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Archive for the ‘Academic’ Category

Black Consciousness and Progressive Movements under Apartheid presents an intellectual history of Black Consciousness in SA in the comparative perspective that Biko originally called for

Accounts of Black Consciousness have tended to place the discourse in a continuum of resistance to white minority rule and to assess its significance in bringing about the downfall of apartheid.

While these are valid historical narratives, they have occluded some of the wider resonances and significance of both the movement and the body of ideas.

This book takes its cue from Steve Biko’s own injunction to see the evolution of Black Consciousness alongside other political doctrines and movements of resistance in South Africa. It identifies progressive thought and movements, such as radical Christianity and ecumenism, student radicalism, feminism and trade unionism, as valuable interlocutors that nonetheless also competed for the mantle of liberation, espousing different visions of freedom.

These progressive movements were open to what Ian Macqueen characterises as the ‘shockwaves’ that Black Consciousness created. It is only with such a focus that we can fully appreciate the significance of Black Consciousness, both as a movement and as an ideology emanating from South Africa in the late 1960s and 1970s. Black Consciousness and Progressive Movements under Apartheid thus presents an intellectual history of Black Consciousness in South Africa in the comparative perspective that Biko originally called for.

Ian M. Macqueen is a lecturer in the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies at the University of Pretoria. He is also a research associate of the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at the University of the Witwatersrand.

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Claire Scott’s At the Fault Line explores whiteness and white identity through the lens of literary journalism

Social identities within post-apartheid South Africa remain highly contested with issues of race and racism often dominating the national discourse.

In order to find their place within the national narrative, white South Africans need to re-think their stories, re-define their positions in society and re-imagine their own narratives of identity and belonging.

By exploring whiteness and white identity through the lens of literary journalism, this book reflects on ways in which writers use the uncertainties and contradictions inherent in this genre to reveal the complexities of white identity formation and negotiation within contemporary society.

Authors such as Rian Malan (My Traitor’s Heart), Antjie Krog (Country of My Skull and Begging to Be Black), Jonny Steinberg (Midlands) and Kevin Bloom (Ways of Staying) are writing at times of political and social flux. By working at the fault line of literature and journalism, these literary journalists not only mirror the volatility of their social setting but also endeavour to find new narrative forms, revealing the inherent anxiety and possibility of whiteness in contemporary South Africa.

Claire Scott holds a PhD in English Studies from the University of the Western Cape and currently lectures in the department of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She has a keen interest in South African literary journalism, as well as representations of South African identities within popular culture.

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Listen: “The Cape Town situation is very dire” – Professor Larry Swatuk, author of Water in Southern Africa, on Day Zero

When it comes to water, we are fed a daily diet of doom and gloom, of a looming crisis: wars of the future will be over water; nearly one-billion people lack access to clean water; river basins are closed so there is no more water to be allocated despite ever-growing demand; aquifers are overdrawn to such an extent that a global food crisis is just around the corner and major cities, such as Bangkok and Mexico, are sinking. And let us not forget about pollution or vector-borne diseases.

The challenges for sustainable water management are massive.

Yet, as shown in this book, there are many positives to be drawn from the southern African experience. Despite abiding conditions of economic underdevelopment and social inequality, people rise to the challenge, oftentimes out of necessity and through self-help, but sometimes through creative coalitions operating at different scales – from the local to the global – and across issue areas – from transboundary governance to urban water supply.

This first volume in the Off-Centre series argues that we must learn to see water and the region differently if we are to meet present challenges and better prepare for an uncertain, climate-changing future.

Larry A. Swatuk is Professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED) at the University of Waterloo, Canada; Extraordinary Professor at the Institute for Water Studies, University of Western Cape, South Africa; and Research Associate, Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC). Prior to joining the University of Waterloo, he was Associate Professor of Natural Resources Governance at the Okavango Research Institute, Maun, Botswana.

Listen to Swatuk’s recent discussion with Marc Montgomery on the “dire” situation of Cape Town’s water crisis here.

