The Making of a Political Reformer : Gandhi in South Africa, 1893-1914

Surendra Bhana and Goolam Vahed, Manohar, 2005, 182 p, photographs, ISBN : 8173046123, $28.00 (Includes free airmail shipping)

Contents: List of abbreviations. Acknowledgements. Introduction. 1. Gandhi, Africans and Indians in Colonial Natal. 2. Hindus: traditional temples, religious and cultural practices. 3. Muslims, Mosques and Madrassas. 4. Gandhi and community resources, 1906-1912. 5. The Satyagraha Campaign, 1913-1914. Conclusion. Appendices: 1. Organizations. 2. Mehfil Saiful Islam Annual Report. 3. Trust deed of Mehafil Eslam Mota-Varachha. Glossary. Bibliography. Index.

"The religious and cultural orientation of South African Indians influenced Mohandas K. Gandhi, and this study is the first to explore its relevance to his moral, philosophical, and political growth. He and his compatriots developed 'Indianness' in trans-national politics, and used it as a lever to win imperial protection against discrimination in South Africa. This linked South Africa to the Raj in India. In working closely with his compatriots, Gandhi operated within the cultural and religious parameters set by them, and creatively redefined them. In India, he would expand on the ideas and strategies he developed in South Africa.

While useful in an imperial setting, 'Indianness' became embedded in the system of White rule at the turn of the twentieth century. Moreover, the emerging political economy in Natal produced sharp competition and conflict as Africans, Indians, and Whites came into contact in agriculture, industry, commerce, and service. Racial antipathies grew. As subordinate groups, Indians and Africans developed stereotyped of each other as a way of identifying themselves more sharply to stress differences. While Gandhi was sensitive to the legitimate political aspirations of Africans, he did not feel the need to spell out how Indians should relate to them because India was at the centre of his thinking. Gandhi's legacy inspired succeeding generations of South African activists. It connects him to Nelson Mandela who led South Africa to freedom and democracy in the last decade of the twentieth century yet some have questioned his legacy. This study offers perspectives that more accurately situate Gandhi's role in South Africa's history." (jacket)

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