Raw Life, New Hope: Decency, housing and everyday life in a post-apartheid community


Fiona C. Ross
University of Cape Town


Raw Life, New Hope is the story of one community’s efforts to secure a decent life in post-apartheid South Africa. For residents of The Park, a squalid shantytown on the outskirts of Cape Town, life was hard and they described their social world as raw. Their efforts to get on with the messy business of everyday life were often undercut by cruel poverty. Despite their inhospitable conditions, they sought to create respectable, decent lives for themselves. When the opportunity was presented to move into formal housing in The Village, the community was fired by a great optimism. They grabbed at the possibility of living respectably, with stable families, decent work, enduring social relations and the trappings of consumerism.

Based on research conducted over eighteen years, Raw Life, New Hope tells this community’s story and explores how everyday lives are fashioned through relationships, reciprocity and language. Told in a lively and engaging voice with detailed descriptions, animated characterisation, verbatim quotes from interviews and conversations, it gives the reader a sense of the particularity of people’s lives and makes the characters come alive. It offers a rare glimpse into the complex and contradictory ways of life of people living on the margins of society.


  • Raw Life, New Hope
    Decency, housing and everyday life in a post-apartheid community


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Cover image showing two women in front of a house made of corrugated iron


6 April 2022


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