Creating and Remembering the Mahatma in Pietermaritzburg: From Passive Resistance to Democracy

Authors: Adam Hasan*, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Topics: Cultural Geography, Africa, Urban Geography
Keywords: memorialization; Gandhi; South Africa; spatial transformation; cultural geography
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While Gandhi’s nonviolent activism is often associated with the anti-colonial liberation of India, the philosophical roots of his work were shaped in South Africa around the turn of the Twentieth Century. As contemporary discourses on Gandhi have re-engaged with critical analyses on his life and legacy, creating a distinctly South African Gandhi has been an ongoing process of representation that has manifested primarily in the spatial politics of the province of KwaZulu-Natal, where he lived and spent the majority of his time in the country. By defining three key moments spanning 1893 to the present, this thesis intends to understand the cultural landscape (“townscape”) of Pietermaritzburg specifically through its memorials to Mohandas Gandhi and the ways their meanings have been shaped and reshaped in the context of modern South African history. Situating Gandhi historically and spatially in this way opens a discussion on how his image is being claimed, contested, and represented by local citizens, social movements, and state actors in the contemporary era. In doing so, a broader commentary on memorialization is discussed while being mindful that the differential aspects of such discourses is critical when considering practices of contextualization.

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