The Art of Separating Out: Zones of Qualification and the Production of Illicit Economies in Johannesburg's City Improvement Districts

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Abstract:

While the illicit economy is generally conceived of as either a pre-existing outside reality or the product of governmental discourse, this article proposes to shift attention away from “the illicit economy” towards the practices that constitute it. Building on actor-network theory, it studies the practices through which the illicit economy is produced in zones of qualification, that is, intensely governed and vital economic spaces. Highlighting the case of Johannesburg's City Improvement Districts, it shows how the illicit economy emerges as a tangible “outside” through practices aimed at constituting and regulating an “inside.” Through in-depth analysis of both social and material practices, this article contributes to a symmetrical theoretical understanding of the way in which the illicit economy is constructed by practice.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2012

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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