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Ashwin Desai

Name: Ashwin Desai
Location: C Ring 627B Auckland Park Kingsway Campus
Department of Sociology, Rated Researchers  Staff Members

Contact Details:
Tel: 011 559 2474


About Prof Ashwin Desai


Ashwin Desai is the Director of the Centre of Social Change at the University of Johannesburg. He previously lectured at the University of Durban-Westville, Workers College in Durban and Rhodes University. Prof Desai is an unusually prolific and wide-ranging writer whose work has been published in academic and popular books and journals around the world. One of South Africa’s foremost social commentators, Ashwin’s work is internationally celebrated for its courage and clarity of vision and for its focus on the lived experience of oppression and resistance. His research interests are the sociology of sport; social identity; social movements.


BA (Hons) Sociology,

Rhodes University MA Sociology, Rhodes University

PhD Sociology, Michigan State University

Research Interests

  • Sociology of sport
  • Social Identity/ Social Movements

Recent books

Desai, A & Adriaan, A. 2021. Line Breakers: The Rugby Playing Sons of Makana and Stuurman. Pietermaritzburg: Shooter and Shuter.

Desai, A. 2019. Wentworth: The Beautiful Game and the Making of Place. Pietermaritzburg: UKZN Press.

Desai, A. & Vahed, G. 2019. A Political Biography of Indian South Africans. 1994 to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Desai, A. 2017. Reverse Sweep: The Story of Cricket in Post-apartheid South Africa. Johannesburg: Jacana Media.

Desai, A., & Vahed, G. 2016. The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire. Navayana and Stanford University Press.

Desai, A. 2014. The Archi-texture of Durban: A skapie’s guide. Madiba Publishers. Desai, A. 2012. Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island. Pretoria: Unisa Press.

Desai, A., Maharaj, B. & Bond, P. (Eds). 2010. Zuma’s Own Goal: Losing South Africa’s ‘War on Poverty’. Africa World Press: New Jersey.

Desai, A., Vahed, G. & Waetjen, T. 2010. Many Lives:150 Years of Being Indian in South Africa. Shuter & Shooter: Pietermaritzburg. Desai, A. & Vahed, G. 2010. Inside Indian Indenture- special 150 years edition. HSRC Press: Pretoria.

Desai, A. (Ed). 2010. The Race to Transform: Sport in Post-apartheid South Africa. HSRC Press: Pretoria.

Desai, A. & Vahed, G. 2010. Monty Naicker: Between Treason and Reason. Shuter & Shooter: Pietermaritzburg.

Desai, A., Padayachee, V., Reddy, K and Vahed, G. 2003. Blacks in Whites: A Century of Black Cricket in KwaZulu-Natal. University of Natal Press: Pietermaritzburg.

Desai, A. 2002. We are the Poors: Community Struggles in Post-Apartheid South Africa. Monthly Review Press: New York.

Recent Journal Articles

Desai, A. & Maharaj, B. 2020. South Africa’s Race to return to Global Sport: Results and Prospects on Home-ground – The Case of Cricket. Sport in Society, 11 (2): 1-16.

Desai, A and Bond, P. 2019. Speculators and Scoundrels in South Africa’s Secondary Circuit of Capital: A Turbulent Investment Climate at Durban’s Point Waterfront. Socialism and Democracy, 33 (2): 108-141.

Desai, A. 2019. Between Ramaphosa’s New Dawn and Zuma’s Long Shadow: Will the Centre Hold? Alternation. 26 (1): 214-238.

Desai, A. 2019. The Race-chase: The Colour of Cricket Transformation in South Africa. Africa Review, 11(2): 1-15. Desai, A. 2019. Indian South Africans: (Be)longing and the Post-apartheid Search for Roots and the Imagined Family. Diaspora Studies, 12(1): 1-13.

Desai, A. 2017. “The 2016 Local Government Elections: Is Jesus on his way?” Capitalism Nature Socialism, 28(1):16-32.

Desai, A. 2016. “Die ou Ballie is Net so ‘n’ Naai Soos ons: Race, Place and Gangs in a Durban Township” Acta Criminologica, 29(3): 99-109. Desai, A. 2015. An Exploratory Critique of the Notion of Social Cohesion in Contemporary South Africa. PINS (Psychology in Society), Special Edition, 49: 99-113.

