Ethnography Of ‘Herero Mall’ (Windhoek) As A Postapartheid Social Space


The post-apartheid city represents an important reflector of a society in transition. Urban space as a mixture of complex interrelations and social interactions provides a prism through which society in transition is illuminated. This transition is captured in social spaces. Yet, there is a dearth of studies focusing on locating the meaning of social spaces in post-apartheid urban Namibia. Employing ethnography as a methodological choice, participant observation combined with in-depth interviews were used to locate the social meaning of the so-called ‘Herero Mall’ in the heart of Katutura. Providing an important means of economic survival, ‘Herero Mall’ is a solace to the urban subaltern, to invoke Gayatri Spivak’s concept. Most traders if not all are unable to join formal employment because of their low level of education. ‘Herero Mall’ exists against the backdrop of high unemployment in the city where enormous wealth rubs shoulders with abject poverty. Subjected to history and with reference to power symbols within its milieu, ‘Herero Mall’ attracts symbolic capital in the Bourdieuvian sense. The latter is expressive of a social space embodying identity with an ethnic character. However, looking at ‘Herero Mall’ solely using historical and power symbols’ lens robs us of conceiving this social space as a fusion of the past and the present. This brings hybridity to the fore, a character ingrained in ‘Herero Mall’ as a post-apartheid social space. The reproduction of class divides, especially along gender lines is expressed through the interaction of social actors. Invariably, social actors eke out a living within the purview of their social positions. ‘Herero Mall’ is by and large organised around consumption, a distinctive feature of modern societies. It brings together people iii from different walks of life and across ethnic and class divides. However, consumers are notably young people from various social spheres. As a mix of disparate informal market place, it is interwoven with the broader formal economy by acting as a transmitter of consumer goods sourced from formal businesses. The paper concludes with an assertion that from a sociological point of view, treating social spaces as mere ‘containers’ carries with it the risk of forfeiting to get a grasp of social transformation under way.

Subscribe to access this work and thousands more
Overall Rating


5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star

TJIRERA, E (2021). Ethnography Of ‘Herero Mall’ (Windhoek) As A Postapartheid Social Space. Afribary. Retrieved from

MLA 8th

TJIRERA, ELLISON "Ethnography Of ‘Herero Mall’ (Windhoek) As A Postapartheid Social Space" Afribary. Afribary, 25 Apr. 2021, Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.


TJIRERA, ELLISON . "Ethnography Of ‘Herero Mall’ (Windhoek) As A Postapartheid Social Space". Afribary, Afribary, 25 Apr. 2021. Web. 14 Apr. 2024. < >.


TJIRERA, ELLISON . "Ethnography Of ‘Herero Mall’ (Windhoek) As A Postapartheid Social Space" Afribary (2021). Accessed April 14, 2024.