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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

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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Yves Vanderhaeghen’s Afrikaner Identity looks at the role that media plays in the construction and demarcation of boundaries and culture

What have we done?’ is a plea heard amid the wreckage of Afrikanerdom.

‘Afrikaner’ in South African public discourse is more often than not a swear word.

This close media study considers how, squeezed in the moral vice of past and present, Afrikaners look in a mirror that reflects only a beautiful people.

It is an image of upstanding, hard-working citizens.

To hold on to that image requires blinkers, sleights of hand and contortion.

Above all, it requires an inversion of the liberation narrative in which the wretched of South Africa are the historical oppressors, besieged in their language, their homes, their jobs.

They are the new ‘grievables’, an identity that requires intricate moral manoeuvres, and elision as much of the past as of transformation.
Yves Vanderhaeghen is a journalist who grew up in Pretoria, took time out from newspapers to write his PhD on Afrikaner ‘self-othering’ in Beeld newspaper, and is now editor of the Witness in Pietermaritzburg.

‘Central to the book’s original contribution is the notion of “self-othering”, namely the discursive switch present in Afrikaans media that turns perpetrators into victims in an attempt to dislodge the historical burden of collective guilt and assume a new identity of marginalisation – thereby activating a discourse of minority rights and the need for cultural protection. This is a significant, authentic insight that the author goes on to support through empirical analysis of newspaper reports.’ — Herman Wasserman, professor of Media Studies and director of the Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town

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Zimbabwe’s Predatory State slices incisively into the intricately meshed networks of Zimbabwe’s ruling party and military apparatuses, writes David Moore

By the dawn of independence in 1980, Zimbabwe had one of the most structurally developed economies and state systems in Africa and was classified as a middle-income country.

In 1980, Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita was almost equal to that of China. More than 30 years later, Zimbabwe had regressed to a low-income country with a GDP per capita among the lowest in the world. With these dark economic conditions, discussions concerning structural problems of a country once cited as Africa’s best potential are reignited.

Shumba interrogates the ruling elite political reproduction, modes of accumulation across key economic sectors and implications for development outcomes.

The book raises some pressing questions in search of answers.

If Zimbabwe was the golden darling after independence, why did this happen? Was it inevitable? What were the crucial choices made that led to it? Did the ruling elite know that their choices would lead to Zimbabwe’s developmental decline?
Jabusile Shumba is a development and public policy graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand. He co-edited Zimbabwe: Mired in Transition (2012). He works with civil society, governments and international organisations in the fields of public policy analysis, governance and human rights, and he lectures part-time for Africa University, College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance.

David Moore recently wrote an op-ed piece for the Daily Maverick, discussing the future of a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, with reference to Zimbabwe’s Predatory State:

The story of the Zimbabwean coup (which was of course a con) is now well-known. Power-crazed First Lady and her ersatz and erstwhile Generation-40 gang persuade her husband to fire vice-president. He rallies the troops while hiding away and travelling somewhere/everywhere (how: by email and WhatsApp?).

His army comrades – led by a man with an Italianised name and an Ethics Phd from a Pietermaritzburg college – take a few days to persuade/force the long dithering and quickly deteriorating 93-year-old head of party-state to give up. Thousands are in the streets urging the military on. “The Crocodile” – born-again, of course – swims home across the river praising the “father” just deposed to protect him from his disgraceful enemies. On his neatly prepared inaugural, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promises to revive the economy in a Paul Kagame-Deng Xiaoping sort of way, if everyone works hard.

Meanwhile, all the new and faded superpowers are co-operating to help a revitalised finance minister revive an economy that would have died (and still might) by the New Year. They are hurriedly blending all the lessons learnt from decades of floundering Washington, Beijing, Kigali and Fast-Track Land Reform/Command Economy consensuses. Promises of compensation for the white farmers who lost their land flow like milk and honey. Elections? Sure thing: we have them sewn up anyway.

So it will all be fine soon, right? Corruption will be a distant memory. The diaspora will fly or bus back, perhaps encouraged by a UNDP fund for once-exiled technocrats. The currency will peg to regional norms. Zimbabwe will recover its “second most industrialised in Africa” status, raising socio-economic and civil rights to their status at the morrow of freedom. The brutal years of Gukurahundi will be forgiven albeit never forgotten. “Western” donors’ dilemmas over whether to support liberal democrats or desperate dictators will have been solved by this soupçon coup while their hard-nosed investors will flock to the diamonds, gold, platinum, and tobacco and maize in Zimbabwe’s hinterlands. This could be the “democratic developmental state” over which consultants and World Bankers have been drooling for decades. 1

If you read Jabusile Shumba’s Zimbabwe’s Predatory State: Party, Military and Business, out next month from the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, you will be convinced otherwise.