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Christi van der Westhuizen, author of Sitting Pretty, on how the rationality between the two settler classes in SA reinforces whiteness

This article first appeared in The Conversation

By Christi van der Westhuizen

Sitting PrettyWhy is it that when the West was turning away from direct colonialism in the mid-20th century, South Africa shifted to apartheid, an intensified form of this heinous system?

One of the answers lies in the country’s history of colonisation by two contending settler classes. The Dutch, or Boer, settler class on the southern most point of Africa was displaced in the 19th century by the arrival of the British.

The Afrikaners – as the descendants of the Boer settlers eventually became known – constructed their identity in opposition to, on the one hand, black identities, and on the other to Anglo whiteness.

The reverberations of the contest between these two settler groups continue even after apartheid, as I argue in my new book Sitting Pretty – White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa.

During apartheid a great deal of work went into justifying the imposition of inequalities on the basis of human differences.

In the end apartheid collapsed due to global opprobrium that was heaped on the Afrikaner government, with both material and symbolic consequences. It tipped Afrikaner identity into turmoil, not least because their sense of themselves as moral beings was radically challenged.

At stake was ordentlikheid, analysed in my book as an ethnicised respectability. Ordentlikheid is an Afrikaans word that is difficult to translate: apart from respectability, its meanings include presentability, good manners, decency, politeness and humility with a Calvinist tenor.

Today it works as a glue that holds the identity together at the intersections of specific versions of gender, sexuality, class and race. Ordentlikheid serves as a mode of identification that works as a panacea to Afrikaner woes as they struggle to cleanse themselves of the stain of apartheid and adapt to changing historical conditions.

Examining “Afrikaner” identity through the lens of ordentlikheid reveals it as a lesser whiteness in relation to white English-speaking South African identity, which in turn draws on global Anglo whiteness.

Continue reading here.

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“If you look at Afrikaner identity, it’s really forged out of the kinds of exclusions that split families” – Christi van der Westhuizen at the launch of Sitting Pretty

Christi van der Westhuizen, Zimitri Erasmus, and a riveted audience. ©Johan Eybers


“Gaan dit goed met jou?”
“Ja, baie goed.”
“Dis [x,y,z], hulle is lieflike mense.”

Ordentlik, nè?

Ironically enough, this conversation was taking place in the courtyard of everyone’s favourite indie bookshop in Joburg, Love Books (and not a kerkbasaar), during the recent launch of academic Christi van der Westhuizen’s Sitting Pretty: White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa, a book which explores the identity of white Afrikaans women through the concepts of ordentlikheid and the volksmoeder.

Love Books played host to Van der Westhuizen, her respondent Zimitri Erasmus – the perennially smiling sociology professor and author of the seminal volume Coloured by History, Shaped by Place – and a noteworthy turnout of bibliophiles.

As Sitting Pretty was published ten years after Van der Westhuizen’s first book, White Power & The Rise and Fall of the National Party, Erasmus was curious to know how her thought process had changed since.

“So much happens in South Africa it’s difficult to recall what happened two months ago,” Van der Westhuizen responded (much to the audience’s delight.) She continued by saying that the National Party collapsed in the mid-2000s – “not with a bang, but with a whimper” – into the African National Congress.

“If you thought of the National Party at the height of its powers in the 1980s, of course it was under pressure, but it was really building its militaristic powers. If somebody had said to you at that stage that it was going to collapse into the ANC, you’d be completely off your head. I mean, you must have been smoking something potent! [Cue appreciative laughter]

Zimitri Erasmus, Kate Rogan, The Audience. ©Christi van der Westhuizen


“What was obscure for me, was that particularly Afrikaners were not dealing with the collapse of the party and this party. And, if you think about it, the NP was pivot in Afrikaner identity for so many decades.

“Of course when people are so absolutely dedicated to looking away from something then I’m always drawn to try and figure out ‘why’? I felt like I still couldn’t get my head around why Afrikaners particularly are so fixated on such a particularly pernicious and offensive set of hierarchies and exclusions, in terms of forming identity.

“If you look at Afrikaner identity it’s really forged out of the kinds of exclusions that split families.”

