Communal space construction : the rise and fall of Clairwood and district.
This study documents the emergence of an Indian cultural enclave located on the periphery of the colonial town of Durban, its subsequent rise to a flourishing communal space by the mid twentieth century, and its decline in the apartheid era. The focus on change and transformation locates the research question within the broad ambit of historical geography. Clairwood and District grew into a densely-populated informal living space with all facilities and institutions built by the community. Based on a cultural inheritance in the form of language, the extended family system and religious beliefs , the Indian settlers and their descendants developed an elaborate network of kinship and communal relationships which formed the moral and social framework for the process of communal space construction. Entering the colony of Natal predominantly as indentured labour, the Indians were from the outset ostracized and subjugated by the white settlers and perceived as an alien temporary group. This identity was henceforth embodied in discriminatory legislation which marginalized the Indians in South Africa and resulted in their neglect and spatial containment. Parallel to the organic process of Indian communal space construction occurring in southern Durban was the sustained policy of land-use transformation embarked upon by the Durban municipality. The goal of this policy was to create a 'productive zone' south of Durban within an explicit racial zoning plan. The application of this goal resulted in a clash between the dominant white culture and the subordinate Indian culture as each.sought to retain control of the southern corridor and define its land-use and identity. After a protracted struggle the Durban municipality succeeded in imposing a formal industrial landscape upon the communal living space with the exception of the small node in Clairwood itself which has remained a residential enclave. This vestige of the former flourishing residential area of Clairwood and District suffers from industrial penetration and a physically degraded environment. However, it retains a sense of place of the former vibrant community. Clairwood is currently undergoing a process of revitalization under the auspices of the Durban municipality with a subsequent redefinition of identity. The study documents the cultural meanings that have been produced in a unique urban landscape in a South African city revealing the need to uncover the historical geographies of minority groups as a source of identity and a resource for future urban reconstruction.
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