Melancholia of Freedom

Social Life in an Indian Township in South Africa
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Dimensions and Pages: 235 x 150 mm, 372 pp
  • EAN: 978 1 86814 589 8
  • Rights: Southern Africa
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 300.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): n/a

The end of apartheid in 1994 signalled a moment of freedom and a promise of a non-racial future. With this promise came an injunction: define yourself as you truly are, as an individual, and as a community. Almost two decades later it is clear that it was less the prospect of that future than the habits and horizons of anxious life in racially defined enclaves that determined post-apartheid freedom. In this book, Thomas Blom Hansen offers an in-depth analysis of the uncertainties, dreams, and anxieties that have accompanied post-apartheid freedoms in Chatsworth, a formerly Indian township in Durban. Exploring five decades of township life, Hansen tells the stories of ordinary Indians whose lives were radicalized and framed by the township, and how these residents domesticated and inhabited this urban space and its institutions, during apartheid and after.

Hansen demonstrates the complex and ambivalent nature of ordinary township life. While the ideology of apartheid was widely rejected, its practical institutions, from urban planning to houses, schools, and religious spaces, were embraced in order to remake the community. Hansen describes how the racial segmentation of South African society still informs daily life, notions of race, personhood, morality, and religious ethics. He also demonstrates the force of global religious imaginings that promise a universal and inclusive community amid uncertain lives and futures in the post-apartheid nation-state.

With Princeton University Press.

Rights: Southern Africa only


Chapter 1. Ethnicity by Fiat: The Remaking of Indian Life in South Africa

Chapter 2. Domesticity and Cultural Intimacy

Chapter 3. Charous and Ravans: A Story of Mutual Nonrecognition

Chapter 4. Autonomy, Freedom, and Political Speech

Chapter 5. Movement, Sound, and Body in the Post-apartheid City

Chapter 6. The Unwieldy Fetish: Desi Fantasies, Roots Tourism, and Diasporic Desires

Chapter 7 Global Hindus and Pure Muslims: Universalist Aspirations and Territorialized Lives

Chapter 8. The Saved and the Backsliders: The Charou Soul and the Instability of Belief

Postscript. Melancholia in the Time of the ‘African Personality’


Thomas Blom Hansen is Professor of Anthropology and the Reliance-Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of South Asian Studies at Stanford University, where he also directs the Centre for South Asia.

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