Van der Westhuizen furthered this statement by adding that identities are always formed through exclusions: “I was interested in why did this one take these kind of forms as opposed to others. As part of that quest I started to change my analysis, into one of post-structuralist discourse analysis. To try and make sense of meaning formations at the subjective level, which basically means looking at discourses, looking at language and trying to make sense of the world around us; how we construct ourselves and our identities through language and the world around us.”

Construction of the self and creating hierarchies (unfortunately) exist in a symbiotic relationship.

“Human beings are very fixated on difference. We use difference to make meaning and frequently to create hierarchies and inequalities. Sitting Pretty sprang from that.

“My particular interest has been in power and how we, as human beings, make power for us and how power can work against us. In social sciences, we tend to focus on the margins … There’s an over-abundance of work on poor, black people – and I’m not saying that we should not try and understand poverty and the intersection with blackness – of course you must – but at the same time these kind of convictions are being constructed from somewhere, you know. That’s why it’s important for me that we look at the centers of power. That’s why I’m interested in where whiteness comes from, intersectionality and middle-classness and I decided to mix it up a little bit and throw women in.” (This last comment was met with appreciate laughter from the crowd…)

“I’m a woman” [ another round of 'haha's!'] “so I thought – just in terms of my own position – it’s also a question to understand the legacy of where I come from; my own sense of a deep familiarity with Afrikaner identity and on the other hand a profound alienation with Afrikaner identity – particularly around its sexual and gender constructions. I’ve never wanted to live up to its prescriptions in those regards.”

Van der Westhuizen’s familiarity and alienation with Afrikaner identity is personified by her grandmother, she disclosed.

Described by Van der Westhuizen as a loving, warm, embracing, affirming figure, her grandmother also believed in the inferiority of black people on the basis of race, and was a field cornet in the proto-fascist Ossewa Brandwag.

“So how do I deal with this contradiction of this woman who I also loved so deeply and was such a wonderful person to me and at the same time – with politics – was absolutely so horrendous? She was, to a large extent, also a patriarchal woman. She was advancing patriarchy through many of her practices. So how to make sense of that, that was also important to me.

“So it wasn’t a question of pointing fingers, I mean I discovered a few things about myself in the writing process…”

Christi in conversation. ©Mila de Villiers

“It is very interesting and powerful to realise the books that really hold your attention, that really hold your heart, are born of something personal-political that the author is wanting to make sense of, and that’s really what I felt reading Sitting Pretty,” Erasmus responded before touching on the next subject – Van der Westhuizen’s decision to open the book with Mandela’s reference to Ingrid Jonker’s poem, ‘The Child Who Was Shot Dead by Soldiers at Nyanga’.

“What are your thoughts of the effects of this particular opening, at this moment when Mandela’s politics are being challenged quite severely in particular circles – especially ones you and I circulate in at universities?”

“It’s particularly noticeable in the university context, so I wondered to what extent people have picked up on this; that there’s a kind of anti-Mandela discourse that has started to circulate,” Van der Westhuizen replied. Judging by her “I see quite a few nodding heads”-remark, it’s clear that audience members are also aware of, and possibly agree with, the anti-Mandela manifestation.

She questioned whether she should intro with Mandela, “given that there’s been a political shift around his significance and his politics. The issues are real – his politics are being questioned; his politics weren’t really transformative. In fact, transformation as a concept is being rejected by this particular position and the position has now been adopted as one of so-called ‘decolonisation’. Mandela’s politics was, in a sense, sell-out politics and Mandela wasn’t in any way a radical – just a really large band-aid to make socioeconomic inequality and injustice continue from the apartheid era to post-apartheid era and, in fact, we’re not in the post-apartheid era, we’re actually still living in apartheid, we’re just calling it something else,” she asserted.

Van der Westhuizen criticised decolonisation for diverting away from Mandela’s original politics which “produced a very strong vision of an alternative South Africa that’s borne on justice and equality.” She also spoke out against the lack of alternative political visions. “What I have seen is essentialisation of race, a lot of homogenisation of blackness and whiteness.”

After a healthy bout of inner turmoil, she decided to stick with Mandela.

“At the end of the day, yes, he was an African nationalist and I abhor nationalism of any kind, particularly because of my close encounter with other forms of nationalism. At the same time he gave us a very powerful vision; a radical vision, a vision of inclusion. A vision to try and see if we can actually dare to try and establish justice in our country on every level.”