Continue reading Moore’s piece here.

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Listen – Nomkhosi Xulu Gama discusses Hostels in South Africa: Spaces of Perplexity on Kaya FM

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.

Gama recently discussed this significant work with Mike Siluma on Kaya FM. Listen to their conversation here:

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Watch: Christi van der Westhuizen discusses Sitting Pretty on SABC Morning Live

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.

Van der Westhuizen recently discussed her necessary, thought-provoking book on SABC Morning Live. Watch the full interview here:

Sitting Pretty

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Tribing and Untribing the Archive selected as one of Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles

UKZN Press congratulates Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer on the selection of Tribing and Untribing the Archive as one of the “Choice 2017 Outstanding Academic Titles”.

The Outstanding Academic Titles from Choice are the best of the best. It is a prestigious list that reflects the best in scholarly titles reviewed by Choice. Only a select group of publishers and authors are represented on such a list. The full list was publicly released & published in the January 2018 issue of Choice.

Choice, a journal which provides book reviews for academic libraries, has picked Tribing and Untribing the Archive (Set, Vols. 1 & 2), edited by Carolyn Hamilton and Nessa Leibhammer, for the 2017 Outstanding Academic Title (OATs) list.

This year’s OATs list features 504 titles out of approximately 6,000 works reviewed last year. The titles are selected for their excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contribution to the field, and their value as important treatment of their subject.


“This seminal collection provides rare insight into issues of identity, ethnicity, self-expression, and performance (material culture) from the pre- to postcolonial period in South Africa.”

The “volumes provide unique and local representations of self from mostly South African authors about South Africa today and in the past”.

Included in this title are “colorful photographs of contemporary South African artwork and rare historic photographs of ethnic communities from the precolonial period” which will allow readers to “better understand the complexities of culture and material culture in the region”.

“These voices demand representation in libraries and universities in the USA. Essential. All academic levels/libraries”.

–Choice, Vol. 55, No. 1, September 2017

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“I try to make history relatable – to humanise it”: Zakes Mda on his writing

By Michelle Gouws, for STIAS

Zakes Mda during his seminar presentation on 1 February 2018. ©Christoff Pauw

“My mission is to tell a good story. If I don’t make my characters human – the story will fail,” said Zakes Mda.

Mda is currently Artist-in-Residence at STIAS where he is finalising his latest work The Zulus of New York, a historical novel set in KwaZulu, the Cape of Good Hope, London, New York and at a Jieng village in South Sudan between 1878 and 1895. Celebrated author Mda, who is Professor Emeritus of English at Ohio University, outlined the plot of the novel, the historical events underlying it, analysed the role of historical fiction and explained some of his writing process to STIAS fellows. He also treated them to a reading from the novel.

He aimed to answer the question of why we need historical fiction when history has already told us the story.

“I write about the past to discuss the present,” he said. “I write historical fiction to tame the past and foist order on it.”

He described historical fiction is an effective tool for interrogating and challenging historical narrative, and moving those previously marginalised from the periphery to the centre.

“I try to make history relatable – to humanise it,” he said. “The historical record states but fiction demonstrates. History tells us what happened while historical fiction demonstrates what it was like to be in what happened. It takes us inside history into the interiorities of the players – both historical and fictional. We can only sympathise with those whose story we know.”

He pointed out that neither journalism nor the historical record is completely objective about contemporary events. “It’s one perspective. And it brings baggage and values in selection. History represents the dominant discourse and creates a narrative that legitimises the ruling elite. I try to use my fiction to address this situation.”

“There are two possible approaches – to rewrite the past or to reinvent the past,” he added.

“I like to make it clear what is history and what is imagination. My novels are set in a historical period but are driven by fictional characters whose fate is not necessarily determined by history. They have agency and psychological motivation but are influenced by events in the historical record. I place characters in the context of history but their actions are their own.”

