This article is an attempt to reflect on nationalist politics and its accompanying political imaginations in South Africa, in the process questioning the assertion of a single ‘rainbow nation’, by locating the ways in which community is imagined in post-apartheid South Africa. It looks at the ‘other’ South Africa, which has yet to realise the gains of political modernity. For these citizens of South Africa, modernity is but a distant project. Its consequences in most parts of this ‘other’ South Africa have been not only extreme poverty, social marginality or political exclusion, but also the emergence and formation of new subjectivities and collective agency. This article seeks to theorise the modern political subject in the ‘other’ South Africa that has not actively participated in the project of modernity and globalisation. In the process, it seeks also to examine how citizen–subject positions are being constituted – particularly in the interaction between state and non-state actors, as a precursor to a future study of the broader interplay of citizenship, governmentality and political subjectivity in contemporary South Africa.