EMILY MARGARETTEN, while a student at Yale University, was awarded funding in January 2005 to complete her dissertation research on 'South African Street Youth and their Participation in Informal Shelters,' as supervised by Dr. Eric Worby. Through her investigations of informal street shelters, the grantee examined the ways in which groups of street youth in Durban, South Africa, came together to mitigate the daily hardships of urban poverty. The research supported by Wenner-Gren focused on a group of youth inhabiting a condemned apartment complex in the city center of Durban., South Africa. Up to 130 youth between the ages of 14 and 29 made use of this building for a variety of purposes: to be near income-generating practices; to escape the impoverishment of their homes; to participate in the excitement of urban life; and finally, but not least of all, to create and maintain a set of social relations that have both the material and symbolic makings of kinship (re)production. Using anthropological field methods of participant- observation, informal conversations, and recorded interviews, the grantee's project investigated the ways in which a marginalized group of youth deployed notions of fictive kin to create reciprocal ties of obligation and responsibility. Through mutual claims of kinship, these youth not only created opportunities for their everyday survival but also managed to forge some semblance of collective order and personal belonging. This research contributes to broader anthropological studies that account for urban youth identities as well as subjective imaginings of kinship, household formation, and domestic organization.
Margaretten, Emily. 2009. Street Life under a Roof. Anthropology and Humanism 34(2):163-178.