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Security in the Bubble

Navigating Crime in Urban South Africa

2015
Author:

Christine Hentschel

Security in the Bubble

Can high-crime cities become safer by changing perceptions of space?

Security in the Bubble looks at spatialized security practices in cities around the world but with a focus on the South African city of Durban. No longer reducible to the after-pains of racial apartheid, this city’s fragmentation is now better conceptualized as a heterogeneous ensemble of bubbles of imagined safety.

Despite the weight of the subject matter—urban crime in a violent city—Security in the Bubble goes against the grain of critical scholarship, evoking a new language to capture the fine-grained and culturally attuned spatial practices of identity. As a consequence, novel insights and experiences reveal contemporary urbanity in all its contradictory fullness. This is vital and beautifully crafted urbanism.

Edgar Pieterse, University of Cape Town

Focusing on the South African city of Durban, Security in the Bubble looks at spatialized security practices, engaging with strategies and dilemmas of urban security governance in cities around the world. While apartheid was spatial governance at its most brutal, postapartheid South African cities—which are plagued by high crime rates and poor policing—have tried to reinvent space, using it as a “positive” technique of governance.

In Security in the Bubble, Christine Hentschel traces the contours of two emerging urban regimes of governing security in contemporary Durban: handsome space and instant space. Handsome space is about aesthetic and affective communication as means to making places safe. Instant space, on the other hand, addresses the crime-related personal “navigation” systems employed by urban residents whenever they circulate through the city. While handsome space embraces the powers of attraction, which Hentschel calls “flirting,” instant space operates through the powers of fleeing. In both regimes, security is conceived not as a public good but as a situational experience that can, at best, be achieved in aesthetic spatiotemporal bubbles and in mobile bubbles that surround well-informed, full-time crime-avoiding citizens.

No longer reducible to the after-pains of racial apartheid, this city’s fragmentation is now better conceptualized, according to Hentschel, as a heterogeneous ensemble of bubbles of imagined safety.

Security in the Bubble

Christine Hentschel is visiting professor at the Institute for Criminological Research at Hamburg University and is affiliated with the Institute of Urban Sociology at Humboldt University Berlin.

Security in the Bubble

Despite the weight of the subject matter—urban crime in a violent city—Security in the Bubble goes against the grain of critical scholarship, evoking a new language to capture the fine-grained and culturally attuned spatial practices of identity. As a consequence, novel insights and experiences reveal contemporary urbanity in all its contradictory fullness. This is vital and beautifully crafted urbanism.

Edgar Pieterse, University of Cape Town

Christine Hentschel’s theoretically sharp book shows how the pursuit of security dynamically organizes—and simultaneously fragments—urban life. In a major contribution to criminology as well as to urban studies, Hentschel acknowledges the reality of violence and fear but, refreshingly, avoids dystopian clichés in a work that is as relevant for Chicago and Detroit as it is for Rio and Bogotá.

Mariana Valverde, University of Toronto

Security in the Bubble

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Spatial Governance from Death to Life
1. The Politics of Crime and Space in South Africa
2. Seeing Like a City: Conceptual Devices
3. Handsome Space: Governing through Flirting
4. Instant Space: Governing through Fleeing
Conclusion: Making Love to the City
Notes
Index