Casual product placement… ©Mila de Villiers


Given the preconceived notion that Afrikaner women should subscribe to a certain ethic of respectability (“ordentlikheid”), Erasmus mentioned how ordentlikheid is one of the threads that runs through Sitting Pretty.

“Talk to us more about this specific relationship between ordentlikheid, white English speaking South Africaness and blackness.”

“I was trying to get some kind of configuration that could capture the identity that I’m talking about,” Van der Westhuizen responded, “and interestingly a lot of Afrikaners are not identifying as ‘Afrikaners’ anymore.”

According to Van der Westhuizen “Identifying as an Afrikaner does not indicate whether someone is reactionary or radical. People who don’t identify as Afrikaners can either have radical or reactionary politics in terms of race, gender and sexuality. Paradoxically the same is true for those who identify as Afrikaners.

“It’s a mixed bag. ‘Afrikaner’ becomes almost useless in trying to capture the identity we’re talking about.

Ordentlikheid is the word that finally came up for me; it’s an intersection where a particular ethnic idea of sexuality, gender, class and race takes shape.”

Ordentlikheid manifests via particular ideas about politeness, decency and respectability, Van der Westhuizen continued.

“It’s achieved through adopting very particular gender or race or class or sexual positions. Identity is always approached; we feel like we have very stable identities, but actually we’re constructing our identities all the time. We’re making it up as we go along and we’re using these categories of difference to do that.

Ordentlikheid, in a sense, is the permeation this particular identity takes.”

Afrikaner identity tries to set itself apart from other identities, as shaped by the frontier – the cause of our colonial apartheid history.

“The primary frontier in terms of the relationship with other identities is still race. Afrikaners – or white, Afrikaans people – want to set themselves apart from black people. People are still racialised as ‘black’, which is erroneous because we know it’s all social constructions. They also want to set themselves apart from white, English-speaking South Africans.”

Van der Westhuizen commented on the political project in the early 20th century, stating that “it was all about sharing the spoils of whiteness. A very overbearing identity came with British imperialism.” Anglo-Whiteness was entrenching itself in South Africa, painting the Dutch/Boer settlers in unflattering lights, she explained. ‘Whiteness’, as constructed by the British, was adopted as the standard against which civilisation was measured.

The Boers, as a people, were dehumanised, described by Kitchener as ‘savages with a thin, white veneer’.

“So you have the Afrikaner identity constructed in opposition to this overbearing British whiteness that arrived,” Van der Westhuizen said, interrupting herself mid-sentence as she commented on an audience member’s physical response to her statement.

“I see Sheila is shaking her head vigorously.”

“Nodding!” The one and only Sheila protested, which caused to crowd to crack up, made all the funnier when Van der Westhuizen enquired whether she was nodding in an affirmative kind of way and replying ‘Viva’ to Sheila’s ‘Yes’.

Alle grappies op ‘n stokkie.

“We’re being positioned in a very particular way in relation to Anglo Whiteness and this emerging group wanting to share in almost all its whiteness. You want to differentiate yourself from Englishness, particular ethic permutations and ultimately sexuality and gender then become quite important. Sexual/gender relations are used to create this form of ethnic whiteness. In terms of black people, I found a series of discourses that sort of divide black people into categories.

“Dichotomies are created. Basically, good black people are black people that exonerate white people of all the injustices of the past.”

Ja, that’s part of the book that’s really gripping,” Erasmus responded. “So you need to get there!” she urged the audience.

“Just a sort question,” Erasmus serenely went on, “the term ‘Afrikaner’ – I don’t know where I get this from, but I understood that from about the mid-90s there was a shift to something called ‘Afrikaanse’. “I’m not an Afrikaner, but I’m Afrikaans-speaking person”. Is that distinction still there?”

“That speaks to the stigma that’s attached to Afrikaner identity,” Van der Westhuizen said.