In The Zulus of New York Mda tells the story of a group of Zulus who were imported to England and later the United States in the 1880S by William Leonard Hunt, also known as The Great Farini, to perform as ‘human curiosities’ or ‘freak shows’ in his popular circus.

Continue reading here.

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Joint launch: Sitting Pretty & Blackwashing Homophobia (15 Feb)

Event Details

  • Date: Thursday, 15 February 2018
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Ike’s Books & Collectables, 234 4th Road, Durban Central, Durban | Map
  • RSVP: Cedric Sissing,
    Sitting Pretty

    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.

    Blackwashing Homophobia

    As lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex identities increasingly secure legal recognition across the globe, these formal equality gains are contradicted by the continued presence of violence. Such violence emerges as a political pressure point for contestations of identity and power within wider systems of global and local inequality. Discourses of homophobia-related violence constitute subjectivities that enact violence and that are rendered vulnerable to it, as well as shaping political possibilities to act against violence.

    Blackwashing Homophobia critiques prevailing discourses through which violence and its queer targets are normatively understood, exploring the knowledge regimes in which multiple forms of othering are both reproduced and/or resisted. This book draws on primary research on lesbian subjectivity and violence in South Africa examining the intersections of sexual, gender, race and class identities, and the contemporary politics of violence in a postcolonial context:

    • What are the contending ways of knowing queers and the violence they face?

    • How are the causes, characters, consequence of, and ‘cures’ for, violence constructed through such knowledges and what are their power effects?

    The book explores these questions and their implications for how violence, as an instrument of power, might be countered.

    Blackwashing Homophobia is a timely intervention for theorising the discourse of homophobia-related violence and what it reveals and conceals, enables and hinders, in relation to queer identities and political imaginaries in times of violence. The book’s interdisciplinary approach to the topic will appeal to social and political scientists, philosophers and psychology professionals, as well as to advanced psychology undergraduates and postgraduates alike.

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Launch: Justify the Enemy by Zakes Mda (13 February)

Justify the Enemy is a collection of non-fiction by the prolific author Zakes Mda. It showcases his role as a public intellectual with the inclusion of public lectures, essays and media articles. Mda focuses on South Africa’s history and the present, identity and belonging, the art of writing, human rights, global warming and why he is unable to keep silent on abuses of power.

Some of his best-known novels include Ways of Dying (1995, MNet Book Prize); The Heart of Redness (2000, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize: Africa, and Sunday Times Fiction Prize); The Madonna of Excelsior (2002, one of the Top Ten South African books published in the Decade of Democracy); The Whale Caller (2005); Cion (2007); Black Diamond (2009); The Sculptors of Mapungubwe (2013); Rachel’s Blue (2014); and Little Suns (2015, Sunday Times Literary Award).

Zakes Mda was born in Herschel in the Eastern Cape in 1948 and studied in South Africa, Lesotho and the United States. He wrote his first short story at the age of fifteen and has since won major South African and British literary awards for his novels and plays. His writing has been translated into twenty languages. Mda is a professor of Creative Writing at Ohio University.

J.U. Jacobs is an emeritus professor and senior research associate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is the co-editor of Ways of Writing: Critical Essays on Zakes Mda (2009) and author of Diaspora and Identity in South African Fiction (2016).

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Lees: Christi van der Westhuizen bespreek Sitting Pretty met Naomi Meyer

Christi van der Westhuizen se mees onlangse boek, Sitting Pretty: White Afrikaans Women in Postapartheid South Africa is pas deur UKZN Press uitgegee. Dié merkwaardige boek ondersoek onder meer identiteit, die konsep van ordentlikheid, en die Afrikaner. Lees Naomi Meyer se LitNet-onderhoud met Christi hier:

Christi, baie geluk met Sitting pretty. Ek het ’n onlangse kykNET-gesprek tussen jou, Kabous Meiring en Deborah Steinmair hieroor gesien en wil afskop met: Waarom het jy hierdie boek geskryf? Vertel my hiervan, en vertel my asseblief ook van jou ouma.

My vorige boek, White power & the rise and fall of the National Party, het vraagstukke oor ras, klas, politiek en ekonomie op die makrovlak getakel. Met die skryf daarvan het nuwe vrae by my ontstaan oor die vorming van identiteit, oftewel subjektiwiteit. Hoekom heg ons onsself aan onderdrukkende sosiale kategorieë soos ras, klas, geslag en seksualiteit? Ek wou sin maak van die kwessie binne my eie konteks van apartheid en Afrikaner-nasionalisme.

