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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Two talks by Sharad Chari

PROFESSOR SHARAD CHARI will be giving two talks this week at the University of Minnesota. His first talk, as part of the South Asia Colloquium, is titled "An Indian Commons in Southern Africa?" and will take place Wednesday, April 16th at 3:30pm in 710 Social Sciences. The second talk, as part of Geography Coffee Hour, is titled "Apartheid Remains: Ruins of Segregation, Remnants of Struggle" and will take place Friday, April 18th at 3:30pm in 445 Blegen.

WED APRIL 16, 2014
3:30pm, 710 Social Sciences
Sharad Chari
Associate Professor
Anthropology and Centre for Indian Studies in Africa
University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
An Indian Commons in Southern Africa?
Early 20th century Durban was wrapped in a series of racial and spatial fictions, of a 'black belt' of shacks and market gardens surrounding a putatively white city reliant on Black labor and submission. This paper thinks with the remains of the early twentieth century in the early twenty-first, to ask how memories take hold of the past, disclosing multiple histories of dispossession, but also practices of commons-making. Against the odds, former indentured Indians steered between African exclusion and English racism; they transformed space and forged livelihoods as peasant-workers; they weathered the effects of epidemics and the Great Depression; and they planted fruit trees along with dwellings, mosques and temples. Transforming marginal lands and spatial routines, they rooted a particular creolized Indianness in Durban, just as a re-territorialized anti-colonial nationalism in India began to find its impoverished diaspora of little value. Dispossessed also by Indian nationalism, they poached the term 'settler' from colonial commemoration to mark their arrival on South African shores. A flow of artefacts continued to provide the means for authenticating Indian difference, and, crucially, a mimetic tradition of progressivism provided the social infrastructure to make what I call an 'Indian commons' that endures today. This remarkable historical event is entirely unremarked upon, but its presence is palpable across 'Indian Durban.' However, an 'Indian commons' is a contradiction in terms. Rather than celebrate subaltern ingenuity, I think antipodally with neighborhoods marked by mid-century as 'Coloured' Wentworth and 'Indian' Merebank. Without similar means of cultural authentication, without a parallel tradition of progressivist biopolitical expertise, among other things, Wentworth carries a sense of being out of step with its surroundings and its residents' imaginations remain vagabond, unruly, ceaselessly imaginative. In dialectical relation to Indian 'settlement,' this nomadic metaphysics points to a revolutionary postracialism beyond claims to autochthony or landed property. Or, another commons-making is possible.
FRI APRIL 18, 2014
3:30pm, 445 Blegen
Apartheid Remains: Ruins of Segregation, Remnants of Struggle
Sharad Chari
Associate Professor
Anthropology and Centre for Indian Studies in Africa,
University of the Witwatersrand
ABSTRACT. The Indian Ocean city of Durban is a palimpsest of many layers of segregation, apartheid and struggle. The differentiated remains of the past speak to different moments in a century of state-sanctioned racism and opposition. This paper emerges from research grounded in two neighbourhoods in South Durban, in which the key question is how remains of the past persist as obstacles to change in the present. In this talk, I focus on the revolutionary outburst in 1970s and 1980s Durban that was key to apartheid's end. I trace the spatial dialectics of revolution through four moments: a communitarian or 'politico-theological' moment, an insurrectionist moment, an attempt to bring the two together in something like an urban revolution, and what I call the moment of the disqualified, exemplified in a spectacular sabotage cell and in the limits to revolutionary expertise from the perspective of people who still live in frustration in neighbourhoods next to oil refineries today.