Monday, May 7, 2007

Thorin Roberts

Thorin Roberts teaches Sociology with a particular interest in urban underclasses and cities which he says present a kaleidoscope of human interaction, aspiration and even despair. He describes Durban as a place where dreams, hope and regret are found side by side; from the commercial buildings that dominate the skyline to the car guard on the beachfront waiting for that break ‘which has to present itself eventually’, to the barefooted streetchildren who sniff glue to set their minds free from the horror of their reality. He thinks there is so much to learn from in these sprawling laboratories; and with a little effort and creativity so much scope to truly engage some of the social ills which suffocate the human spirit.

In his chapter, Scenes from an Urban Underworld, Thorin focuses on hostel accommodation in Durban. He offers ‘thick descriptions’ of four shelters based on visits in 2002-2003. Thorin draws on a series of conversations with key informants—hostel managers and employees—as well as personal observations, creating a sense of ‘being there’. Not only is his writing style anecdotal and chatty, but in the first person, reflecting upon his own feelings and reactions.

Roberts, Thorin. 'Scenes from an Urban Underworld', in Rob Pattman and Sultan Khan (Eds.), Undressing Durban (Durban: Madiba Press, 2007), pp. 213-226.