Race, Place and Identity in Kenneth Gardens: Narratives from a Low-Cost Housing Estate in Durban

Research paper by Kira Erwin

Indexed on: 14 Nov '14Published on: 14 Nov '14Published in: Urban Forum


This article presents analysis of a three-year oral history project carried out in Kenneth Gardens, Durban’s largest municipal low-cost housing estate. Originally built to house low-income ‘white’ families under apartheid, Kenneth Gardens today is a richly diverse estate. In the early 1990s, Kenneth Gardens saw rapid transformation as racial barriers to accessing the estate were dismantled. Partly because of this history, it now presents an unusual housing delivery space that sits outside of the usual racially segregated low-income housing developments that characterize South Africa’s landscape. How then are ideas of race, gender and class played out today within this low-cost housing estate, where residents have a very particular relationship with municipal government structures? Drawing on data from oral histories, as well as field notes taken during the study, the ways that race as well as class and gender are raised in these narratives are discussed. The article then examines how these narratives fundamentally question any taken for granted or singular understandings of social identities. More particularly, they raise questions for exploring how social identities interact within the built environment and how we may want to reimagine planning and housing delivery practices towards a more just and equitable future, especially if we wish to move towards the constitutional goal of non-racialism.