Writing invisibility
Matthew Wilhelm-Solomon (ACMS, University of the Witwatersrand)

This project involved a workshop bringing together narrative writers and academics in June 2012 and the subsequent publication of an e-book of narrative journalism and academic responses, which we produced in collaboration with the national newspaper the Mail & Guardian. The e-book was originally released in September 2012 as part of the Mail & Guardian literary festival and hosted on their site. Several shorter versions of the pieces were also published in the newspaper.

This freely available e-book aims to bring to the fore the importance of linking narrative non-fiction and social sciences. 'Writing Invisibility: Conversations on the Hidden City’ is a journey into the spaces of the city often bypassed in public debate and public story-telling: the ship, the slum, the wall, the market-place, the church, the mine, the rooms of sex workers, and even the rural areas, which remain a part of urban life. Eight writers and journalists from South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and the USA have contributed to stories drawing on themes within social science research, and eight academics have given critical responses to the pieces. The narratives cover a range of topics: immigrant African sex workers in Belgium, patterns of urban survival among Tanzanians in Point Area in Durban, the story of a book seller in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, urban prophecy among immigrants in Johannesburg, how immigrants turned an empty square into a vibrant flea market, how marginal residents of Cape Town resist social control through graffiti, the lives of Cape Town dock workers, and the aftermath of the mine worker massacres in Marikana.

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