Thursday, July 5, 2007

About the Book

The School of Sociology and Social Studies on the Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses has started a writing initiative support group (WISA) to help academics to write, publish, become research active and produce local resources for teaching. The group was formed in April 2006 and since then one of its major milestones is publishing a book titled Undressing Durban edited by Dr Rob Pattman and Dr Sultan Khan. Undressing Durban was first published to provide insight and a critical orientation to Durban for the international delegates attending the World Congress of Sociology in July 2006.

This version of Undressing Durban comprises articles from 54 contributors, most of whom are junior academics and postgraduate students in the Social Sciences (though there are also senior academics and undergraduate students among the contributors). The contributors were encouraged to write about topics with a Durban connection which 'excited' them, and the articles engage with readers as intelligent and critical laypeople (not as academic specialists) employing a variety of evocative styles. Some papers are more conventionally academic, some impassioned and rhetorical, some are self reflective and autobiographical, some focus on the 'voices' of 'minorities' and one deals with 'racial', gender and global inequalities in the form of a play set in Durban.

Rather than 'dressing up' Durban, as in familiar tourist images, Undressing Durban investigates how the city is experienced by very different and unequally divided groups of people living there. Undressing Durban not only highlights the vast material inequalities between various groups in Durban, but also investigates the cultures and identities they construct in their everyday lives.

It looks at street children and street traders and the problems they experience and the cultures they produce, unequal service provision in housing and transport, deteriorating residential spaces in the city centre, the living conditions, resistances and policing of shack dwellers, moral panics and 'race', student identities in the newly merged University and in mixed 'race' schools, mixed 'race' couples, 'outsiders'' experiences of Durban, loving and hating Jacob Zuma, entertainment, sport, beaches, nightlife and the cultural meanings attached to all of these, crime and paranoia about crime, prisons, corporal punishment in schools, coloured 'gangs' from the viewpoints of their 'members', Indian culture, Indian cinema and Indian heterogeneity, black African identities and culture in Durban, the vulnerabilities and agency of women sex workers, HIV positive young mothers, HIV/AIDS support groups, academic freedom and the problems of being junior academics and support workers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Undressing Durban is available at Adams Campus Bookstore at a special rate for students.


Table of Contents & Abstracts

*Click any title for the abstract*

Section 1: Introducing Durban
If it's Durbs it's poison!: an alternative introduction to Durban for tourists
     Woody Aroun
Theatre of Dreams: Narrating Consumption, Exclusion and Banality in Durban
     Bernard Dubbeld
Old Wine in New Bottles: Striving for the impossible in Durban
     Elias Cebekhulu & Evan Mantzaris

Section 2: Outsiders in Durban (and Durbanites as outsiders)
I'm an African not a Coloured
     Wesley Oakes
Being a young black woman from Botswana in Durban
     One Selohilwe
A Creole Mauritian with an Olive Skin coming to Durban
     Marie Saramandif
Growing up in Durban and going on holiday to Europe
     Sheritha Grindlay
Foreign Migrants in the Inner City of Durban
     Biniam Misgun

Section 3: Mixed 'race' heterosexual partners in Durban
But, what will your children be?
     Serrenta Naidoo
Our mothers don't mind, so why should you?
     Anne Holloway
'Guess Who's Coming for Dinner' and other Suburban Tales of Horror
     Megan Kleyn

Section 4: Sport, Entertainment and Relaxation
The white and black sands of the Durban Beachfront
     Biniam Misgun & Wesley Oakes
Nightlife in Durban and 'racial' divisions
     Shabashni Moodley
Durban Sport: A Theatre of Spaces
     Lawrence Gordon & Stephen Gordon

Section 5: Transport and Residential Spaces in Durban
Public Transport Challenges in Durban—Travelling the Road to the World Cup 2010
     Sultan Khan
Durban's Albert Park Residential Area—a hundred Years on
     Mokong Simon Mapadimeng

Section 6: Shack Dwellers
'If you don't die first': Fire, water and women in the shack settlements in Durban
     Shannon Walsh
Life and Death in Banana City
     Evan Mantzaris & Elias Cebekhulu
Struggles and Triumphs of Shack Dwellers
     Fazel Khan

