Book Review: Mean Streets: Migration, Xenophobia and Informality in South Africa

While often critiqued for its limited capacity to grasp complex realities, the idea of the informal economy is deeply embedded in both academic and policy circles – and therefore one we can expect to stick around for some time. For this reason alone, publications like Mean Streets: Migration, Xenophobia and Informality in South Africa, which throw vast empirical light on what are sometimes considered ‘saturated’ topics, is absolutely fundamental in critically engaging with how we talk and think about the economy, how policy gets made, and crucially, how we understand the ways in which people make a living in many of the world’s urbanising spaces.

Co-edited by three established academics – each of whom have published widely on the topics of migration, ethnic relations and the informal economy – Mean Streets reflects a growing recognition of the significance and complexity of the informal economy, in and outside of South Africa. Presenting a powerful case to take seriously the contributions of international migrants to South Africa’s diverse informal economy, Mean Streets makes a loud call to develop inclusive policies that recognise this reality.

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