Fictional constructions of Grey Street by selected South African Indian writers.
This thesis explores the fictional constructions of Grey Street by selected South
African Indian writers to establish a deeper understanding of the connection between
writers, place and identity in the South African Indian context. The concepts of 'place'
and 'space' are of particular importance to this thesis. Michel Foucault's (1980) theories
on space and power, Frantz Fanon•s (1952) work on the connection between race and
spatial politics, and Pierre Bourdieu's (1990) concept of 'habitus' are drawn on in this
thesis in order to understand the ramifications of the spatial segregation of different race
groups in colonial and apartheid South Africa.
The specific kind of place focused on in this thesis is the city. Foucault's (1977,
1980) theorisation of the Panopticon is used to explain the apartheid government's
panoptic planning of the South African city. As a counterpoint to this notion of panoptic
urb<!Jl ordering, Jonathan Raban's Soft City (1974), Michel de Certeau's "Walking in the
cityH (1984) and Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project (2002) are analysed to explore
an alternative way of engaging with city space. These theorists privilege the perspective
of the walker in the city, suggesting that the city cannot be governed by top-down urban
planning as it is constantly being re-made by the city's pedestrians on the ground. The
South African city is an interesting site for a study of this kind as it has, since the colonial
era) been an intensely contested space.
This dissertation looks primarily at the South African Indian experience of the
city of Durban which is a characteristically diasporic one. The theories of diasporic
culture by Vijay Mishra (1996) and Avtar Brah (1996) form the foundation for a
discussion of the Indian diasporas in the South African colonial and apartheid urban
context. Two major Indian diasporic groups are identified: the old Indian diasporas and
the new Indian diasporas. Each group experiences the city in different ways which is
important in this study which looks at how different Indian diasporic experiences of the
city shape the construction of Grey Street in fiction.