Hostels in South Africa epitomize the historical subjugation of African workers and undergird the migrant labor system. Austere edifices designed to emulate prisons, these dormitories exerted powerful control over the lives of their inmates, engendering widespread antipathy. Based on oral testimonies, Nieftagodien’s article reveals more complex and paradoxical views about the hostels, especially among women. For them, these dormitories also represented a sense of order and refuge from the vagaries of township life. They were forced by circumstance to configure the small and often insalubrious hostel bed-holds into livable spaces, but they were always constrained in their desire to create homes.

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