The workers’ hostels in South Africa played a huge role in accommodating large numbers of Black African people moving from rural to urban areas. Migrants are taken as key link in a complex set of relationships, whether it is historical, geographical, gender, generational, livelihood making or all. This paper tells a story of how I methodologically entered the hostel, going through to the homes of the hostel dwellers in their rural areas in northern KwaZulu Natal. It highlights the strength of ethnography when used in such a historically rich and geographically complicated set of dynamics. I found that living in the KwaMashu former single sex hostel which is still widely known as a ‘men’s place’ for almost two years provided me with a stronger and different set of tools and positioning in beginning to understand and interpret the everyday life activities of the hostel dwellers and migrant workers.
Nomkhosi Xulu is Fulbright Scholar who went on a Visiting Researcher Programme between 2009-2010 at University of California Berkeley. She is currently teaching at University of KwaZulu Natal, Industrial Organisational and Labour Studies Programme. She teaches both undergraduate and post-graduate courses. She is PhD candidate at University of Cape Town and has handed-in her PhD thesis titled “Changing Migrant Spaces and Livelihoods: Hostels as Community Residential Units, KwaMashu, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa”.
This seminar forms part of the ccrri/GR&I seminar series.  The University of KwaZulu-Natal has identified ‘Gender, Race and Identity’ as one of its key focus areas of research for the institution.
Date: Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Time: 15:00-16:30
Venue: ccrri seminar room, 2nd floor George Campbell building, South Campus, Howard College Campus. Use the south entrance into the building; and Entrance 3 on Rick Turner (Francois) Road if driving. Please refer to the ccrri website for a map (, click on ‘The Centre’ tab).
Enquiries: or 031 260 1599/3904/3902
To join or leave the ccrri mailing list, email:

Posted on