School of Social Sciences

Kalpana Hiralal

Kalpana Hiralal



Last Updated 2 years ago

Kalpana Hiralal

Position Associate Professor 
Discipline History, Society & Social Change Cluster
Phone 031 260 7536
Campus Howard College Campus
Office Address MTB218

Degrees Held:

  • B Paed (Arts) UDW, BA (Hons); MA (History Cum Laude) UDW , PhD (History) University of Natal PMB

Research Interest

My research interests include Indian Diaspora, Immigrant Women, Women and Politics in SA and Gender and Empowerment. My PhD dissertation focused on Free Indian immigrants to Natal in the context of settlement, trade and identity formation. My current research focus is on gender, agency and identity in the Indian and African diaspora and women struggles in Apartheid South Africa.


Selected Publications:



  • Tracing Our Roots – The Natal Rajput Association 1911-2011, (with Veena Rawjee DUT), (Durban: Atlas Printers).

Chapters in Books

  • `The Trading Class within the Indian community –Shaped and Styled by Historical Contradictions’  WISA, Undressing Durban, Madiba Publishers, 2007, 309-315.

Journal Articles

  • `Immigrant Sisters Organizing for Change’ – The Gujarati Mahila Mandal 1930-1950, Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology, vol. 4, nos. 1-2, January-April 2013, pp. 105-115.
  • “Rethinking Gender and Agency in the Satyagraha Movement of 1913”.  Journal of Social Sciences, 25 (1-2-3), 2010, pp.71-80.
  • Docile” Indian Women Protest “We Shall Resist” – Passive Resistance in South Africa 1946-1948, Journal of Social Sciences. Vol. 22, no. 3, 2010, pp. 153-162.
  • The “Invisible Workers of the Informal Economy – A Case Study of home-based Workers in Kwazulu/Natal, South Africa, Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 23, no. 1, April 2010, pp. 29-37.
  • “Our Plucky sisters who have dared to fight” Indian Women and the Satyagraha movement in South Africa. The Oriental Anthropologist. vol. 9, no. 1, 2009, 1-22.
  • “The Gujarati Hindu Community in Kwazulu/Natal” Anthropologist, (Special Volume), No. 4, pp. 81-90,  2009, pp.81-104.
  • “Indian Family Businesses in Natal 1879-1950”, Natalia (38), 2008, pp. 27-37.
  • “Indian Family Businesses in South Africa: 1870-2004” in The Anthropologist (Special Issue) Indian Diaspora – The 21st Century Migration, Change and Adaptation (Kamla-Raj Enterprises, New Delhi, 2007), pp.99-108.
  • “The Resurrection of an Identity – The Sikh Community in South Africa” The Oriental Anthropologist, vol. 7, no. 1, 2007, pp. 91-108.
  • The Myth of the Asiatic `Menace’ in Natal 1918-1924” Alternation, vol.9, no.2, 2002, pp.179-195.
  • “The Impact of the First Word War on the Indian Commercial Class in Natal” Historia, vol.46,   no.2, November, 2001, pp. 426-440.
  • “The Indian Commercial Entrepreneur, 1890-1950” New Contree’, no.48, 2000, pp.105-125.
  • “The Economic Role of the Indian Commercial class in Colonial Natal”, in Alternation, Journal of the Centre for the Study of Southern African Literature and Languages, vol. 7, no 2. 2000, pp. 135-147.

Selected Awards and Professional Honours

  • Nordic Africa Institute, Guest Researcher scholarship, September – November 2007
  • National  Research Foundation: Thuthuka Programme: Post-Doctoral Scholarship- awarded to undertake research at Dalhouise University, Canada, July 2004 – January  2005.
  • University Kwazulu/Natal, Certificate of Excellence: For making significant progress in the National Research Foundation Thuthuka Programme 2004.
  • National Research Foundation (NRF), Thuthuka Programme (Women in Research), Grant to complete research project titled: “Towards Self-Empowerment, Women, and the Informal Sector, South  Africa in Global Perspective” 2002-2008.
  • University of Durban-Westville, (South Africa), Research grant to complete doctoral thesis 1997-1999
  • Human Sciences Research Council, (South Africa), Research grant to complete PhD thesis (1997-1999) Human Sciences Research Council,  (South  Africa), Grant to complete MA thesis 1990
  • Awarded the Pretorius prize for outstanding History student in the Department of History, University of Durban-Westville 1992.


