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.