Point Place stands near the city center of Durban, South Africa. Condemned and off the grid, the five-story apartment building is nonetheless home to a hundred-plus teenagers and young adults marginalized by poverty and chronic unemployment.
In Street Life under a Roof, Emily Margaretten draws on ten years of up-close fieldwork to explore the distinct cultural universe of the Point Place community. Margaretten's sensitive investigations reveal how young men and women draw on customary notions of respect and support to forge an ethos of connection and care that allows them to live far richer lives than ordinarily assumed. Her discussion of gender dynamics highlights terms like nakana--to care about or take notice of another--that young women and men use to construct "outside" and "inside" boyfriends and girlfriends and to communicate notions of trust. Margaretten exposes the structures of inequality at a local, regional, and global level that contribute to socioeconomic and political dislocation. But she also challenges the idea that Point Place's marginalized residents need "rehabilitation." As she argues, these young men and women want love, secure homes, and the means to provide for their dependents--in short, the same hopes and aspirations mirrored across South African society.