Section 7: Living on the streets and in hostels in Durban
The Voices of Street children in Durban Shelters
     Jackson Kariuki
Challenging Stereotypes of Street Children
     Shanta Singh
Down but not out in Central Durban: 'Streetwisdom' and survival in a post-apartheid city
     Geoff Waters
Scenes from an Urban Underworld
     Thorin Roberts

Section 8: Fear of crime and moral panics
Glimpses through the Cage of Fear: International Students experience Durban
     Ravi Baghel & Anna Mayr
Normalizing life in Durban: Bringing people back to its streets
     Ercument Celik & Azad Essa
Undressing the crime discourse in South Africa
     Ralph Callebert
Defending Animals; Defending Suburbs; Defending Civilisation
     Richard Ballard
The Security Challenge for Durban's Tourist Authority
     Sabrina Grosse Kettler

Section 9: Gangsters
The 'Devil' himself walks through the streets of Durban
     Elias Cebekhulu & Evan Mantzaris
Coloured 'gangs' as communities in Newlands East
     Wesley Oakes
Two women researching (male) 'gangsters' in Newlands East
     Subashini Govender & One Selohilwe

Section 10: Punishments
Overcrowding in a Durban prison
     Shanta Singh
Corporal punishment in a Durban school
     Lee-Ann Inderpal

Section 11: Indian identities and culture
Drawing the curtain: Indian cinema in the Grey Street Complex
     Ebrahim Essa
The Gujarati trading class within the Indian Community—Shaped and styled by historical contradictions
     Kalpana Hiralal
Living a double life: home and University
     Sandhisha Jay Narain
The Minority Report: Undressing 'Indians' in Durban
     Kathryn Pillay

Section 12: Black African Identities and culture
Black Solidarity and black divisions
     Sibusiso Mpama
Homogenisation and Zulu Nationalism in the Casino City
     Mxolisi Ngcongo & Humphrey Glass
Global Cultural Consumption and Aesthetic Choices of Clothing within Durban
     Claudia Martinez-Mullen
Invoking 'culture' and sexuality: Black girls in mixed 'race' schools in Durban
     Rob Pattman
Loving and hating Jacob Zuma
     Wangari Muthuki & Rob Pattman
who am I?
     Tshque Harcharan

Section 13: HIV/AIDS
Voices of HIV positive young mothers
     Nirmala Gopal
The Tree at Operation Bobbi Bear
     Hema Hargovan
Reflections on the activities of the support group in House Number 233
     Wangari Muthuki

Section 14: University of KwaZulu-Natal
The Significance Students attach to 'Race' at the University of KwaZulu-Natal
     Rob Pattman
Coming to a Foreign Country: adjusting to the University of KwaZulu-Natal
     Ntokozo Zulu
Relinquishing my authority as teacher
     Kibbie Naidoo
Restructuring at the UKZN and Job Losses: the Case of Cleaners and Grounds Staff
     Mokong Simon Mapadimeng & Sthembiso Bhengu
The Problems of being a Junior Academic at UKZN
     Shaun Ruggunan
The Importance of Communicating Freely
     Nithaya Chetty

Section 15: Women sex workers in Durban
Dehumanising street sex workers in Durban
     Faith ka-Manzi
The Women of Durban's Dockside Sex Industry
     Henry Trotter

Section 16: Local and global inequalities and challenging these
Wonderwoman vs the World Bank
     Ari Sitas


Review by Imraan Buccus

Getting to the heart of the city

The new book that undresses Durban illustrates how the city is experienced by the different, unequally divided groups of people living here

WE ARRIVE (in Durban). We haven't slept in a while, come out into the sunshine, drive to the city, see hills.

Wow! No one said there were hills here - we thought there was only crime.

We drive to a house. It has an electric fence and a remote-controlled gate.

Inside there is a board that says this is the GSP refugee camp, there is a pool and palm trees beyond.

We don't have accommodation, so this is where we will wait until we find a place to stay. Old friends, new place, high walls - it's all unreal, but need to sleep now.

We wake up. The sun is setting. Should we check out the nightlife?

"Are you crazy?" our friends, who got here last week, ask us. "You can't go out after 5.30pm."

