Journal of Social Development in Africa

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Steering a Course through Work and Life the Narratives of a Zimbabwean Migrant Living and Working in Cape Town

S Bresnihan


Since 2000 hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have sought work and life outside of the country's borders. They are defined (and define themselves) variously as 'diaspora', 'asylum seekers', 'refugees', 'migrants' with the result that theoretical interest in their movements, activities and experiences traverses many fields. This paper is based on a half year long narrative inquiry into the experiences of Tendai, a 50 year old Zimbabwean woman who crossed the Limpopo River into South Africa eight years ago. Drawing on the theoretical concepts of continuous experience and tarrying, double rootedness and kumusha, the paper explores Tendai's narratives and her articulation of an ongoing (and sometimes painful) relationship with Cape Town and with 'home'. The paper focuses on Tendai's narratives of work in Cape Town and what it is to navigate a precarious work life. The paper also explores narratives related to family and friends, and how they reflect an an enduring connection to home. Ultimately, Tendai's narratives confound normative accounts of migration, conveying both the precariousness of migrant life and the ways in which connections are continually forged and experience and agency enacted.

Keywords: Transnational Migration, Precarity, Domestic Work, Care Work, Zimbabwe, Experience, Home

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