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Research Articles (Anthropology)

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    Creating an African tourist experience at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.
    (University of Pretoria., 2008) Naidu, Uma Maheshvari.
    This article considers the example of palaeo-heritage tourism at Sterkfontein Cave, situated in a geographic area designated the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, or Cradle for short. The article looks at how a particular “African” tourist experience is constructed through the architectural vocabulary and the narrative built around the Sterkfontein Cave, which, with the adept use of a particular theory of human origins, allows the visitor to identify with a trajectory of a shared prehistory and shared humanity. These appear to be constructed in an attempt to redefine the visitor’s image of himself or herself in terms of a shared African history. This sense of a shared history is attempted through the architectural design of the interpretive centre, the virile narrative contained in the logo of the centre, and the process of appropriating seminal fossil artefacts found here. The constructed tourist experience is itself fed by a larger emerging discourse to rearticulate the identity of the African.
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    Perceptions around second generation female condoms: Reporting on women’s experiences.
    (Slovene Anthropological Society., 2013) Naidu, Uma Maheshvari.
    This empirical study on the knowledge and perceptions of the female condom was cast against the assumption that the female condom could potentially be a powerful contraceptive tool whose use women could initiate and use against sexually transmitted diseases, and in so doing, allow them to exercise control over their bodies and sexuality, more especially within the context of the high prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in the country. Many African women in rural spaces are faced with the situation when the male condom cannot always be comfortably demanded due to gendered power imbalances. This is where the promoting of female condoms may come into play. Against this background, we embarked on a large scale study that included 1,290 women in the greater KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province in South Africa. The findings revealed that a staggeringly high number of African women surveyed and interviewed, who are potentially the beneficiaries that stand the most to gain from female-initiated contraception, have very little exposure and knowledge of the female condom.
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    Glaring invisibility: dressing the body of the female cleaner.
    (University of Western Cape., 2009) Naidu, Uma Maheshvari.
    The paper explores how the uniform of a group of female cleaners appears to be more than an abstract object framed by the practical exegetics of work. The uniform is seen as acting as a material exercise of discretionary and disciplinary power of inscription, and as the paper shows, emerges as a mode by which the cleaners are homogenously objectified and plastically turned into ‘subjects’ (Foucault 1982). The paper shows too that while the single layered cleaners’ uniform can be seen as disciplining the body and stripping down the complex multi-layers of their personality and attempting to naturalise their status as cleaners, the women’s narratives reveal their attempts to destabilise this conscription, if only outside the spatial and organisational domain of the work space.
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    Performing illness and health: the humanistic value of cancer narratives.
    (University of Western Cape., 2012) Naidu, Uma Maheshvari.
    Cancer is a potent example of a disease that grips and plays out on the body in ways that are both visceral and visual. This paper explores issues of disease and disorder, functioning and malfunctioning in bodies marked by cancer and a sense of non-belonging. By working through the heuristic device of ‘narrative’, the paper argues for the humanistic value and currency of the personal (subjective) illness narrative in social science scholarship in being able to convey to audiences the emotional and existential complexities of cancer, beyond the merely medical. The paper, by drawing on ethnographic narratives of a small group of women with cancer and their inscriptive treatment practices, probes the shifting and constructed concepts of a so-called ‘healthy’ body and ‘ill’ body as experienced by the women, and attempts to show that a recognition of these experiences of the physical body is potentially able to contribute to shaping more compassionate, person-centred health care models of illness and healing.
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    Anthropology of experience : touring the past at Robben Island.
    (Kamla-Raj Enterprises., 2013) Naidu, Uma Maheshvari.
    This paper has a transdisciplinary orientation and is located in both anthropology and tourism studies. It draws on the seminal theoretical work of the post structural anthropologist Victor Turner and brings to the study of tourism, the concepts of performance, memory and ‘experience’. The paper focuses on what the world has come to know as the place of incarceration for Nelson Mandela, and now declared a World Heritage Site and museum, established as the blurb goes, ‘as a poignant reminder to the newly democratic South Africa of the price paid for freedom’. The paper looks at the construction of the site of Robben Island Prison Museum, in Cape Town South Africa as a performance space for the reliving and experiencing of a collective shared past and history and probes how visitors to the site, experience the space. Methodologically the paper uses narrative analysis of tourists’ sharing stories of their visits in small focus type groups and in one-on-one interviews. It also draws on a thematic analysis of the visitor entries in a Visitors Book spanning a six month period of visits. The paper attempts to show that the site and constructed heritage product (or tour), emerges as a ‘liminal space’ where different racial categories of visitors, who have had differently shaped life histories, might be made to ‘experience’ a shared past of denial and oppression. Liminality speaks to a dislocation of structure and hierarchies, and by drawing on the ethnographic interviews of a randomised sample group of local and international visitors to the site, the paper shows that the visitor is placed into a liminal space by the manner in which the tour space is constructed and experienced.
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    Academic travel : travelling for work.
    (Kamla-Raj Enterprises., 2013) Ojong, Vivian Besem.
    This paper endeavours to show how academics become part of cross-cultural production, cultural circulation and ideological circulation. The stand-point of analysis of this paper is the individualised process of academic participation in tourism and the by-product of their participation. This paper is not intended to make academics that travel to conferences look opportunistic, yet the difference from mainstream tourism is that it is part of academic portfolio. Other tourists travel to places to unwind and rest but with an academic tourist, that point of disconnection is not there. This is part of valuable experience. Once an academic is highly connected that academic becomes highly successful. Attending a conference is not only about presenting a paper but also about connecting with people.