On the margins: Writing History at a Time of Profound Political Change.

In this lecture I will present an overview of the main themes in my work over the past three decades, both its empirical content as well as theoretical and methodological endeavours. My writings have taken place against the backdrop of major political changes in South Africa, which are reflected in this lecture through an excursion into my own experiences at universities in South Africa and abroad, as student and academic. Historians often stand aside or above the topics they research. But as I considered the corpus of my work, and the scholars that influenced me, I realised that this cannot be avoided and so the lecture should be read, to paraphrase C. Wright Mills, as the warp and weft of my own history, against the backdrop of the rapidly changing political landscape in South Africa. In the telling of this history, I reflect on my writings on Indian South Africans, Islam in South Africa, and the politics of sport, while grappling with methodological and theoretical innovations. Some have argued that this kind of history writing remains on the margins; on the contrary, I believe that this approach provides more valuable insight into a society going through major political transitions such as South Africa.


Curriculum Vitae 

NAME: Goolam Vahed BA, BA (Hons), UHDE, MA, PhD


Indiana University, Bloomington, USA: MA, 1987; Ph.D, 1995

University of Durban-Westville, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa: BA, `83; BA (Hons), `982, UHDE, 1983.

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIP:  Southern African Historical Society; International Association for the Study of Indenture and Immigration (Founding member and Executive member, founded in Suriname 2013); African Studies Association (ASA), USA.

ADMINISTRATIVE FUNCTIONS (UKZN): Academic Leader, Society and Social Change Cluster, School of Social Sciences, January – December 2012; Social Science Cluster Higher Degrees Coordinator, 2013; Higher Degrees Committee, Humanities (2007-2011); Post-Graduate Student Coordinator, History (2007-2011); Quality Assurance Committee, Humanities Faculty (2005/06); History Rep., Merger Discussions between UDW and UND (2003-04).

SPECIAL TASKS: National Research Foundation (NRF), Ratings Review Panel, History, 2011-2014; 2017 [Convenor in 2013 and 2017]; External Examiner for universities in South Africa and overseas; Review National Research Foundation proposals; Referee for articles for academic journals (ongoing); Editorial Board, Historia (2003-); Advisory Board, Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre.

COURSES TAUGHT: From first year to PhD supervision

RESEARCH INTERESTS: Processes of identity and community formation; Sport, Religion, and Culture in Society; Migration and Citizenship; Bonded labour