So begins a chapter in a new book entitled Undressing Durban (edited by UKZN sociologists Sultan Khan and Rob Pattman) and launched at the Time of the Writer Festival in Durban. The book looks at Durban through many lenses and engages with readers as intelligent and critical laypeople, not as academic specialists, employing a variety of evocative styles.

Durban is a fascinating and plural city with a co-dominance of African, Asian and European cultures.


But Durban is also in South Africa, and South Africa is a brutalised and fractured society, still recovering from centuries of domination and prejudice, so while there may now be a co-dominance of cultures, most things are still seen through the lenses of the white middle-class minority. And this book attempts to change that.

The way "insiders", "outsiders", poor blacks and Indians, gangsters, sex workers and street children experience Durban is vastly different from the way Durban's city fathers promote the city. And different from the way typical middle-class people experience the city.

Such a complex and multi-dimensional construction of Durban would mean that a book, especially one edited by sociologists, would make for interesting reading.

Rather than dressing up Durban in the images familiar to tourists, Undressing Durban illustrates different experiences of the city, highlighting vast material inequalities between various groups, and investigates the cultures and identities they construct in their everyday lives.

One can read about "Coloured gangs" from the perspective of their members, about Indian culture, and the paranoia about crime in a sociologically fascinating city.

Interestingly, the book surfaces information that readers in Durban may not be aware of. Durban has pockets of wealth and poverty, and informally racialised spaces sitting next to each other.

While Durban has much in common with other cities in post-apartheid South Africa, what gives it its specific character is its particular mix of cultures and races (partly derived from its position as a major sea port on the East Coast).

What also makes Durban different from other cities in South Africa is the close proximity of different groups marked by huge disparities in resources and life chances.

For example, exclusively black areas such as Amaoti, in Inanda, compete internationally for the lowest ranking on the Human Development Index, whereas Umhlanga, an overwhelmingly white area, just next door to Amaoti, competes with California in terms of the index.


The city's attempts at "hiding away" street children when conferences take place in Durban mean that delegates do not get to experience the real Durban - and only experience Durban as tourists, precluding engagement with various groups of people living here.

When visitors to Durban live in beachfront hotels, whisked from one conference venue to another, they do not experience the Durban that also has poverty, street children and a lack of housing.

Thus, when Durban is "undressed", the paraphernalia on marketing the city as first class falls away, and what emerges quite starkly is the fact that a great deal more needs to be done to deal with the social issues in the city.

One soon realises that the city cannot be taken for granted and be masked behind tourism images.

Undressing Durban is a compelling read, not for those seeking a perverted insight into the city, but for those wanting to nurture their social imagination through the lenses of writers with first-hand experience of this urban space.

What ultimately emerges from this fascinating read is the idea that human development goes beyond beautiful gardens, buildings and golden sand on the beachfront.

Imraan Buccus is a political researcher and is undertaking a PhD in issues of poverty and civil society.

Originally published in The Mercury - April 04, 2007 Edition 1



Review by Mavuso Dingani

It’s more than just a book, it’s an idea—an original, punchy, and thoughtful one at that. It has succeeded in undressing and stripping naked the gory underside of the people and the place—Durbanites in Durban. What right today has a collection of buildings and people to call itself a city in the global south, if it does not have, for example, its own fair share of the world oldest ‘professionals’ or gangsters who live and die beyond the law? Or the mosaic of colourful cultures co-existing and of course, sometimes reluctant to share the same space? In the age of global capital, the city has its poor, who are excluded from the technological revolution, living on the edge of survival. Yes, that’s Durban for you; it has it all that and more, and deserves to be called a city in the global south.

That is exactly what the recently published Undressing Durban is about.

Undressing Durban was a mammoth undertaking to put together. The book runs almost up to 500 pages, contains 52 articles grouped into 16 sections, written by 54 contributors from no less than 12 countries from five continents. But it is more than just the sum total of its articles, it transcends them all because individually none of the articles can quite articulate the complexity of a city such as Durban.

