Is social cohesion relevant to a city in the global south? A case study of Khayelitsha township

  • Vanessa Emma Barolsky Human Sciences Research Council South Africa
Keywords: social cohesion, Khayaletisha, violence, crime


The concept of social cohesion is increasingly being utilised in local and international policy discourse and scholarship. The idea of collective efficacy, defined as ‘social cohesion among neighbours combined with their willingness of intervene on behalf of the common good,’ has been posited as having an important protective effect against violence. This article investigates the relevance of international framings of social cohesion and collective efficacy, which have largely been conceptualised and tested in the global north, to the conditions of social life and violence prevention in a city in the global south. These circumstances are interrogated through an ethnographic study conducted in Khayelitsha township in the Western Cape, where a major internationally funded and conceptualised violence prevention intervention, Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU), has been implemented. The ethnographic material contests some of the key assumptions in international discourses on social cohesion and the manner in which social cohesion has been interpreted and effected in the violence prevention initiatives of VPUU.  

Author Biography

Vanessa Emma Barolsky, Human Sciences Research Council South Africa
Research Specialist, Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery Programme, Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
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