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      Pushed to the Margins : Ethiopian Migrants in South Africa



            Ethiopian immigrants in South Africa are increasingly occupying informal trading space in townships, rural areas and in select central business districts across the country. This article documents the experiences of Ethiopian migrants in the informal sector in South Africa. Theoretically, the article rests on the concept of everyday life. It draws on data from interviews, focus group discussions and observations carried out between October 2020 and September 2021. This signals a period in which everyone was challenged by COVID-19, especially migrants, which compounded the hierarchies of marginality in which Ethiopian migrants in South Africa are situated. Coupled with this, Ethiopian migrants face two broad levels of marginality: firstly, marginality from state policies and the communities in which they reside and work; and secondly, marginality from gendered and class-based inequalities within the Ethiopian community. The structural and hegemonic barriers range from lack of documentation to regularize residency status and business respectively, extortion by gangs in the name of “protection fee,” exploitation by local level state/community structures and women restricted to female roles. By the same token, we see the creativity and ingenuity of this community, that focuses on their personhood, to make sense of their lives and create conditions to live meaningful lives. This article explores some of the core contestations emerging out of these twin marginalities the ways in which Ethiopian migrants structure their lives and livelihoods in South Africa.


            Author and article information

            Zanj: The Journal of Critical Global South Studies
            14 June 2022
            : 5
            : 1/2
            : 76-92
            [1 ] University of Cape Town

            Published under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International ( CC BY 4.0). Users are allowed to share (copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially), as long as the authors and the publisher are explicitly identified and properly acknowledged as the original source.


            Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.
            Economic development,Political science,General social science,Development studies,Urban, Rural & Regional economics,Cultural studies
            Global South,business,gender ,Ethiopia,informal sector,marginality,precarity,Everyday life,twin marginality,South Africa


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            2. Opfermann Lena S.. ‘If you can't beat them, be them!’ – everyday experiences and ‘performative agency’ among undocumented migrant youth in South Africa. Children's Geographies. Vol. 18(4):379–392. 2020. Informa UK Limited. [Cross Ref]

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