Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Brent McCusker

Committee Co-Chair

Jeremia Njeru

Committee Member

Phil O'Keefe

Committee Member

Timothy Warner

Committee Member

Bradley Wilson


Changes in local landscapes of South Africa are tied to changing social and economic structures of the post-apartheid era. Though there have been significant shifts in land and labor laws, as well as economic policies, between the apartheid era and current times, significant inequalities between communities remain a defining characteristic of the post-apartheid landscape. This research contends that through a combination of social processes occurring between the local, national, and global scales, local landscape is produced unevenly as a manifestation of the coproduction of space. Using a structuralist approach, the research examines local change through the theoretical lenses of uneven development, co-production, and deproletarianization. These approaches each seek to explain the processes surrounding peri-urbanization trends near the research site of Polokwane, South Africa. Using a mixed methods approach for data collection connects the theoretical implications to the lived realities of individuals in South Africa. The mixed methods include quantitative surveys, qualitative and semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and geospatial technologies, through which I gained a deeper understanding of the social processes influencing local livelihoods and land use patterns. The results of this research demonstrate that new areas of peri-urban growth represent significantly lower living standards than the suburban growth near the city. While peri-urban areas have grown the most between 1990 and 2009, some of this growth is represented by informal settlements where access to urban infrastructure is scarce and poorly developed. Deproletarianization contributes to uneven geographical development by limiting access to the wage labor market and forcing people to live close to the city in order to gain access to this resource. Furthermore, this process interacts with local and national level macro-economic policies aimed toward capitalist growth rather than community development to create great unevenness both within and between peri-urban areas. In addition, local governance and past-apartheid policies also influence the scope and direction of peri-urban growth and livelihood possibilities for individuals and households living in the peri-urban interface. This research concludes that while Polokwane, South Africa might be in a post-apartheid era of governance it is certainly not in a post-poverty era.