This issue of Public Culture attempts to overturn perceptions that frame Africa as an object apart from the rest of the world. By placing the city of Johannesburg--the preeminent metropolis of the African continent and a city facing a complicated legacy of racial strife and wealth accumulation--at the heart of new critical urban theory, Johannesburg: The Elusive Metropolis broadens discussions of modernity, cosmopolitanism, and urban renewal to include Africa. The issue brings Johannesburg into direct dialogue with other world cities, creating a space for the interrogation and investigation of the metropolis in a properly global sense.
Contributors to this issue--a mix of scholars, urban planners, and artists, many of whom hail from South Africa--reveal Johannesburg to be a polycentric and international city that has developed its own cosmopolitan culture. In a detailed study of three streets in the modern precinct of Melrose Arch, one essay shows how the thoroughly commodified and marketed Johannesburg cityscape has shaped the cultural sensitivities, aesthetics, and urban subjectivities of its inhabitants, at times even overriding the historical memory of apartheid. Another essay, focusing on the emergence of a new urban culture, examines how the city itself becomes a crucial site for the remixing and reassembling of racial identities. By tracking the movement of people with AIDS to various locations in the city to seek relief and treatment, another essay reveals an urban geography very different from what is seen from the highways. Finally, through interviews and commentaries, journalists, artists, and architects of Johannesburg offer reflections on the geography and shifting culture of the city and its townships, on the complicated relationship between Johannesburg and other African cities, and on the search for an architectural style that adequately expresses the complexity of this cosmopolitan city.
Contributors. Lindsay Bremner, Nsizwa Dlamini, Mark Gevisser, Grace Khunou, Fr d ric Le Marcis, John Matshikiza, Achille Mbembe, Sarah Nuttall, Rodney Place, AbdouMaliq Simone, Michael Watts