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From Servants to Workers

South African Domestic Workers and the Democratic State

In the past decade, hundreds of thousands of women from poorer countries have braved treacherous journeys to richer countries to work as poorly paid domestic workers. Scholars and activists denounce compromised forms of citizenship that expose these women to at times shocking exploitation and abuse.

In From Servants to Workers, Shireen Ally asks whether the low wages and poor working conditions so characteristic of migrant domestic work can truly be resolved by means of the extension of citizenship rights. Following South Africa's "miraculous" transition to democracy, more than a million poor black women who had endured a despotic organization of paid domestic work under apartheid became the beneficiaries of one of the world's most impressive and extensive efforts to formalize and modernize paid domestic work through state regulation. Instead of undergoing a dramatic transformation, servitude relations stubbornly resisted change. Ally locates an explanation for this in the tension between the forms of power deployed by the state in its efforts to protect workers, on the one hand, and the forms of power workers recover through the intimate nature of their work, on the other.

Listening attentively to workers' own narrations of their entry into democratic citizenship-rights, Ally explores the political implications of paid domestic work as an intimate form of labor. From Servants to Workers integrates sociological insights with the often-heartbreaking life histories of female domestic workers in South Africa and provides rich detail of the streets, homes, and churches of Johannesburg where these women work, live, and socialize.

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Gender and Colonialism

A History of Kaoko in north-western Namibia 1870s–1950s

Lorena Rizzo

This book deals with colonialism on a Namibian periphery and considers both the German colonial period as well as South African rule in the country. The marginality of the Kaoko region within this colonial topography of power is analysed as a dynamic and fractured feature where power relations and constellations remained highly contested. The dynamics of gender within a regional society constituted of men and women, African and European, receive special attention within frameworks engaging with colonial photography, oral histories and gendered visions.

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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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Grounds of Engagement

Apartheid-Era African-American and South African Writing

Stéphane Robolin

Part literary history, part cultural study, Grounds of Engagement examines the relationships and exchanges between black South African and African American writers who sought to create common ground throughout the antiapartheid era. Stéphane Robolin argues that the authors' geographic imaginations crucially defined their individual interactions and, ultimately, the literary traditions on both sides of the Atlantic. Subject to the tyranny of segregation, authors such as Richard Wright, Bessie Head, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Michelle Cliff, and Richard Rive charted their racialized landscapes and invented freer alternative geographies. They crafted rich representations of place to challenge the stark social and spatial arrangements that framed their lives. Those representations, Robolin contends, also articulated their desires for black transnational belonging and political solidarity. The first book to examine U.S. and South African literary exchanges in spatial terms, Grounds of Engagement identifies key moments in this understudied history of black cross-cultural exchange, exposing how geography serves as an indispensable means of shaping and reshaping modern racial meaning.

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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. 

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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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In the Twilight of the Revolution

The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (South Africa) 1959-1994

This book is a long-overdue history of the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) and the rise of the Africanist ideology in South Africa. From its formation in 1959, the PAC underground inside South Africa and in exile shaped the dynamics of the anti-apartheid movement and liberation struggle by framing alternative ideologies. Kwandiwe Kondlo analyses the radical traditions, the structural contradictions and the internal conflicts of this rival to the African National Congress (ANC), South Africaís dominant liberation organisation. The contributions of some of the PAC leaders, including Robert Sobukhwe, Potlake Kitchener Leballo, Vusumzi Make and John Nyathi Pokela, are reconstructed as are the PACís experiences in exile and the strategies pursued by its military wing, the Azanian Peopleís Liberation Party (APLA). The role of the PAC in the power-sharing negotiations leading to the historic 1994 elections in South Africa round off the narrative. The PAC story is a highly controversial one, as the perspectives are wide and various. This book seeks to present a balanced picture which includes diverse views in a comprehensive narrative.

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The Inevitable Pipeline into Exile

Botswana’s Role in the Namibian Liberation Struggle

The role played by Botswana in various southern African liberation struggles has previously been neglected in historical studies. The countryís politics of support and mobilisation early on in Namibiaís struggle for independence from South Africa proved crucial for the formative period of both nation states. Botswanaís difficult and contradictory position as neighbour of the South African apartheid state and colonial power in Namibia are carefully dealt with, as are the challenges faced by the fragile Namibian refugee networks and liberation movements, SWANU and SWAPO, operating in Botswana for decades. ìThe Inevitable Pipeline into Exileî deals with a crucial phase of nationalism and transnational politics during the period of southern African decolonisation at the height of South Africaís diplomatic and military aggression throughout the region.

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