Miscegenation, Feminine Virtue, and the Boundaries of Domestic Space in 20th century Durban

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Seminar Date
April 14, 2010
In this essay, I will explore some of the complex intersections between race, the constitution of public and privates spaces, and gender in mid-century Durban. As the urbanization of Africans and Indians accelerated during the interwar period, debates intensified within both groups over the meaning of nation, tradition, and the status of women. Many Africans and Indians understood the proper boundaries between races—boundaries that were in continuous dispute during the 1940s and 50s—in terms of the relationship between gender and social space. In this context, questions such as public interactions between African women and Indian men, African domestic workers in Indian households, and miscegenation assumed a fraught and sometimes explosive significance. By focusing on these particular nodes of intersection and conflict, this article aims both to demonstrate the importance of ‘the Indian question’ to the development of mid-century constructions of the Zulu ethnicity and describe the ways in which diasporic identity—and the accompanying idea of an ‘Indian tradition’—developed in social contexts dominated by often-unacknowledged relationships with Africans.
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