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B1 Rating for Historian Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie

UWC Deputy Dean Awarded an NRF B1 rating

Prof Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie’s NRF B1 rating is a recognition of the high quality of her work on India-South Africa mobilities. This work has garnered her international recognition and established her as a leader in the field.

The Durban-born Professor began her career at UWC in the History department of the Faculty of Arts in 1993 - a very interesting time and place for scholars of South African history.

“I have been here for 24 years now, and these have been very crucial years for me,” she says. “I am fortunate to be in one of the best History departments in the country.”

Her research examines the connected histories between India and South Africa, focusing on the movements of workers, traders, women and children. “I look at transnational mobilities and the place of documents of identity, about which there is world-wide literature,” she explains.

She has contributed extensively to internationally edited books and international journals on the shared histories of these two countries from the perspective of travel to Africa from Asia, and edited two journal issues as well.

Prof Mesthrie has also conducted extensive interviews with people about forced removals, land restitution and relocation on the Cape Flats, and has spent countless hours in archives - but she simply loves the hard labour of sifting through boxes and boxes of old documents, looking at traces of the past.

The former Southern African Research Fellow at Yale University in America recalls one of her most rewarding moments: when her research was used in a major land restitution case, where an individual was awarded over R1 000 000 instead of the normal R40 000 settlement fee.

Her most recent work is on Rylands, the former Indian group area, and how it can be located within broader representations of the Cape Flats.

“Indians are a minority in Cape Town, and few realise the links the city has with Maharashtra and Gujarat, and once had with the Punjab and Bengal.

Prof Mesthrie is happy that her NRF B1 rating represents a recognition of the quality of her work, and it also signals international recognition and leadership in the field of history - not only at the University of the Western Cape but in South Africa.

Much of what guides her is her own inner strength and work ethic.

“I work very hard, because nothing comes without hard work,” she says. “But I also enjoy what I do - and that enjoyment is what keeps me going.”

And the most enjoyable - and rewarding - thing about being at UWC?

Seeing her students go through difficult times with the draft stages of their work, and then emerging with their degree and finished thesis at the end of their academic period, having earned their place in the academic community - and the respect and confidence it brings.