In the last decade, the South African state has been transformed dramatically, but the stubborn, menacing geography of apartheid still stands in the way of that country’s visions of change. Environmentally degraded old homelands still scar the rural geography of South Africa.
Formerly segregated, now gated, neighborhoods still inhibit free movement. Hostels, Sexuality, and the Apartheid Legacy is a study of another such space, the converted “male” migrant worker hostel.
Professor Glen Elder identifies hostels as sites of public and domestic violence, literal destruction and rebuilding, and as an important node in the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Hostels have also become home to increasing numbers of “invisible” female residents. Finding that one way to understand hostel space is through women’s experiences, Professor Elder turned to thirty black migrant women living in an East Rand hostel to map the everyday geographies of South Africa’s time of change.
By following the lives of these women, Elder identifies spatialized forms of marginalization, impoverishment, infection, and disempowerment. But, as he points out, the women’s survival strategies may provide signposts to the way out of apartheid’s malevolent geography.
Hostels, Sexuality, and the Apartheid Legacy argues that the gendered geography of the migrant labor system developed in South Africa was premised upon sexual assumptions about men, women, and their bodies, and that feminist and queer analyses of space can inform public policy decisions.