  1. Books:
  2. Indentured Muslims in the Diaspora. Identity and Belonging of Minority Groups in Plural Societies. New Delhi: Manohar (ISBN 9789350981313), 2016. Also Routledge, 2017. Edited with Mauits S. Hassankhan and Lomarsh Roopnaraine.
  1. Schooling Muslims in Natal. State, Identity and the Orient Islamic Educational Institute. Pietermaritzburg: University of KwaZulu Natal Press, 2015. With T. Waetjen.
  1. Crossing Space and Time in the Indian Ocean: Early Indian Traders in Natal — A Biographical Study. Pretoria: UNISA Press, 2015. With S. Bhana.
  1. The Making of a South African township. Edited with Ashwin Desai. UKZN Press, 2013.
  1. The Making of Place. The Warwick Junction Precinct: 1870s-1980s. Durban: DUT, 2013. Co-Authored. With Len Rosenberg and Sam Moodley.
  1. Many Lives. 150 Years of Being Indian in South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter, 2010. Co-authored with Ashwin Desai and Thembisa Waetjen.
  2. Gender, Modernity, and Indian Delights. The Women’s Cultural Group of Durban, 1954-2010. Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2010. Co-authored with Thembisa Waetjen.
  3. Monty Naicker. Between Reason and Treason. Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter, 2010. Co-authored with Ashwin Desai.
  4. Inside Indian Indenture. A South African Story, 1860-1914. Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2010. Co-authored with Ashwin Desai.
  5. Dear Ahmedbhai, Dear Zuleikhabhen. The Letters of Ahmed Kathrada and Zuleikha Mayat 1979-1989. Johannesburg: Jacana, 2009. Compiled with Thembisa Waetjen
  6. Empire & Cricket. The South African Experience 1884-1914. Pretoria: UNISA Press, 2009. Co-Edited with Bruce Murray.
  7. Chapters in Books
  8. ‘Indian Muslims in South Africa: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, 1860-2016’,’ In Maurits S. Hassankhan, Goolam Vahed and Lomarsh Roopnaraine (Eds). Indentured Muslims in the Diaspora. Identity and Belonging of Minority Groups in Plural Societies. New Delhi: Manohar, 2016, pp. 81-106.
  9. ‘Power and Resistance: Indentured Labour in Colonial Natal 1860-1911,’ In Maurits S. Hassankhan, Brij V. Lal, and Doug Munro (Eds). Resistance and Indian Indenture Experience. Comparative Perspectives. New Delhi: Manohar, 2014: pp. 95-120.
  10. ‘Indenture and Indianness in South Africa, 1860–1913,’ In Sujata Patel and Tina Uys. Eds. Contemporary India and South Africa. Legacies, Identities and Dilemmas. New Delhi: Routledge, 2012: 21-34. [with Ashwin Desai]
  11. ‘Identity and Belonging in Post-Apartheid South Africa: The case of Indian South Africans,’ In Sujata Patel and Tina Uys. Eds. Exclusion, Social Capital and Citizenship. Contested Transitions in South Africa and India,’ New Delhi: Routledge, 2012: 488-508. [with Ashwin Desai].
  12. ‘Between Apartheid and Neoliberalism in Durban’s Indian Quarter,’ in Patrick Bond. Ed. Durban’s Climate Gamble. Trading the Carbon, Betting the earth. Pretoria: UNISA Press, 2011: 51-58. [with Ashwin Desai]
  13. An ‘Imagined Community’ in Diaspora: Gujarati’s in South Africa.” In Nalin Mehta and Mona G. Mehta. Eds. Gujarat Beyond Gandhi. Identity, conflict and Society. New Delhi: Routledge, 2010: 210-231. ISBN-10: 0415556120
  14. World Cup 2010: Africa’s Turn or the turn on Africa?’. In Peter Alegi and Chris Bolsmann.  Eds. South Africa and the Global Game. Football, Apartheid and Beyond. London: Routledge, 2010: 154-167.  [with Ashwin Desai].
  1. Journal Articles:
  2. ‘Family, Gender, and Mobility among Passenger Migrants into Colonial Natal: The Story of Moosa Hajee Cassim (c.1840s–1921),’ Journal of Southern African Studies, 42.3 (2016): 505-522.
  3. ‘The Natal Indian Congress, the Mass Democratic Movement and the Struggle to Defeat Apartheid: 1980–1994,’ Politikon, 42. 1 (2015): 1-22. [with Ashwin Desai]
  4. ‘Gandhi, Indian Opinion, and the making of Indo – South African identity, 1903 – 14,’ Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 35:2 (2015): 354-360.
  5. ‘Shifting Grounds: A.I. Kajee and the Political Quandary of ‘Moderates’ in the Search for an Islamic School Site in Durban, 1943–1948,’ South African Historical Journal,   67.3 (2015): 316-334. [with Thembisa Waetjen].
  6. ‘Women and national liberation in South Africa: an oral history perspective,’ South Asian Diaspora, 7.2 (2015): 129-147.
  7. ‘Passages of Ink: Decoding the Natal Indentured Records into the Digital Age,’ Kronos, 40, 3 (2014): 45-73, [With Thembisa Waetjen)
  8. ‘A case of “strategic ethnicity”? The Natal Indian Congress in the 1970s,’ African Historical Review, 46:1, (2014): 22-47.
  9. ‘Cricket and corruption: the post-apartheid relationship between India and South Africa within and beyond the boundary,’ Diaspora Studies, 6:2 (2013): 80-91.
  10. ‘“Gagged and trussed rather securely by the law”: The 1952 Defiance Campaign in Natal,’  Journal of Natal and Zulu History,  31.2 (2013): 68-89.
  11. ‘Race, Empire, and Citizenship: Sarojini Naidu’s 1924 Visit to South Africa,’ South African Historical Journal, 64.2 (2012): 319-342.