“The reason why so many people don’t want to claim Afrikaner identity anymore is because of the stigma of apartheid, so apartheid has spoiled the identity; it speaks to question of ordentlikheid. The work that’s being done after apartheid is to try and establish the ordentlikheid of the identity, because apartheid is like a massive stain that you just can’t scrub out; the identity is trying to get rid of it. The Afrikaanse – I’m very careful about that because I do feel that that seems to be like a political project that tries to expand the ranks of the people who used to be called Afrikaners, to buttress them and plump up their numbers; and at the same time to make them politically more viable a force.

“There are certain racialisations that are still in operation … I feel that Afrikaners need to do a lot more work in terms of racial identities over the 20th century. We haven’t done that work sufficiently in any way whatsoever,” Van der Westhuizen emphatically asserted.

Van der Westhuizen and author William Mervin Gumede. ©Johan Eybers


Erasmus’s next query targeted a persistently problematic phenomenon – that of the women’s magazine. Sarie, to be precise. (Which Erasmus assured the audience she DOESN’T read – “Just admit it, you’re a closet Sarie reader!” Van der Westhuizen retorted.)

“I found it really interesting to learn that the majority of the columnists for Sarie are men,” Erasmus said, to the amusement of the audience. “I thought ‘what?!’ So, is it unusual?”

“Well, I didn’t do a comparative analysis with other women’s magazines,” Van der Westhuizen diplomatically replied, “but it did strike me that the majority of columnists were men. Even the last column of the magazine, called ‘Laaste Sê’, and that was written by a dominee,” [cue raucous laughter] “with the name of Izak de Villiers, who in his day used to be the editor of the magazine.

“In a sense it really symbolised how the femininity that Sarie constructs is basically surveilled and regulated by this patriarchal overseer. I was compelled to write a chapter just drawing on what my respondents were saying about men and Afrikaner masculinity. You have the volksmoeder who calls certain shots and then you have a patriarchal overseer. Some of the magazine illustrates it really well. You do have the male figure in women’s magazines but usually much more hidden; in Sarie magazine it’s this pan-optical male but he’s not invisiblised, he’s actually very visible. You could see him on their pages and he’s restricting discourse and he’s allowing you to only go *this* far because we want you to live up to white western hetero-femininity and to actualise white western hetero-femininity and at the same time you’re still our women and you need to know your place.” (This was followed by murmurs of agreement from the audience…)

“That I find really fascinating; it makes me want to buy women’s magazines. Because I see all the men here! What are they doing?” Erasmus laughed.

Van der Westhuizen demonstrated the pan-optical patriarchy present in Sarie via the performer and public figure, Nataniël, who is closely associated with Sarie the brand, and, inherently, as a brand himself.

“What’s interesting with the role that Nataniël plays in the magazine, is that he’s a gay male but he’s not identified as such in the discourse – he has to sanitise his sexuality; he’s there to advise on decor and food … he’s your best little friend on who’s shoulder you can cry. He’s a desexualised figure. He actually brought out a notebook with an inscription from him – allegedly, because Sarie makes up this stuff – “you can’t make yourself feel better if you don’t make other people feel better”. And that’s the femininity – it can only actualise itself in so far as it can service to the others around it and those others must be white.”

Speaking of whiteness…

“You write about aspirational disposition among middle-class Afrikaners toward what you call a ‘global Anglo whiteness’,” Erasmus said. “Does the Netherlands any time, or today, have a place at all in these aspirations to what you also write about as a kind of western universalism? Does the Netherlands have any place there? I’m interested in that question, partly because of my own connection to Holland [Erasmus completed her PhD at the University of Nijmegen] and partly because of my experience of what is called the Afrikaner aristocracy in the western cape.”

“I think there was a strong connection to the Netherlands up until a certain point in the 20th century, because it’s the so-called stamland, the primary country from which settlers arrived. I think the break came with the anti-apartheid movement when there was a strong sense of a humiliation by European whiteness and I think global whiteness in general. Afrikaner whiteness was suddenly not acceptable anymore.

