Urban Pacification and “Blitzes” in Contemporary Johannesburg

The term pacification is regularly used in urban scholarship as a euphemism for state violence and social control. However, this term is used loosely and is underexplored as a concept. This paper aims to address this gap by discussing recent critical theory on pacification, which argues that the term captures the combination of war and police power in the replication of capitalist order.

This concept will then be applied to a case study of “blitzes”, a practice which became central to urban management in Johannesburg from the late 1990s. Originally, the word was used to refer to aggressive raids led by the police in “trouble” spots, but has since been expanded to include inspections on general services. Understood as pacification, blitzes reflect how the state is constantly engaged in a low-intensity war against perceived “disorder”, which is intended to control and discipline spaces in South Africa’s largest city.

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Photo: Police attack demo during the 2006 South African security guards strike. Photo: SATAWU. Credit: Derek Blackadder via flickr.


Publication Type Journal Article
Publisher Antipode (Wiley Online Library)
Year 2015
Author(s) Christopher McMichael
Other Numbers Volume 47, Issue 5, pages 1261–1278, November 2015 Article has an altmetric score of 1
DOI 10.1111/anti.12160
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