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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A place on the point: South African street youth and informal street shelters
by Margaretten, Emily, Ph.D., Yale University, 2007, 287; 3296193
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation, I address the social organization and social attachments of a group of older street youth in Durban, South Africa. I look to their participation in a newly emergent, institutional order in South Africa: the "informal" street shelter. Established for youth by youth, informal shelters are places where street youth congregate to mitigate the daily hardships of urban poverty. These sites of inhabitation typically occur within condemned, gutted, or burnt-out buildings. As such, informal shelters are unstable spaces of accommodation, prone to state-sanctioned demolition.

Informal shelters operate outside the purview of the state, outside the regulatory ambit of supervising adults. Yet by no means do informal shelters figure as a counter-structure built in opposition to the beliefs or practices of South African society at large. Rather, the youth who utilize informal shelters purposively recreate the alliances of their upbringings. They reconstruct the moral communities of their past. Informal shelters, in short, reflect familiar, recognizable routines of everyday domesticity.

This dissertation addresses the emergence, the sustainability, and the imminent demise of one informal shelter, known as Point Place. Located in the metropolis of Durban, Point Place accommodates more than an hundred street youth at any given time. The daily survival of the Point Place youth hinges on their attachments with one another. They often express these attachments through the idiom of kin.

As kin, the youth of Point Place create reciprocal ties of obligation that enables them to make legitimizing claims on one another's productive and reproductive capabilities. Kinship, in this context, reflects strategies of both choice and compulsion, whereby street youth constantly rework the boundaries of their social relatedness. As such, I address kinship as a highly subjective and contested process of belonging. The contestations of kin apply to the home situations of street youth as well. Here they cannot reinterpret the restraints of their relatedness. They can, however, renounce their filial obligations. And they do so by running away—to remake their own visions of home on the streets.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Worby, Eric
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 69/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Public policy, South African Studies
Keywords: Informal shelters, Kinship, Poverty, Shelters, South Africa, Street shelter, Street youth, Urban, Youth
Publication Number: 3296193
ISBN: 978-0-549-40572-6
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