Louise Bethlehem deposited Hydrocolonial Johannesburg in the group CLCS Global South on MLA Commons 9 months, 2 weeks ago
Johannesburg is a landlocked city, famously the largest human concentration in the southern hemisphere not located on a river. What opportunities does it afford for hydrocolonial analysis, given Isabel Hofmeyr’s anchoring of that term in oceanic studies? How might a hydrocolonial orientation defamiliarize the relations between surface and depths that have shaped influential recent accounts of the city? This article outlines the contours of a “hydrocolonial Johannesburg” though combining Isabel Hofmeyr, Charne Lavery and Sarah Nuttall’s invitation to “read for water” with existing methodologies that read for infrastructure. It sets these strategies to work in the context of Lauren Beukes’ second work of speculative fiction, _Zoo City_ (Beukes, Lauren. 2010. _Zoo City_. Johannesburg: Jacana Media). The novel propels its readers into a noiresque fantasy world whose spatial coordinates closely reflect the extra-textual city of Johannesburg. Taking my cue from Beukes’ infrastructural allusions, I mobilize her text to provide the struts for my own as I explore the intertextuality of _Zoo City_ with works by William Kentridge and Sarah Gertrude Millin. Alternately foregrounded or barely perceptible until deliberately sought out, water helps to distinguish the various locales of the novel from one another. My essay turns to _Zoo City_ to offer three vignettes that trace the flows of water and the contiguous presence of infrastructures in Johannesburg, pursuing their intersection beyond the boundaries of the novel into a larger expressive cultural archive to reflect on the relations between privilege and forms of anthropogenic degradation in the life of the city.