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In today’s rapidly urbanising world, young people from poor socio-economic backgrounds are becoming increasingly marginalised. Young men in particular are adapting to very mobile forms of existence. Navigating complex and unfamiliar urban landscapes, they must constantly interpret and adapt to changing circumstances in order to survive. Living in shifting informal urban environments, they have of necessity developed survival strategies and new behaviours, drawing on traditional beliefs combined with new urban experiential knowledge. However, while women and children are generally considered most vulnerable to the growing levels of risk associated with everyday life in densely-settled informal urban settlements, the particular vulnerabilities of the itinerant young men who live there have generally been disregarded or at best are poorly understood. This presents a critical gap in our understanding of urban risk in South Africa. Answering to a research imperative that seeks to understand the nature of the mobility of young black South African men living in informal settlements, and the vulnerabilities associated with their fluid and generally insecure livelihoods, this paper contributes a new perspective to current understandings of urban risk, presenting a review of key bodies of literature and relevant theoretical debates drawn from disparate disciplinary perspectives.
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