Undressing Durban was the brainchild of its editors, Sultan Khan and Rob Pattman, both UKZN sociology lecturers. Their idea was to invite academics, students and members of the community to submit articles from their research field or interest pieces on their experiences of and in Durban. It is challenging to review a book as varied as Undressing Durban, that touches on a lot of diverse and often seemingly unrelated experiences and social phenomena. It is also difficult because one runs the risk of overemphasizing one aspect over another. To put it simply, the reviewer may well tend to focus on aspects that are in his/her interests overlooking other issues that are just as equally important. One may well be accused of being selective.

The book’s articles fall into six broad categories: ‘race’ relations, poverty, crime, identity, HIV and AIDS, and the sex industry in Durban.

The articles in the category of ‘race’ relations can equally qualify as the best in the whole book, because they provide some of the most moving and frank narratives. They are a gold mine for future research on self perceptions on the issues of ‘race’ and ‘race’ relations. But sadly their very ‘narrativeness’, the idea of just simply telling a story about one self, can also degenerate into a lack self-reflection, a lack of being grounded in the historicity of ‘race’ relations, and thus the ‘here and now’ over-determines all perceptions. As the editors point out in their introduction, that “the ‘Rainbow Nation’ has become a powerful fantasy which glosses over the perpetuation of apartheid-like relations, inequalities and identities in post-apartheid South Africa.” (pg18).

This becomes obvious when the book is read as a whole because ‘race’ seems to permeate throughout most of the articles, and when ‘race’ is not specifically stated its very absence somehow shows how much of a salient feature it is in Durban. Thus ‘race’ which was very much a defining feature pre-1994, its no a surprise then that almost every of socio-economic feature that relates to power, poverty, sex, disease and space is still burdened by this powerful ‘illusion’ that we call ‘‘race’’1. In fact it was Marx himself (1852) who pointed out in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte that “the tradition of all past generations weighs like an alp upon the brain of the living.”

And so it is that the traditions of past generations still weighs upon us when you read the articles by One Silohilwe, Marie Saramandif, Shiretha Grindlay, and Sabashni Moodley of ‘race’ relations in Durban. They are about displacement, a feeling of outsideness, of the right to define oneself independent of essentialist discourses, the pitfalls of ‘race’ categorization and exclusion at UKZN and the city at large. I identify and empathise with them, feeling as an outsider too and having sometimes made my own blunders negotiating the minefields of Durban’s ‘race’ relations. Again notwithstanding the clearness, moving, and brilliant storytelling that each of these articles provide, which I cannot again overemphasize, there seems something that is left unsaid. Or rather it’s the typical Freudian tenet ‘they do not know that they know it’. The writers unknowingly either praise inclusion into white space where it exists and lament exclusion where it manifests itself.

None it seems, never talk (praise or lament it) of being excluded in black African spaces, except for one who is surprisingly black herself. Of course, this is certainly no fault of their own considering that historically white economic and cultural capital is so powerful that one naturally wants to be included in white spaces—myself too. Trendy hip nightclubs in Durban are in formally all white areas, where it is safe and cool to be seen. Furthermore, if one has a sport other than soccer, one naturally finds herself with more than average white playmates. Cutting edge art and cultural events are also located in predominantly white environs. Not too mention the ‘middle class-ness’, which all students and young professionals aspire to, is generally associated with whiteness.

Thus, the unreflective nature of the articles is that they do not question why their world is so. Why shouldn’t it be the case that art and cultural events be equally divided across all racialised spaces in Durban? In fact why should they be places where one population group (‘race’) predominates in a free South Africa 13 years after democracy. Thus ‘race’, and the editors indirectly alluded to this point, should be viewed through the lens of access, access to resources either economic or cultural. However, there is hope they are all still students, and I am sure sometime in the future they will see these contradiction.

There are many articles on poverty and this should not surprise anyone considering that South Africa ranks 11 out of 125 countries listed in the United Nations’ Human Development Report 20062. The Shannon Walsh article on shack dwellers shows the wretchedness of their lives and, for example, that “ (in) Kennedy Road, an informal settlement comprising nearly 7 000 residents, women spend hours queuing for water at a single tap that serves 700 [people].” She highlights the perils of accidental fires that can rage through the settlement killing several people. Coincidentally, today 30 April 2007, two people from the same settlement were killed from a raging fire.