“Our racial practices here – which carried a certain kind of support from the west – started to crumble and Afrikaners are confronted with their racial project being morally and ethically unsustainable and despicable. The Netherlands had a very strong anti-apartheid movement, so that caused quite a break with the Afrikaner nationalist class. At the same time, the white English-speaking South Africans here (or WESAS) like to operate.” The laughter elicited by Van der Westhuizen’s proclamation of ‘WESAS’ – pronounced weh-zas – was a clear indicator of the audience’s familiarity with this, um, particular kind of South African…

The (seated) author signing copies of Sitting Pretty. ©Johan Eybers

As a Joburg summer thunderstorm raged outside, the audience posed their Q’s and Van der Westhuizen provided them with A’s, before the crowd started to disperse – either to have their books signed, or to capitalise on one of the (many) highlights of a book launch – good ol’ mahala vino.


Sitting Pretty

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UKZN Press introduces ‘Off-Centre’ – a book series focused on the social, political & cultural life of SA and southern Africa

OFF-CENTRE is a book series focused on the social, political and cultural life of South Africa and the southern African region. The series offers new perspectives on issues of public interest and concern. Written in a deliberately accessible style, each book presents an engaging and informative read for specialist and lay-person alike, utilising the best of academic scholarship to challenge and correct conventional wisdoms. So far, two volumes have been published. The third volume will be published in 2018.

Volume 1: Water in Southern Africa by Larry A. Swatuk
Volume 2: Jan Smuts and the Indian Question

Water in Southern AfricaWater in Southern Africa
Larry Swatuk

When it comes to water, we are fed a daily diet of doom and gloom, of a looming crisis: wars of the future will be over water; nearly one-billion people lack access to clean water; river basins are closed so there is no more water to be allocated despite ever-growing demand; aquifers are overdrawn to such an extent that a global food crisis is just around the corner and major cities, such as Bangkok and Mexico, are sinking. And let us not forget about pollution or vector-borne diseases.

The challenges for sustainable water management are massive. Yet, as shown in this book, there are many positives to be drawn from the southern African experience. Despite abiding conditions of economic underdevelopment and social inequality, people rise to the challenge, oftentimes out of necessity and through self-help, but sometimes through creative coalitions operating at different scales – from the local to the global – and across issue areas – from transboundary governance to urban water supply. This first volume in the Off-Centre series argues that we must learn to see water and the region differently if we are to meet present challenges and better prepare for an uncertain, climate-changing future.

Larry A. Swatuk is Professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED) at the University of Waterloo, Canada; Extraordinary Professor at the Institute for Water Studies, University of Western Cape, South Africa; and Research Associate, Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC). Prior to joining the University of Waterloo, he was Associate Professor of Natural Resources Governance at the Okavango Research Institute, Maun, Botswana.

Jan Smuts and the Indian QuestionJan Smuts and the Indian Question
Vineet Thakur

As the only surviving statesman of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Jan Smuts arrived for the first session of the United Nations in New York in 1946 to celebratory chants. His departure, a month and a half later, was terrifyingly dissimilar. The ‘counsellor of nations’ left a dejected man, with his honour, power and glory severely dented.

The tragedy that befell Smuts’ international swansong was an Indian delegation, which, as Smuts bemoaned, used his own words against himself and showed him to be a hypocrite. This was eerily similar to a diplomatic onslaught Smuts had faced between 1917 and 1923 at the hands of another set of little-known Indian diplomats. Through these episodic histories, this book chronicles the ambivalent cosmopolitanism of Jan Smuts.
Vineet Thakur is an assistant professor of International Relations at Leiden University, the Netherlands. He holds a doctorate from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, and has taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and Ambedkar University Delhi. He was also previously a postdoctoral fellow at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study, University of Johannesburg.

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Watch: Daniel Magaziner discusses The Art of Life in South Africa on SABC 2 Morning Live

From 1952 to 1981, South Africa’s apartheid government ran a school for the training of African art teachers at Indaleni, in what is today KwaZulu-Natal. The Art of Life in South Africa is about the students, teachers, art, ideas, and politics that led to the school’s founding, and which circulated during the years of its existence at a remote former mission station. It is a story of creativity, beauty, and community in twentieth-century South Africa.

Daniel Magaziner radically reframes apartheid-era South African history. Against the dominant narrative of apartheid oppression and black resistance, this book focuses instead on a small group’s efforts to fashion more fulfilling lives through the ironic medium of an apartheid-era school. Lushly illustrated with almost 100 images, this book gives us fully formed lives and remarkable insights into life under segregation and apartheid.

