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HSRC Press :: Language, Identity, Modernity

Language, Identity, Modernity
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Language, Identity, Modernity

The Arabic study circle of Durban

Shamil Jeppie

Format148mm x 210mm
ISBN 100-7969-2175-X
ISBN 13978-07969-2175-8
Publish Year2007
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Language, Identity, Modernity :: The Arabic study circle of DurbanFree DownloadLanguage, Identity, Modernity :: The Arabic study circle of Durban


A fusion of linguistic, religious and ethnic groups with rich, diverse roots and intersecting histories make up South Africa. However, the literature on most of the smaller groups tends to be thin and uneven and often tends to relegate them to the margins of the country’s major narratives. This innovative study introduces readers to a fascinating world of linguistic, religious and cultural politics in the South African port city of Durban from around 1950, the world of the Arabic Study Circle.

This Association was led by a group of largely middle class, Indian, Muslim Gujurati-speaking men who were passionate about breaking out of the narrow confines of their origins and connecting to a larger changing world of learning rooted in Arabic and an Islamic modernity.

They were gentlemen who believed in the transformative powers of reading and conversation. They exemplify the broader process, common among educated but disadvantaged people in apartheid South Africa and across the decolonising world, of the search for meaning, community and authenticity.

This work provides an intimate sense of who they were and how they operated, their visions, as well as their international connections and contexts.


2.The setting: Durban, South Africa, circa 1950
3.The founder and foundations
4.Learn, speak, read – and study Arabic Talk
5.Great performances
6.Critics, dissidents and enemies
7.Legacy and limits

About the Author/s
Dr Shamil Jeppie is a senior lecturer in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Popular Memory (CPM) at the University of Cape Town, and a member of the SEPHIS steering committee. Jeppie is a key advisor to the South Africa -Mali Timbuktu Manuscript Project.

Extract from review by Muhammed Haron (University of Botswana) in African Affairs, Vol. 109 no. 434 (January 2010):

"Shamil Jeppie’s book tells a fascinating story about a small but significant Durban-based Muslim organization that grappled with the compatibility between Islam and modernity. Jeppie, who is an historian based at the University of Cape Town, divides his book into eight chapters and a useful set of set of endnotes and references."

Extract from review by James C. Armstrong, Independent Scholar for H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online - H-SAfrica (www.h-net.msu.edu) (May 2008)

"Language, Identity, Modernity" is a path-breaking and fascinating study of a little-known but, on the author's showing, influential group, the Arabic Study Circle, which emerged around 1950 in Durban, South Africa. ...
"Language, Identity, Modernity" offers a fresh insight into the history of the Muslim community of Natal, and amply justifies its full title. The author and the HSRC Press are to be commended on its publication. There are copious endnotes, and a useful bibliography.

Extract from review by Yusuf Ismail in Islamic Focus Issue 10 (August 2007) p.16:

"In what can be described as a non-patronising honest primer on an organisation arising out of the social milieu of a 1950's Durban, Shamil Jeppie introduces his readers to the world of the Arabic Study Circle and its impact on the South African Muslim community in the last century."

"This book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding Islam in South Africa. Beautifully written, it combines critical scientific analysis with admiration and compassion for these pioneers in general and Dr Mall in particular."
- Yousuf Dadoo, University of South Africa

Click on the links below to read the reviews:

Africa Perspective - 01 June 2007

Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 953 - 976



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