However, as Undressing Durban also shows, people are not passive victims of circumstances beyond their control but also active agents attempting to subjugate and tame the forces that make their lives a living hell. The shack dwellers are also fighting back. Several other articles, eg by Fazel Khan and Evan Mantzaris, show them fighting back against the authorities as they demand land and housing, water, electricity and sanitation. It should be an indictment to society. They are fighting for the right to live like us.

For some writers though, shack dwellers are not the worst affected by the gross inequalities that plague our city. In fact, having a shack that you can call home is a blessing in itself because they are others less fortunate who live on the streets of Durban or in its crowded shelters. Shanta Singh and Jackson Kariuki have done research on Durban’s street children, some as young as 10, battling daily to find food and a safe place sleep. The two articles smash our stereotypes of street Kids as delinquents, as thieves targeting women and the elderly, as glue inhalers and so forth. Many are that, that’s for sure. But the writers also show the other side. That the children have dreams of educating themselves, of bettering their life situation. We are also shown their sense of camaraderie as fellow travellers in Durban’s unforgiving streets.

Geoff Water and Thorin Roberts have researched people living Durban in shelters for the homeless. We see how a man can survive on R20 a day, which is enough for a bed to sleep in and food to eat. Incidentally I have met a few and befriended one such sort at my favourite watering hole. These guys are pretty decent and many have trades (mechanics, fitters, boilermakers etc) and had served well for the former regimes defence forces – they were not all ‘Prime Evil’. However, in the changing economic landscape of the post-apartheid era, job losses and retrenchments of workers occurred and there was no alternative but the streets. The articles show people who have been left out of the ‘Rainbow Miracle’. The difference is that they are white. The importance of the two articles is that they talk about the plight of people that everyone is quick to denigrate—Afrikaner, white and male.

How could one talk about 2010, immigration, amakwerekwere, Durban’s CBD, middle class gated communities, and South Africa in general without crime coming up as a topic? Crime is such a divisive topic that the writers in the book seem to tread on it as if it where a ground strewn with eggs. The authors all more or less articulate the right ‘left’ sentiment, which I of course believe too, But wouldn’t it have been refreshing to have had one article clamouring for the death penalty, castration, or hand chopping? In moments when my suppressed rightwing leanings escape from the deepest recesses of my soul, triggered by a mugging, or being held at knife point without a cent in my pocket; anticipating—where the hell is he gonna knife me, I feel like crying—BRING IT BACK!

As a young black male I have experienced that look of fear directed against me and it is rather disturbing. One Thursday evening I was shopping in Musgrave Centre. Late as always, I found myself hurrying to get to a bookshop before it closed shop. I strode towards my destination, oblivious to all around me. Little did I notice a middle aged white woman in front eyeing my rapid approach. As I approached the door of the bookshop, she broke into her a run towards the nearest security guard. Nothing happened though she didn’t say anything to the guard, glad to have escaped yet another mugging. I was also thankful too that she didn’t do anything afterwards. But it left me feeling like a criminal. I actually felt guilty that I had done something wrong.

The book also discusses the sex trade in the city. It talks about the women involved, their lives, how they conduct their business and the trappings of the trade. Henry Trotter’s article is a good investigative piece that unravels the best, worst and most gory underside of the sex trade. One can’t help but admire these young women, who are generally functionally illiterate, but are able to drive hard bargains against the most sophisticated sailors who have travelled the world over. But Faith Ka-Manzi’s article on the same topic reminds us that it is still a risky and dangerous business.

It is impossible to discuss all the interesting articles in this book. For instance, there is Wesley Oakes’ rather revealing article entitled “I am not coloured, I am an African”, which explores the fluidity of identity, belonging, and how the way others see us, reveals what they are. Or Ari Sitas’ play at the end that wraps up the whole book. Set in the more rural areas of the Durban Metropolitan, the play weaves a cauldron of globalization, poverty, government inaction and the poor people who pay the price for it all – and the taste is bitter. But then that’s Durban for you, it’s a bitter sweet taste. And Undressing Durban goes a long way in proving it so.

By Mavuso Dingani: 2 May 2007

Originally posted on the Centre for Civil Society website.