D'urbanised tradition: the restructuring and development of the muthi trade in Durban.
Nesvag, Stein Inge.
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This thesis is about the history of the muthi trade (the African traditional medicine trade) since it was introduced to Durban. "D'Urbanised Tradition" refers to the way the tradition surrounding muthi was urbanised in Durban, and how it has been viewed as a 'de-urbanising' element in the city. The thesis deals with the changes, over the past 100 years, to the tradition of muthi trading that were brought about both by actors 'within' the trade - what I refer to as 'restructuring of tradition' - and by interventions from 'external' forces (the state, the biomedical lobby and the conservationist lobby) - what I have termed 'the development of tradition'. Whereas many studies present (Zulu) tradition as something static, this study of "D'Urbanised tradition" focuses on change and process - why and how these changes to tradition have occurred. It comprises an analysis of how the dialectic between change and continuity within the muthi trade has been negotiated by strategic actors throughout the twentieth century. Emphasis is on the economic and political potentials of tradition and traditional medicine, and focus will be on changes in the muthi trade in Durban, using the Russell Street Muthi Market in the 1990s as a case study. Although 'restructuring' and 'development' are kept separate in this thesis, they denote interrelated processes whereby active agents strategically use tradition to achieve their ends. It is argued that the traditions surrounding muthi have been manipulated both as economic as well as political tools by the various vested interests in the trade. The thesis deals with one of the largest and most important sectors of South Africa's informal economy, and provides a historical analysis and case study of the strategies used by both traders and outside institutions involved in the trade. This is done by using the paradigm of 'tradition'.