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Professor Ashwin Desai University of Johannesburg
Ashwin Desai is Professor of Sociology at the University of Johannesburg. Among his books on sport are Blacks in Whites: A Century of Cricket Struggles in KwaZulu-Natal (co-authored); Race to Transform: Sport in post-apartheid South Africa (edited); Reverse Sweep: A Story of Cricket since apartheid; Wentworth: The Beautiful Game and the Making of Place. He is currently working on photographs of Black rugby in Grahamstown that stretch back to the 1880s.
Director: Legal Services
My working life started in the early 1980’s First as an article clerk and then as an advocate at the Cape Town Bar. This was a time of turmoil, protests, bombing, burning and detentions without trial. With the possible exception of bombing, my practice reflected this. With only two other black colleagues at the bar at the time, working life was a collage of political trials across the country. Who doesn’t remember their first case? Mine was to represent 400 women who were arrested in Cross-Roads for breaching the Influx Control Laws by joining their husbands in the
Western Cape. This was in the old Commissioner’s Court (a court for blacks). We pleaded not guilty 400 times to compel full hearings and clogged the court roll for the next year! All cases then had to be withdrawn by the State.
I then ventured forth to the United States to complete a Masters degree at Georgetown University. The land of the Free! What an awakening! Free to say whatever you want to, free to go wherever the road takes you and free to watch a whole sector of American society being criminalised by a war on drugs. And many interesting stories. The black Supreme Court nominee and the pubic hair on the Coke can…the incoming President Clinton who as governor, had condemned a black prisoner to death after the prisoner had undergone a lobotomy whilst on death row…
I joined a law firm in Washington DC and practiced in the International Trade Department. I returned to South Africa in 1994, having had enough of freedom. I have been at this university ever since..