African Women and Apartheid: Migration and Settlement in Urban South Africa

Lee, Rebekah. 2009. African Women and Apartheid: Migration and Settlement in Urban South Africa. London: I.B. Tauris (Tauris Academic Studies). ISBN 9781845118198 [Book]

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Abstract or Description

Set within the changing political geography of Cape Town, South Africa, this study constructs a social history of African women through an examination of the complex process and consequences of settlement during the apartheid (1948-1994) and post-apartheid years. Africans began flowing into the city in increasing numbers at mid-twentieth century. However, they encountered coercive and effective resistance to their settlement endeavors, in part due to Cape Town’s historical association as the ‘home’ of the majority Coloured population. In the first two decades of apartheid rule, African women in particular were subject to lives of daily surveillance and restricted movement. It is clear that African women experienced, and understood, apartheid on profoundly different terms than African men.

This book considers the substance and structure of African women’s lives as they creatively engaged with both the obstacles and the opportunities presented by the urban environment around them. Life histories of three generations of African women are the foundation of this project, offering windows into women’s attempts to locate ‘home’ in the urban setting: in the physical structures of their residences; the character of their social and kinship networks; and in the ways notions of ‘place’ and belonging were reworked. Taken together, the various strategies of settlement African women crafted and managed over five decades provide a compelling portrait of adaptation, resilience and change. African women emerge as active, and self-conscious, negotiators of the urbanisation process.

Drawing together scholarship from anthropology, history, and development studies, this study presents a complex and intimate account of gendered struggles, and social and personal transformation. It contributes to a deeper and more nuanced history of African women, and of urbanisation in South Africa. It will be valuable to anyone with interests in South African culture and society, gender, urbanisation, the African family, oral history, and memory.

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Research Office > REF2014



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Date Deposited:

05 Mar 2012 12:54

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 10:26


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