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History > African History > Southern Africa

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Epidemics Cover

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Epidemics

The Story of South Africa's Five Most Lethal Human Diseases

Howard Phillips

This is the first history of epidemics in South Africa, lethal episodes that significantly shaped this society over three centuries. Focusing on five devastating diseases between 1713 and today—smallpox, bubonic plague, “Spanish influenza,” polio, and HIV/AIDS—the book probes their origins, their catastrophic courses, and their consequences in both the short and long terms. The impacts of these epidemics ranged from the demographic—the “Spanish flu,” for instance, claimed the lives of 6 percent of the country’s population in six weeks—to the political, the social, the economic, the spiritual, the psychological, and the cultural. Moreover, as each of these epidemics occurred at crucial moments in the country’s history—such as during the South African War and World War I—the book also examines how these processes affected and were affected by the five epidemics. To those who read this book, history will not look the same again.

Faku Cover

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Faku

Rulership and Colonialism in the Mpondo Kingdom (c. 1780-1867)

From roughly 1818 to 1867, Faku was ruler of the Mpondo Kingdom located in what is now the north-east section of the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Because of Faku’s legacy, the Mpondo Kingdom became the last African state in Southern Africa to fall under colonial rule.

When his father died, Faku inherited his power. In a period of intense raiding, migration and state formation, he transformed the Mpondo polity from a loosely organized constellation of tributary groups to a centralized and populous state with effective military capabilities and a prosperous agricultural foundation. In 1830, Faku allowed Wesleyan missionaries to establish a station within his kingdom and they became his main channel of communication with the Cape Colony, and later Natal. Ironically, he never showed any serious inclination to convert to Christianity.

From the 1840s to early 1850s, this Mpondo king played a central, yet often understated, role in the British colonization of South Africa. While over the years his territory and power declined, Faku remained quite astute in diplomatic negotiations with colonial officials and used his missionary connections to optimum advantage.

Timothy J. Stapleton’s narrative and use of oral history paint a clear and remarkable portrait of Faku and how he was able to manipulate missionaries, neighbours, colonists and circumstances to achieve his objectives. As a result, Faku: Rulership and Colonialism in the Mpondo Kingdom (c.1780-1867) helps illuminate the history of the entire Cape region.

From Foreign Natives to Native Foreigners. Explaining Xenophobia in Post-apartheid South Africa Cover

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From Foreign Natives to Native Foreigners. Explaining Xenophobia in Post-apartheid South Africa

Explaining Xenophobia in Post-apartheid South Africa

The events of May 2008 in which 62 people were killed simply for being ëforeigní and thousands were turned overnight into refugees shook the South African nation. This book is the first to attempt a comprehensive and rigorous explanation for those horrific events. It argues that xenophobia should be understood as a political discourse and practice. As such its historical development as well as the conditions of its existence must be elucidated in terms of the practices and prescriptions which structure the field of politics. In South Africa, the history of xenophobia is intimately connected to the manner in which citizenship has been conceived and fought over during the past fifty years at least. Migrant labour was de-nationalised by the apartheid state, while African nationalism saw the same migrant labour as the foundation of that oppressive system. Only those who could show a family connection with the colonial and apartheid formation of South Africa could claim citizenship at liberation. Others were excluded and seen as unjustified claimants to national resources. Xenophobiaís conditions of existence, the book argues, are to be found in the politics of post-apartheid nationalism where state prescriptions founded on indigeneity have been allowed to dominate uncontested in conditions of an overwhelmingly passive conception of citizenship. The de-politicisation of an urban population, which had been able to assert its agency during the 1980s through a discourse of human rights in particular, contributed to this passivity. Such state liberal politics have remained largely unchallenged. As in other cases of post-colonial transition in Africa, the hegemony of xenophobic discourse, the book contends, is to be sought in the specific character of the state consensus.

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Govan Mbeki

Colin Bundy

Govan Mbeki (1910–2001) was a core leader of the African National Congress, the Communist Party, and the armed wing of the ANC during the struggle against apartheid. Known as a hard-liner, Mbeki was a prolific writer and combined in a rare way the attributes of intellectual and activist, political theorist and practitioner. Sentenced to life in prison in 1964 along with Nelson Mandela and others, he was sent to the notorious Robben Island prison, where he continued to write even as tension grew between himself, Mandela, and other leaders over the future of the national liberation movement. As one of the greatest leaders of the antiapartheid movement, and the father of Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa from 1999 to 2008, the elder Mbeki holds a unique position in South African politics and history.

This biography by noted historian Colin Bundy goes beyond the narrative details of his long life: it analyzes his thinking, expressed in his writings over fifty years. Bundy helps establish what is distinctive about Mbeki: as African nationalist and as committed Marxist — and more than any other leader of the liberation movement — he sought to link theory and practice, ideas and action.

Drawing on exclusive interviews Bundy did with Mbeki, careful analysis of his writings, and the range of scholarship about his life, this biography is personal, reflective, thoroughly researched, and eminently readable.

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Healing Traditions

African Medicine, Cultural Exchange, & Competition in South Africa, 1820-1948

Karen E. Flint

In August 2004, South Africa officially legalized the practice of traditional healers. Largely in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and limited both by the number of practitioners and by patients’ access to treatment, biomedical practitioners looked toward the country’s traditional healers as important agents in the development of medical education and treatment. This collaboration has not been easy. The two medical cultures embrace different ideas about the body and the origin of illness, but they do share a history of commercial and ideological competition and different relations to state power. Healing Traditions: African Medicine, Cultural Exchange, and Competition in South Africa, 1820–1948 provides a long-overdue historical perspective to these interactions and an understanding that is vital for the development of medical strategies to effectively deal with South Africa’s healthcare challenges.

