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This article examines the lives of four women who live in Cape Town, South Africa. Age and stage in the life cycle determined their ability to make a living in Cape Town, to survive shocking outbreaks of violence in the Crossroads squatter camp in 1983, and to avoid arrest under the ‘pass laws’ of the apartheid era. It shows how useful investigating people’s life histories can be in developing understanding of the way in which their freedom to act is both constrained, and supported, by their context.

This article is hosted by our co-publisher Taylor & Francis. For the full table of contents for this and previous issues of this journal, please visit the Gender and Development website.

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