Stranger-ness and Belonging in a Neighbourhood WhatsApp Group

  • 1 Department of Media & Communications, Goldsmiths College, , London, UK


The messaging application WhatsApp is often adopted in urban neighbourhoods to distribute and discuss information as part of neighbourhood watch programmes. In this context, certain notions of information sharing and the cherishing this implies, are often entangled with ideals of protection in the neighbourhood. Using the case study of an enclosed neighbourhood in Johannesburg, this essay draws on theories of affect and mobility to introduce the concept of affective mooring. That is, that a neighbourhood WhatsApp group constitutes an affective mooring-an established practice and point of fixity-that generates a sense of being held in a community through feelings of collective presence and safety. Notably, these feelings of presence and safety are hinged on acts of resistance and alienation towards strangers. In this way, WhatsApp as an affective mooring in the neighbourhood is also a site for negotiating ideals of belonging.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Ahmed, Sara. Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality. London: Routledge, 2000.

  • -----. “Who Knows? Knowing Strangers and Strangerness.” Australian Feminist Studies, Vol.15 No.31 (2000): 49-68.

  • Avis-Riordan, Katie. “Is Social Media Making Our Homes Safer?” House Beautiful. (4 February 2017) Web. 24 July 2017. <>

  • Blackman, Lisa. The Body: The Key Concepts. Oxford: Berg, 2008.

  • Castells, Manuel. The Rise of the Network Society. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, (1996) 2009.

  • Clifford, James. Routes. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1997.

  • Deleuze, Gilles. and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus. London: Bloomsbury, (1988) 2013.

  • Demombynes, Gabriel. and Özler, Berk. “Crime and Local Inequality in South Africa” Journal of Development Economics 76 (2005): 265-292.

  • Farman, Jason. Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media. New York: Routledge, 2012.

  • Farber, Tanya. “Growing discomfort with neighbourhood watches ‘racial profiles’” Times Live. (November 2014). Web. 5 October 2016. <>

  • Foucault, Michel. “The Subject and Power.” Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Eds. H. L. Dreyfus and P. Rabinow. Brighton: Harvester Press, 1982.

  • Green, Nicola. “Who’s Watching Whom? Monitoring and Accountability in Mobile Relations.” Wireless World. Eds. B. Brown, N. Green, R. Harper. London: Springer, 2002.

  • Hahn, Matthew. The Robben Island Shakespeare. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

  • Hannam, K., Sheller, Mimi., Urry, John. “Editorial: Mobilities, Immobilities and Moorings.” Mobilities Vol. 1, No.1: 1-22.

  • Hjorth, Larissa. and Pink, Sarah. “Emplaced Cartographies: Reconceptualising Camera Phone Practices in an Age of Locative Media.” Media International Australia (2012): 145-155.

  • Hattingh, Marie J. “The Use of Facebook by a Community Policing Forum to Combat Crime.” Published in SAICSIT ‘15, Proceedings of the 2015 Annual Research Conference of the South African Institute of Computer Scientists and Information Technologists. Article 19. Stellenbosch: ACM, 2015.

  • Hayles, N. Katherine. “Flesh and Metal: Reconfiguring the Mindbody in Virtual Environments.” Configurations, Vol. 10. No.2 (2002): 297-320.

  • Hillis, Ken., Paasonen, Susanna., Petit, Michael. Networked Affect. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015.

  • Heidegger, Martin. Building Dwelling Thinking. Harper Colophon Books: New York, 1971.

  • -----. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Trans. William Lovitt. London: Garland Publishing, 1977.

  • Ingold, Tim. Being Alive: Essays on Movements, Knowledge and Description. London: Routledge, 2011.

  • Kember, Sarah. and Zylinska, Joanna. Life After New Media: Mediation as a Vital Process. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012.

  • Landman, Karen. “An Overview of Enclosed Neighbourhoods in South Africa.” Special report for the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research). Pretoria: CSIR, 2000.

  • Lemanski, Charlotte. “A New Apartheid? The Spatial Implications of Fear of Crime in Cape Town, South Africa.” Environment & Urbanization, Vol. 16 No. 2 (2004): 101-112.

  • Massey, Doreen. “A Global Sense of Place.” Marxism Today, June (1991): 24-29.

  • Minnaar, Anthony. “Private-Public Partnerships: Private Security, Crime Prevention and Policing in South Africa.” Inaugural Lecture. Pretoria: University of Pretoria, 2004.

  • Morley, David. Home Territories: Media, Mobility and Identity. London: Routledge, 2000.

  • Morris, David. and Hess, Karl. Neighbourhood Power. Boston: Beacon Press, 1975.

  • O’Hara, Kenton., Massimi, Michael., Harper, Richard., Rubens, Simon., Morris, Jessica. “Everyday Dwelling with WhatsApp.” Proceedings of CSCW’14 February 15-19 2014, Baltimore.

  • Plant, Sadie. “On the Mobile: The Effects of Mobile Telephones on Social and Individual Life.” Special Report commissioned by Motorola. (2001) Web. 20 November 2013. <>

  • Sobchack, Vivian. Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

  • Sheller, Mimi. and Urry, John. “The New Mobilities Paradigm.” Environment and Planning A. Vol. 38 (2006): 207-226.

  • Slack, Jennifer D. and Macgregor Wise, J. “Cultural Studies and Technology.” Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Consequences of ICTs. Eds. L. Lievrouw and S. Livingstone. London: Sage, 2002.

  • South African Census data 2011. Web. 3 May 2017 <>

  • Statt, Nick. “WhatsApp has grown to 1 billion users.” The Verge. (February 2016). Web. October 7 2016. <>

  • Tomlinson, John. Globalisation and Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999.

  • Tyler, Imogen. “Methodological Fatigue and the Politics of the Affective Turn.” Feminist Media Studies. Vol. 8 No. 1 (2008): 85-90.

  • Van Kempen, Roland. and Wissink, Bart. “Between Places and Flows: Towards a New Agenda for Neighbourhood Research in an Age of Mobility.” Geografiska Annuler: Series B, (2014): 95-108.

  • Walkerdine, Valerie. “Communal Beingness and Affect: An Exploration of Trauma in an Ex-industrial Community.” Body & Society Vol.16 No.91 (2010): 91-116.

  • Walkerdine, Valerie. Children, Gender, Video Games: Towards a Relational Approach to Multimedia. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.


Journal + Issues

Open Cultural Studies is a peer-reviewed journal exploring the fields of Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts. It interprets culture in an inclusive sense and promotes new research perspectives in cultural studies. The journal aims to enhance international collaboration among scholars from the Global North and the Global South and help early-career researchers. It is also committed to increasing public access to scholarship on cultural studies.