Daniel Magaziner is associate professor of history at Yale University. He is the author of The Law and the Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968–1977.

‘A richly suggestive and moving contribution to South African intellectual history.’
- Achille Mbembe, author of Critique of Black Reason

‘This book is as important for students of global modernism as it is for scholars of South African art, history, and politics.’
- Tamar Garb, author of Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography

‘A profoundly human story of the institutional and social constraints under which African artists operated and the different ways they sought to produce beauty in the midst of oppression.’
- Frederick Cooper, author of Africa in the World: Capitalism, Empire, Nation-State

‘A meditation on what happens if we examine a past that is shaped by broader historical forces (in this case apartheid) but that cannot be reduced to them.’
- Clifton Crais, coeditor of The South Africa Reader: History, Culture, Politics

Here Daniel discusses his remarkable book on SABC2:


The Art of Life in South Africa

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Hostels in South Africa examines the transformation of Durban’s KwaMashu Hostel from a single-sex men’s hostel to family accommodation in community residential units

Hostels in South AfricaThis book is about the transformation of KwaMashu Hostel in Durban in the twenty-first century – from a single-sex men’s hostel to family accommodation in community residential units.

It presents the continuities and discontinuities that take place as hostel-dwellers grapple with everyday livelihood struggles.

The broader South African labour market does not make it easy for rural-urban migrants, who continue to make the same journeys their grandfathers, fathers and uncles, and later their grandmothers, mothers and aunts took, in search of employment opportunities, although the context for these journeys has changed immeasurably.

Hostels in South Africa engages with challenges and triumphs of hostel-dwellers, as they both resist and embrace the process of transformation, the clashes between men and women and across generations, and feelings of nostalgia for the past.

Because the author spent time living at KwaMashu Hostel during the two years of her fieldwork, this book presents an intimate view of hostels from the inside.
Nomkhosi Xulu Gama is a researcher at the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology and a senior lecturer in General Education. Her main interests are in formerly single-sex workers’ hostels, rural-urban connections, and gender and livelihoods. She is a Fulbright Scholar and is currently the deputy chairperson for the South African Sociological Association.

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Three book discussions to attend at the Hilton Arts Festival

Emperor Shaka the Great: A Zulu Epic
Mazisi Kunene

Mazisi Kunene is the much-celebrated author of epics, such as Emperor Shaka the Great (UNodumehlezi KaMenzi) and Anthem of the Decades (Inhlokomo Yeminyaka), as well as numerous poems, short stories, nursery rhymes and proverbs that amount to a collection of more than 10 000 works.

He was born in aMahlongwa in 1930, a small rural village on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Notwithstanding his cultural duties as a young man born into Zulu tradition, his calling as an imbongi was taken very seriously by his father and grandfather who encouraged him to write. Professor Kunene described this ‘calling’ to write as ‘something [that] is not me, it is the power that rides me like a horse’.

Kunene lectured widely and was Professor in African Literature at Stanford University and in African Literature and Languages at the University of California, Los Angeles. On his return to South Africa, he was Professor in African Languages at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

He went into exile in the 1960s for more than 34 years, during which time he established and managed the African National Congress office in London and later moved to Los Angeles with his family to pursue his academic career. In UNodumehlezi KaMenzi (Emperor Shaka the Great), which he wrote during this exile period, he positions Shaka as a legendary thinker, who had great skill as a strategic and military genius.

This vision acknowledges and re-imagines Shaka as a unifying cultural and political force that defined the cohesive Zulu nation. Kunene projects Shaka into the mythical ancestral universe that affirms the deep cultural lineage of the African world view.

This reprinted English edition is published with the isiZulu edition on the tenth anniversary of his death, embracing Kunene’s original dream to have his work published as intended in the original isiZulu form.

The symbolic and cultural significance of these publications begins a process of re-evaluating and recontextualising Kunene’s writing oeuvre.

Follow Page_11 from Hilton Fest Programme Low Res for more on Kunene’s session.

Isishweshwe: A History of the Indigenisation of Blueprint in South Africa
Juliette Leeb-du Toit

The cross-cultural usage of a particular cloth type – blueprint – is central to South African cultural history.

