Spatial Inequality

Other Names: Spatial Injustice, Geographical Inequality, Location Discrimination, Spatial Apartheid
The unequal distribution or access to resources and/or opportunities based on location

Alexandra Township in context to Sandton, Johannesburg: Unequal Scenes – Johnny Miller


Spatial Inequality refers to the uneven distribution or access given to socially valued resources and opportunities, based on location in space or boundaries set by such conditions. It is not a causality of development, but causality of how cities and regions are planned and governed and where resources and opportunities are allocated.

Typically, the most familiar forces shaping locational and spatial discrimination are considered to be race, class, religion, culture or gender.

In South Africa the legacy of colonial and Apartheid planning have set patterns of spatial development that fundamentally remain in place today, but newer forms of spatial inequality are manifesting post-1994 along lines of gentrification, urban sprawl, and housing/land access.

Areas/places in that demonstrate Spatial Inequality

South African

Apartheid Era contrasts:

Sandton/Alex (Johannesburg)

Gugulethu/Cape Town CBD (Cape Town)

Umhlanga/Umlazi (Durban)

Post-Apartheid contrasts:

Dainfern/Diepsloot (Johannesburg)

Woodstock/Saltriver (Cape Town)

Maboneng/Jeppes Town (Johannesburg)


U.S.A: Chicago (South/North side)

India: Mumbai (Dharavi/Mumbai Suburbs)

Europe: Paris (Inner/Outer Core)

South America: Sao Paulo (Rocinho/Adjacent Neighborhoods)

Middle East: Palestine/Israel: WestBank Barrier

Quick Reads

South African

Unequal Scenes – Johnny Miller

Spatial Inequality Slide Show – Edgar Pieterse

What exactly is ‘spatial apartheid’ and why is it still relevant? –Daily Vox ( Mohammed Jameel Abdulla)

Spatial Inequality – African Center for Cities


The Right to the City and Urban Resistance – David Harvey

Online Platform – Right to the City Alliance

Seeking Spatial Justice and the Right to the City  – Edward Soja

Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life – UN Habitat


South African

Pieterse, E. and Owens, K. (2018) ‘Johannesburg : Confronting Spatial Inequality’, Case Study.

Myambo, M. T. et al. (2018) Reversing Urban Inequality in Johannesburg. 1st edn, Reversing Urban Inequality in Johannesburg. 1st edn. Edited by M. T. Myambo. Johannesburg: Routledge. doi: 10.4324/9780429453304.

Turok, I. (2018) ‘Worlds Apart: Spatial Inequalities in South Africa’, Confronting Inequality: The South African crisis, (February), pp. 129–151. Available at:

South African Cities Network (SACN) (2020) State of Cities Reports – SA Cities, Knowledge Hub. Available at: (Accessed: 26 August 2020).


Dikeç, M. (2009) Space, politics and (in)justice. Available at: (Accessed: 26 August 2020).

Harvey, D. (2009) Social Justice and the City. Revised. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press. Available at:

Berg, A. G. and Ostry, J. D. (2017) ‘Inequality and Unsustainable Growth: Two Sides of the Same Coin?’, IMF Economic Review, 65(4), pp. 792–815. doi: 10.1057/s41308-017-0030-8.

JSD_ZA Contributions on Spatial Inequality

“The political organization of space is a particularly powerful source of spatial injustice, with examples ranging from the gerrymandering of electoral districts, the redlining of urban investments, and the effects of exclusionary zoning to territorial apartheid, institutionalized residential segregation, the imprint of colonial and/or military geographies of social control, and the creation of other core-periphery spatial structures of privilege from the local to the global scales.”

Edward Soja, 2009