Between 1820 and 1948 traditional healers in Natal, South Africa, transformed themselves from politically powerful men and women who challenged colonial rule and law into successful entrepreneurs who competed for turf and patients with white biomedical doctors and pharmacists. To understand what is “traditional” about traditional medicine, Flint argues that we must consider the cultural actors not commonly  associated with African therapeutics: white biomedical practitioners, Indian healers, and the implementing of white rule.

Carefully crafted, well written, and powerfully argued, Flint’s analysis of the ways that indigenous medical knowledge and therapeutic practices were forged, contested, and transformed over two centuries is highly illuminating, as is her demonstration that many “traditional” practices changed over time. Her discussion of African and Indian medical encounters opens up a whole new way of thinking about the social basis of health and healing in South Africa. This important book will be core reading for classes and future scholarship on health and healing in South Africa. 

Hidden Dimensions of Operation Murambatsvina, The Cover

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Hidden Dimensions of Operation Murambatsvina, The

In his introduction to The Hidden Dimensions Maurice Vambe argues that the treatment of people as 'human dirt' demands the notion of citizenship in Zimbabwe be rethought.

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How Societies Are Born

Governance in West Central Africa before 1600

Jan Vansina

Like stars, societies are born, and this story deals with such a birth. It asks a fundamental and compelling question: How did societies first coalesce from the small foraging communities that had roamed in West Central Africa for many thousands of years?

Jan Vansina continues a career-long effort to reconstruct the history of African societies before European contact in How Societies Are Born. In this complement to his previous study Paths in the Rainforests, Vansina employs a provocative combination of archaeology and historical linguistics to turn his scholarly focus to governance, studying the creation of relatively large societies extending beyond the foraging groups that characterized west central Africa from the beginning of human habitation to around 500 BCE, and the institutions that bridged their constituent local communities and made large-scale cooperation possible.

The increasing reliance on cereal crops, iron tools, large herds of cattle, and overarching institutions such as corporate matrilineages and dispersed matriclans lead up to the developments treated in the second part of the book. From about 900 BCE until European contact, different societies chose different developmental paths. Interestingly, these proceeded well beyond environmental constraints and were characterized by "major differences in the subjects which enthralled people," whether these were cattle, initiations and social position, or "the splendors of sacralized leaders and the possibilities of participating in them."

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The Impossible Machine

A Genealogy of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Adam Sitze

Adam Sitze meticulously traces the origins of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission back to two well-established instruments of colonial and imperial governance: the jurisprudence of indemnity and the commission of inquiry. This genealogy provides a fresh, though counterintuitive, understanding of the TRC’s legal, political, and cultural importance. The TRC’s genius, Sitze contends, is not the substitution of “forgiving” restorative justice for “strict” legal justice but rather the innovative adaptation of colonial law, sovereignty, and government. However, this also contains a potential liability: if the TRC’s origins are forgotten, the very enterprise intended to overturn the jurisprudence of colonial rule may perpetuate it. In sum, Sitze proposes a provocative new means by which South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be understood and evaluated.

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Intonations

A Social History of Music and Nation in Luanda, Angola, from 1945 to Recent Times

Marissa J. Moorman

Intonations tells the story of how Angola's urban residents in the late colonial period (roughly 1945-74) used music to talk back to their colonial oppressors and, more importantly, to define what it meant to be Angolan and what they hoped to gain from independence. Author Marissa J. Moorman presents a social and cultural history of the relationship between Angolan culture and politics. She argues that it was in and through popular urban music, produced mainly in the capital city of Luanda's musseques (urban shantytowns), that Angolans forged the nation and developed expectations about nationalism. Through careful archival work and extensive interviews with musicians and those who attend performances in bars, community centers, and cinemas, Moorman explores the ways in which the urban poor imagined the nation. The spread of radio technology and the establishment of a recording industry in the early 1970s reterritorialized an urban-produced sound and cultural ethos by transporting music throughout the country. When the formerly exiled independent movements returned to Angola in 1975, they found a population receptive to their nationalist message but with different expectations about the promises of independence. In producing and consuming music, Angolans formed a new image of independence and nationalist politics. A compilation of Angolan music is included in CD format.

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Land, Memory, Reconstruction, and Justice

Perspectives on Land Claims in South Africa

Cherryl Walker

In South Africa land is one of the most significant and controversial topics. Land restitution has been a complex, multidimensional process that has failed to meet the expectations with which it was initially launched in 1994. Ordinary citizens, policymakers, and analysts have begun to question progress in land reform in the years since South Africa’s transition to democracy. Land, Memory, Reconstruction, and Justice brings together a wealth of topical material and case studies by leading experts in the field who present a rich mix of perspectives from politics, sociology, geography, social anthropology, law, history, and agricultural economics. The collection addresses both the material and the symbolic dimensions of land claims, in rural and urban contexts, and explores the complex intersection of issues confronting the restitution program, from the promotion of livelihoods to questions of rights, identity, and transitional justice. A valuable contribution to the field of land and agrarian studies, both in South Africa and internationally, it is undoubtedly the most comprehensive treatment to date of South Africa’s postapartheid land claims process and will be essential reading for scholars and students of land reform for years to come.

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