Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon

The Blinded City

Ten Years In  Inner-City Johannesburg 

The Blinded City was nominated for the shortlist

Focus on Africa with Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon

South Africa fire: What are Johannesburg's hijacked buildings?

The Blinded City has been nominated for the longlist of the Sunday Times Literary Awards 2023 for non-fiction

Announcing the longlists for SA’s most prestigious annual literary awards for non-fiction and fiction in partnership with Exclusive Books.

Postcast In The Ring
Podcast: IN THE RING with EUSEBIUS McKaiser


“I interviewed Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon about his stunning book, The Blinded City- Ten Years In Inner-City Johannesburg, which tells countless and complex sets of stories about people who occupy buildings in inner-city Johannesburg.

Some call these bulldings “hijacked buildings” but Matthew explains why this term is problematic. He has spent over ten years getting to know the people living in these buildings, recording their stories, following lawfare between these communities, property developers and the City of Johannesburg.

What emerges is an incredible book that isn’t just about an ongoing housing crisis, but a struggle for the right of people who live precariously to be treated with dignity, an inviolable right that they are inherently entitled to but all too often denied.

No one with a serious interest in making sense of the urban landscape, and our myriad political  fissures, can skip this conversation. Listen to it, and buy Matthew’s book.

This is a story about Johannesburg, in the first instance, but one with global echoes and therefore of international interest also.

Enjoy” – Eusebius McKaiser

"A riveting look at Jo’burg’s ‘hijacked buildings’, The Blinded City is a tribute to the people who struggle for connection against all the odds. In bringing them to life Wilhelm-Solomon has told the true story behind the challenge of South Africa’s urban regeneration”

Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon

Matthew W-S

is a writer, editor and educator who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2022, He is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at the African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits University)…

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Author Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon sheds light on inner-city Joburg’s ‘dark’ buildings

Many inner-city Johannesburg buildings are in a terrible state, but thousands of vulnerable immigrants have found refuge living in these ‘dark’ or ‘hijacked’ buildings. Author and academic Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon takes us on an epic journey inside some of these buildings and details the struggles of the ‘illegal occupiers’.

Johannesburg cannot police its future

South Africa’s biggest city is ground zero for debates about the long-term effectiveness and constitutionality of militarized urban policing and how we imagine the post-COVID city…

'The Blinded City is a beautifully written tapestry of the lives of so many of Johannesburg's most resilient and remarkable people. Every chapter brings together heartbreak and hope and love and loss, set against the iconic landscape of inner-city Johannesburg. It is a deeply moving tribute to the lives, hopes and struggles of multiple generations of people who have fought and continue to fight to realise the promise of post-apartheid South Africa.'


Dispossession as depotentiation

This paper proposes a theory of urban dispossession as depotentiation. ‘Depotentiation’, as I employ the term, indicates the diminishment of imminent capacities, affects and potentialities. I propose this formulation to both complement and critique Harvey’s dominant notion of accumulation by dispossession as the commodification of the urban commons and to contribute to conceptual developments on the stratified and affective dimensions of eviction…

The City Otherwise: The Deferred Emergency of Occupation in Inner-City Johannesburg

This article draws on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Johannesburg between 2011 and 2019 in inner-city unlawful occupations and temporary emergency accommodation sites. These are often referred to as “hijacked buildings,” “bad buildings,” or “dark buildings.” However, they are also spaces of refuge, intimacy, and sociality for tens of thousands of South Africans and foreign nationals excluded from formal rental markets and often displaced by the drive for urban regeneration…

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"One of the best works of narrative non-fiction to emerge from the country in years. Quite simply brilliant."