Locating 'home': Strategies of settlement, identity-formation and social change among African women in Cape Town, 1948-2000
This dissertation constructs a social history of African women in Cape Town from the vantage point of their varied attempts over the last five decades to map 'home' in the urban setting: in the physical structures of their homes; the character of their social and kinship networks; and in the ways a notion of 'place' was re-worked. An historiographical examination of existing research has shown that, especially in the South African context, much scope remains for a regionally specific historical analysis of the urbanisation process, and African women's unique role in it. The use of oral histories and the adoption of a trans-generational interviewing strategy have helped fashion a textured account of African women's settlement strategies, and the underlying social and personal transformations that their design and use suggested. 'First-generational' women, who entered Cape Town at mid-century, led an uncertain and highly regulated urban existence, by virtue of their enforced marginalisation under apartheid. Until the late-1980s, Cape Town retained a distinctive demographic composition, and an historical association as the 'home' of the Coloured population. This made state and local efforts to control the entry and residence of the minority African populace more coercive and successful, at least in the first two decades of apartheid rule. Despite these restrictions, African women constructed and managed a dense set of strategies which affirmed their material livelihoods in the city and increasingly enmeshed their identities in the workings of a modern and commoditised world. However, first-generational women also actively contested these developments to some extent, evident particularly in their efforts to regulate the movement of and compel financial support from their increasingly mobile daughters and granddaughters. Evidence from second and third-generational respondents show a growing reluctance to utilise first-generational women's settlement strategies and the conceptual frameworks which underpinned them. For instance, associational links were increasingly organised along non-racialised lines. Third-generational women's desire to establish residence in other areas of the city, or in other cities entirely, was indicative of a similar dynamic. This was also reflective of their embrace of mobility as an expression of greater economic and social freedoms possible in a post-apartheid world. This dissertation constructs a social history of African women in Cape Town from the vantage point of their varied attempts over the last five decades to locate 'home' in the urban setting. It charts the experiences of a group of women who first moved to Cape Town in the 1940s and 50s, and their children and grandchildren. My focus is on the way in which succeeding generations of women developed differing strategies of settlement, in the context of sometimes dramatic social and political change. The social as well as the physical elements of locating home are key elements in the analysis, including the redefinition of kinship and associational networks, as well as the re-casting of identities and a sense of place. Until the late 1980s, Cape Town retained a distinctive demographic composition, and an historical association as the 'home' of the Coloured- population. This made state and local efforts to control the entry and residence of the minority African populace more coercive and successful, at least in the first two decades of apartheid rule. Rather than painting a comprehensive portrait of urban African life in the apartheid era (1948- 1994), this dissertation hopes to map a few significant dynamics which were manifest in the encounters between a select group of African women and the distinctive terrain of this city during the apartheid years.