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Race or Class? Community and Conflict amongst Indian Municipal Employees in Durban, 1914-1949

Goolam Vahed
Journal of Southern African Studies
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Mar., 2001), pp. 105-125
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/823292
Page Count: 21
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Race or Class? Community and Conflict amongst Indian Municipal Employees in Durban, 1914-1949
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Abstract

This article explores different facets of South African Indian identity between 1914 and 1949 by focusing on the Indian municipal workers resident in Magazine Barracks, Durban. In a situation of economic privation, heightened discrimination in Durban's racially segmented labour market, segregation and the growing radicalisation of Indian politics, the article seeks to explain the saliency and vigour of a sense of 'Indianness' amongst municipal workers. It thereby offers a perspective on the failure to develop a strong tradition of class and non-racial politics. Drawing on a rich municipal archive, the article offers a broad cultural, social and economic context for the struggles engaged by the municipal workers' union to better their members' lot. This case study illustrates that identities are forged historically and culturally and not determined by external referents such as 'class'.

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