone of racialized displacement and inequality. Historical research has demonstrated the important role that housing played in reproducing Johannesburg's segregated urban landscape. Yet the ways in which this landscape was also gendered have received little attention within historical and geographic research to date. Using an interdisciplinary approach to archival research, my dissertation presents a distinctive account in which ideological constructions of domesticity and domestic space are inseparable from the formation of racial categories and their spatialization through the planning, construction, and contestation of state-funded housing projects. The central question I ask is, how did the South African racial state's public housing infrastructure both adopt and adapt to changing ideologies of domesticity, and how have ideological and material constructions of domestic space been (re)configured by this process? At the heart of my dissertation research is a critical re-reading of urban policy and planning archives from 1930 to 1994, focusing on three significant moments in the production and management of Johannesburg's state housing infrastructure. These include (1) the original consolidation of national housing policy in the 1930s, (2) the intensification of repressive state housing infrastructure under apartheid, and (3) the simultaneous de-segregation and privatization of housing policy in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By examining domestic ideologies in tandem with the materiality of family housing, my research will provide a rich historical examination of how changing discourses were taken up in the material (re)organization of space, and how new infrastructures in turn shaped both representations and lived experiences of particular places, contributing valuable insights into the recursive relationship between space, knowledge, and power.