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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Constructions of Community and Identity among Indians in Colonial Natal, 1860-1910: The Role of the Muharram Festival
Author:Vahed, Goolam H.
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic terms:South Africa
Subjects:Islamic history
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Ethnic and Race Relations
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/4100427
Abstract:This article is concerned with the historical construction of communities, cultures and identities in colonial Natal, South Africa, in this case an Indian grouping that emerged from the heterogeneous collection of indentured workers imported between 1860 and 1911. Despite the difficulties of indenture, Indians set about re-establishing their culture and religion in Durban. The most visible and public expression of ritual was the festival of 'Muharram', which played an important role in forging a pan-Indian 'Indianness' within a white and African colonial society. While 'Muharram' mourned the death of a Muslim martyr, the joint participation of Hindus and Muslims, and a fusion of Muslim and Hindu traditions, made it a pan-Indian festival. Local authorities did not take kindly to the 'Muharram' because heavy drinking, fighting and the spilling of blood at the slightest provocation made it a raucous and boisterous affair. Through 'Muharram', Indian workers challenged official, white definitions of respectability and culture. They did not restrain themselves, even though there was strong opposition to many of the activities associated with 'Muharram'. In this way, 'Muharram' provided an opportunity for developing a self-conscious local community identity, but also signalled the participation of Indians in a broader collective. Notes, ref., sum.