South Africa as postcolonial heterotopia: The racialized experience of place and space


  • Charles Villet Monash South Africa



Apartheid, Foucault, heterotopia, postcolonialism, South Africa, whiteness


This essay claims that heterotopia is characteristic of post-Apartheid South Africa, i.e. where heterotopia is usually the exception in society, it is the norm in South Africa. This claim reinterprets and expands Foucault’s concept: heterotopia here refers to the racialization of place and space, and hence to otherness and difference as primary. The ubiquity of heterotopia post-Apartheid is evident in the life-worlds of white suburbia and the black township. A case study is undertaken of white suburbia through a series of phenomenological descriptions of contemporary South Africa using heterotopia as a heuristic tool. This study demonstrates how Foucault’s notion of heterotopia is relevant but also too narrow when related to the postcolonial context. An expanded notion of the term as denoting a racialized experience of space and place is necessary for the purposes of coming to terms with the strangeness of post-Apartheid South Africa, where contradiction and otherness are the norm rather than the exception.

Author Biography

Charles Villet, Monash South Africa

Charles Villet

Philosophical, Political and International Studies

Faculty of Social and Health Sciences

Monash South Africa



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How to Cite

Villet, C. (2018). South Africa as postcolonial heterotopia: The racialized experience of place and space. Foucault Studies, (24), 12–33.



Section in collaboration with Foucault Circle