HIST 104: The Making of the Modern World
This course examines the centuries of world history from the emergence
of the ‘first world system’ (from circa 900 CE) to the establishment of
Western European domination by the mid-1700s.  It examines the world
before European hegemony; and the major forces – economic, political,
ecological, technological and cultural – of change that brought the Old
and New worlds into contact after the 1400s; the profound impacts of
this process of contact; and the creation of a new world order, though
it took until 1750 for ‘the West’ to establish its dominance over much
of the globe. This course also takes into account the experiences of
Asian, African and American and other colonised peoples. It demonstrates
how study of the paths of contact and conquest, and of the responses of
colonized peoples, lays a necessary foundation for understanding the
making of the modern and the contemporary world of states, empires and

 HIST 301: Topics in 20th African History

This course focuses on African women in colonial history. How did African women negotiate the complex political, economic, and social forces of colonialism in their daily lives? How did they make meaningful lives for themselves in a world that challenged fundamental notions of work, sexuality, marriage, motherhood, and family? By considering the lives of ordinary African women, it challenges the homogeneity of the African women’s experiences in specific contexts, it also examines how, class, race and gender, ethnicity and notions of sexuality are important categories of analysis in shaping women’s experiences. The course also highlights women’s active resistance to colonialism, challenging notions of passivity and victim status.

CHTM 303:Contemprary Leaders and related Sites

on Kwazulu/Natal, this module acknowledges the role of various
individual leader figures, their values and styles of leadership and
their contribution to the multifaceted heritage, of the province. It
introduces students to historical knowledge about these leaders and
sites associated with them, as well as discussing their public image and
perceived symbolic significance. Students will learn to analyse and
critically discuss how historical personalities can be constructed into
icons that serves socio-political needs, and current discourses, such as
nation-building, reconciliation, unity, gender equality, or the African
Renaissance. Furthermore, students will understand the role of these
leaders within Kwazulu/Natal’s tourist industry and South Africa’s
global image and the challenges associated with the commodification of
historical personalities and related sites.

HIST 700: Women in 20th Century History

is an Honours module which is designed to add to students’ knowledge of
different types of feminism over the past century, both in terms of
traditional political differences and in relation to cultural
differences and/or similarities in feminist approaches and demands. The
course offers a modern history of feminist issues, activism and
movements, focusing upon women’s struggles for rights, equality, bodily
integrity or autonomy in various parts of the world. It equips students
with analytical skills via evaluation of texts, both primary documents
and debates or conflicting representations in secondary sources

Courses Taught Past and Current

First Year modules:

  • SDS 101 – Introduction to World Societies
  • SDS 108 – Perspectives on Regional Heritage
  • HIST 104 – The Making of the Modern World

Second Year Modules

  • SDS 218 – The Political Economy of Southern Africa

Third year Modules

  • SDS 303S – Nationalism and Ethnicity
  • HIST 302 – Women and Gender in 20th Century America
  • CHT 305 – Culture, Heritage and Tourism
  • 18th and 19th Century American History (Gender, Slavery and Reconstruction).
  • 19th and 20th Century British History.  Focusing on the Feminism and the State in Late Victorian England.
  • Contemporary Asian History.  Focused on Feminism and Nationalism in Asia:  Problems and Prospects 


  • SDS 405S – History and ethnography in South Africa
  • SDS 501S – Social Systems in the Eastern Seaboard
  • 20th Century International Relations and Gender Studies. 

Graduate Supervision, Current

  • Zaheera Jinnah, Current. PhD. Dissertation. Submitted. ‘Unfinished journeys: Somali lives and livelihoods in Johannesburg: an Exploration of agency within migration and settlement. (co-supervised with Prof A. Singh)
  • Sheetal Dullabh Current. PhD. Dissertation. Culinary Tourism: The need for a strategy in South Africa. A case study of Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal. (co-supervisor with Prof A. Singh).
  • Rakesh Ramsunder, Honours Thesis, History. `Remembering Roots, Maintaining Hindu Culture -A History of the Mount Edgecombe Shree Emperumal Temple’. Completed 2011.

Community Involvement

  • Assist with public queries on Family History and archival research.
  • Invited as guest speaker to community functions.
  • Assisted Community organizations with projects: The Natal Rajput  Association (2011)
  • Invited to submit articles in print and electronic media