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Title: Early mine and railway housing in South Africa : a two-part study of ideology and design in working-class housing
Author: Wasserfall, Jacob
ISNI:       0000 0001 3563 7827
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1990
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This study is concerned to explore the vulnerability of working-class housing in South Africa to ideological manipulation, be it of economic and/or political derivation. More descriptively, by delineating the ideological role of early forms of workers' housing in the development of capitalist South Africa, this two-part enquiry aims to reveal the instrumental potential of working-class housing in the spheres of labour control and social management, and to bring to the fore the manner in which ideology can operate through design. Two early innovations in the realm of working-class housing, the establishment of which dates back to the later nineteenth century and the birth of South Africa's first industrial community, form the focus in the opening study. Part I seeks to expound, by investigating the contrasting approach to the housing of black and white mineworkers at the Kimberley diamond fields, the true deliberations which lay behind the creation of the parallel institutions of the closed compound, on the one hand, and the garden suburb of Kenilworth on the other. The former is shown to have provided the mineowners with a directly coercive means of coming to terms with black migrant labour, and the latter to have furnished them with a means of surmounting, by 'acquiescence' rather than through the exercise of force, the growing power of white labour. Both innovations came to serve as practicable models in the spheres of labour control and social management to other large employers of labour in South Africa, such as the State Railways, and to urban management in general. Part II negotiates railway housing provision during the first half of this century against the backdrop of the 'poor white' crisis, a social dilemma of major proportions caused by pervasive rural impoverishment and the subsequent drift into the urban areas of unskilled and mostly illiterate Afrikaners. Poor white relief in time developed into a chief objective of Government, with the Railways forming the vanguard of its so-called 'civilised labour' policy after 1924 in giving preference to white workers over black in unskilled and skilled jobs regardless of the greater expense. The State Railways in due course became the largest single employer of Afrikaners in the urban areas. One result of the Railways' 'rehabilitative function' in easing the adjustment to the urban way of life of newly proletarianised Afrikaners will be shown to have been the portable railway model village. It will also be illustrated how it was to design, among other things, that the Railway Administration looked in an attempt to integrate its white employees into the social fabric of towns - the cultural strongholds of English-speaking whites - when the custom of housing railway families on the opposite side of the railway line to the town gave rise to the association thereof with 'living on the wrong side of the tracks'.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Housing provision & property