In my familie is ek grootgemaak deur sterk vroue wat in mindere of meerdere mate Afrikaner-nasionalisties was. My een ouma (gebore Viljoen en getroud met ’n Erasmus) was ’n veldkornet in die Ossewa-Brandwag. Daarteenoor het haar dogter – my ma – reeds in die ’70’s apartheid as stelsel al meer begin bevraagteken en dit uiteindelik teen die vroeë ’80’s verwerp as onmenslik.

Dit is die nalatenskap waaruit ek kom, en dit is belangrik vir my om dit te verstaan. Hoeveel agentskap het hulle gehad en hoeveel het ek? Kan ons as mense ’n meer etiese wêreld skep, of is ons oorgelewer aan ons omstandighede?

In die Prontuit-gesprek het jy gesê dat jy as Afrikaner identifiseer. Wat beteken dit vir jou?

My identifisering as Afrikaner is ’n etiese besluit, en wel om twee redes.

Die eerste is dat ek binne ’n Afrikaner-nasionalistiese konteks grootgemaak is, met al die gepaardgaande regverdigings van rasse-, geslags- en ander hiërargieë, en met die bevoordeling wat apartheid vir veral wit Afrikaanssprekende mense teweeggebring het. Deur steeds as Afrikaner te identifiseer, erken ek my verlede en die voordele wat ek daaruit getrek het. Dit maak dit vir my moontlik om nie net krities nie, maar ook selfreflektief met daardie geskiedenis en die voortslepende effekte daarvan om te gaan, ook vir my persoonlik.

Die tweede rede is dat ek binne daardie konteks positiewe persoonlike belewenisse gehad het, en dat daar menslik-bevestigende waardes met my gedeel is wat, paradoksaal, uiteindelik ook my kritiese posisie moontlik gemaak het. Deur as Afrikaner te identifiseer, erken ek hierdie emosionele en intellektuele bande, asook die bron van my etiese ingesteldheid van ontleding en selfkritiek.

’n Woord wat oor en oor genoem word: “ordentlikheid”. The done thing. Om iets in stand te hou, nie die bootjie te skommel nie, of ongemak te veroorsaak nie. Praat ons van vroue wat by mans langs die vuur gaan staan in plaas van slaai maak in die kombuis? Of deurtrek dit die samelewing, is dit méér as dit? En tog: soms kan mens nie anders as om binne ’n stelsel te funksioneer nie – dis tog orals. As die land se geldeenheid die rand is, kan mens nie betaal met die eenheid van jou keuse nie. Help my asseblief om die term te verstaan.

In my studie het ek gevind dat sommige wit Afrikaanssprekende mense nie meer as “Afrikaners” identifiseer nie. Ek moes ’n ander begrip vind om die identiteit te beskryf. Ordentlikheid is daardie begrip, omdat dit die verskillende dimensies van die identiteit die beste vasvat. Dit spreek tot ’n aspirasie om ’n sekere respektabelheid te verwesenlik deur ’n spesifieke stel reëls oor ras, klas, geslag en seksualiteit na te volg.

Om as ’n Afrikaanssprekende wit vrou “ordentlik” te wees, moet ’n mens jou na ’n spesifieke klasgegronde vorm van wit patriargale heteroseksualiteit skik. Jou gedrag word gepolisieer met idees oor beleefdheid en goeie maniere. As jy nie aan die vasgestelde norme voldoen nie, loop jy die risiko van stigmatisering, marginalisering en uitsluiting. Maar daar is ook ’n dissidente vorm van ordentlikheid onder wit Afrikaanssprekendes wat, met ’n etiese oogmerk, ras- en geslagshiërargieë verwerp en aktief daarteen werk, soos in my boek beskryf.

’n Mens kan sê dat die verdeling van Afrikaanssprekendes in twee groepe op grond van ras in die 20ste eeu ’n grootskaalse en eerste proses van stigmatisering, marginalisering en uitsluiting was. Dit het gedemonstreer dat om ordentlik te wees, jy wit moet wees. Bruin Afrikaanssprekendes het ordentlikheid uiteraard anders gedefinieer, soos deur die antropoloog Elaine Salo beskryf.

Klik hier om verder te lees.


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