Desai, A. 2015. Between Rock and the Pavement: Through the Underworld of Durban. Acta Criminologica, Special Edition, 3: 210-221. Desai, A. 2015. An Aerotropolis in Durban: Exploring the ‘Satanic Geographies’ of Fast Capitalism, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 26(3): 1-13.

Desai, A. 2015. Of Faustian Pacts and Mega-projects: The Politics and Economics of the Port Expansion in the South Basin of Durban, South Africa, Capitalism, Nature Socialism, 26(1): 18-34.

Desai, A., & Vahed, G. 2015. The Natal Indian Congress, the Mass Democratic Movement and the Struggle to Defeat Apartheid: 1980-1994, Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies, 42(1): 1-22.

Desai, A. 2015. Indian South Africans and the Black Consciousness Movement under Apartheid. Diaspora Studies, 8(1): 37-50. Desai, A. 2013. The Politics of Literature. Special Issue – Debating Neville Alexander, Education as change, 17(2): 181-192.

Desai, A.& Vahed, G. 2013. The May 2008 xenophobic violence in South Africa antecedents and aftermath, Alternation, Special edition, 7: 145-175.

Desai, A. 2013. Theatre of Struggle: Black Consciousness and Salisbury Island. Journal of Natal and Zulu History, 31(1): 101-116. Desai, A. 2013. Master Coolie arrives: Indenture and the origins of Hinduism in Natal. Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology, 4.

Desai, A, 2013. South Africa: Between the Second Term and the Second Transition-A Second Sharpeville. Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, 24(1): 73-83.

Desai, A. 2012. Pyramids of the Twenty-first century? South African Soccer’s World Cup Legacy. African Journal of Physical, Health Education, Recreation and Dance, December (Supplement 2): 1-16.

Desai, A. and Vahed, G. 2012. Chatsworth: Between Continuity and Change. Oriental Anthropologist, 12(2): 223-233. Desai, A. 2012. Between the Lahnees and the Lightees: Chatsworth’s Underworld. Oriental Anthropologist, 12(2): 319-329.

Desai, A. &Vahed, G. 2011. Between Apartheid and Neoliberalism in Durban’s Indian Quarter. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 22(4): 43-49.

Select Chapters in Books

Desai, A. 2016. Between Madiba Magic and Spectacular Capitalism: The FIFA World Cup in South Africa. In R. Gruneau & J. Thorne (Eds), Mega Events and Globalization: Capital and Spectacle in a Changing World Order, New York: Routledge, pp. 81-95.

Desai, A. 2013. Uneven and combined Marxism within South Africa’s urban social movements (with Trevor Ngwane and Patrick Bond) in M. Williams and V. Satgar (Eds). Marxism in the 21st Century: Crisis, Critique and Struggle. Wits University Press: Johannesburg.

Desai, A. & Vahed, G. 2012.‘Indenture and Indianness in South Africa, 1860–1913,’ In S. Patel and T. Uys (Eds), Contemporary India and South Africa: Legacies, Identities and Dilemmas, Routledge: New Delhi.

Desai, A.& Walsh, S. 2010.Knowledge & Power in South Africa: Xenophobia and survival in the post-apartheid state in A. Choudry and D. Kapoor (Eds), Global Perspectives on Social Movements and Knowledge Production: Learning from the ground up. Palgrave MacMillan: New York.

Desai, A. 2008. Citizenship and cosmopolitanism: football in South Africa in A. Habib and K. Bentley (Eds), Racial Redress and Citizenship In South Africa. HSRC Press: Pretoria.

Desai, A. 2007. Shadow Boxing? COSATU, social movements and the ANC government in O. Lehulere (Ed), The State of Social Movements in South Africa. Khanya College Publishing: Johannesburg.

Desai, A. & Dunn, B. 2006. Explaining Uneven and Combined Development In South Africa (with Patrick Bond) in B. Dunn (Ed), Permanent Revolution: Results and Prospects 100 Years On. Pluto Press: London.

Desai, A. 2006.The Cape of Good Dope? A Post-Apartheid story of gangs and vigilantes. In R. Ballard (et al.), Voices of Protest. UKZN Press: Pietermaritzburg.