Known locally as seshoeshoe or isishweshwe, among many other localised names, South African blueprint originated in the Far East and East Asia.

Adapted and absorbed by the West, blueprint in Africa was originally associated with trade, coercion, colonisation, Westernisation, religious conversion and even slavery, but residing within its hues and patterns was a resonance that endured.

The cloth came to reflect histories of hardship, courage and survival, but it also conveyed the taste and aesthetic predilections of its users, preferences often shared across racial and cultural divides.

In its indigenisation, isishweshwe has subverted its former history and alien origins and has come to reflect the authority of its users and their culture, conveying resilience, innovation and adaptation and above all a distinctive South Africanness.

In this beautifully illustrated book Juliette Leeb-du Toit traces the origins of the cloth, its early usage and cultural adaptations, and its emerging regional, cultural and aesthetic significance.

In examining its usage and current national significance, she highlights some of the salient features associated with histories of indigenisation.

An art historian who has a particular interest in African and South African art, Juliette Leeb-du Toit has also had a lifelong interest in design and textiles. She is currently engaged in the recovery of modernisms in design history, the impact of German modernism in South Africa and the impact of China on the arts in South Africa.

Follow Page 12 from Hilton Fest Programme Low Res-3 for more information.

Untitled: Securing Land Tenure in Urban and Rural South Africa
Edited by Donna Hornby, Rosalie Kingwill, Lauren Royston, Ben Cousins

A title deed = tenure security. Or does it?

This book challenges this simple equation and its apparently self-evident assumptions. It argues that two very different property paradigms characterise South Africa.

The first is the dominant paradigm of private property, referred to as an ‘edifice’, against which all other property regimes are measured and ranked. However, the majority of South Africans gain access to land and housing through very different processes, which this book calls social or off-register tenures. These tenures are poorly understood, a gap Untitled aims to address.

The book reveals that ‘informal’ and customary property systems can be well organised, often providing substantial tenure security, but lack official recognition and support. This makes them difficult to service and vulnerable to elite capture.

Policy interventions usually aim to formalise these arrangements by issuing title deeds. The case studies in this book, which span both rural and urban contexts in South Africa, examine these interventions and the unintended consequences they often give rise to. Interventions based on an understanding of locally embedded property relations are more likely to succeed than those that attempt to transform them into registered tenures. However, emerging practices hit intractable obstacles associated with the ‘edifice’, which only a substantial transformation of the legal paradigms can overcome.

Donna Hornby is an independent critical researcher for non-governmental organisations on rural land, tenure and agricultural issues.
Rosalie Kingwill is an independent policy and academic researcher specialising in land tenure and property rights.
Lauren Royston is a development planner and researcher who works on tenure security in southern Africa with a range of organisations.
Ben Cousins holds a DST/NRF chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of the Western Cape.

Follow Page 13 from Hilton Fest Programme Low Res-2 for the details on their conversation.

Emperor Shaka the Great

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  • Untitled: Securing Land Tenure in Urban and Rural South Africa edited by Donna Hornby, Rosalie Kingwill, Lauren Royston, Ben Cousins
    EAN: 9781869143503
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Sitting Pretty explores the postapartheid identity of white Afrikaans women through the concepts of ordentlikheid and the volksmoeder

At the opening of South Africa’s first democratic parliament in 1994, newly elected president Nelson Mandela issued a clarion call to an unlikely group: white Afrikaans women, who during apartheid straddled the ambivalent position of being simultaneously oppressor and oppressed.

He conjured the memory of poet Ingrid Jonker as ‘both an Afrikaner and an African’ who ‘instructs that our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child’. More than two decades later, the question is: how have white Afrikaans women responded to the liberating possibilities of constitutional democracy?

With Afrikaner nationalism in disrepair, and official apartheid in demise, have they re-imagined themselves in opposition to colonial ideas of race, gender, sexuality and class?

This book explores this postapartheid identity through the concepts of ordentlikheid, as an ethnic form of respectability, and the volksmoeder, or mother of the nation, as enduring icon.
Christi van der Westhuizen is associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pretoria.

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