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UNDRESSING DURBAN (article first published : 2007-04-13)

Recently launched at the time of the Writers Festival is Undressing Durban, the brainchild of WISA (Writing Initiative to Support Academics) located in the Sociology Dept of UKZNís Howard College Campus in Durban.

Its publish-on-demand edition was produced as an alternative guidebook to Durban for the 3000-odd delegates to the ISA (Int Sociological Assoc) Congress at Durbanís ICC in July 2006, to address delegates as people keen to engage with Durban beyond the Durban in the tourist brochures.

Hence the title, Undressing Durban, as Durban dresses itself up for tourism (see the rickshaw puller on the cover), presenting Durban as Other, ethnic, exotic, while presenting the lived experience of different (and unequal) groups living in Durban.

Focusing on social groups, identities and relations which make Durban and define its spaces, Undressing Durban addresses its readers as cultural geographers rather than tourists, who are usually presented with the (escapist) generalized fantasies of Africa, viz. sunny beaches, wildlife and beautiful scenery.

Some of the topics covered include deteriorating spaces in the city; moral panics and race; mixed-race couples; Coloured gangs; Indian culture, cinema and heterogeneity; black African identities and culture; sex workers; HIV support groups and inequalities; identities at the newly merged University of KZN.

It is hoped that Undressing Durban will be read by academics and lay people alike and, more importantly, used as a teaching text in universities and senior classes in schools, going some way to balance the culture of Britain and the USA , presented in prescribed textbooks published in Britain and the USA.

The WISA Project Undressing Durban is produced by Madiba Publishers.




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