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History > African History > Southern Africa

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Tabloid Journalism in South Africa Cover

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Tabloid Journalism in South Africa

True Story!

Herman Wasserman

Less than a decade after the advent of democracy in South Africa, tabloid newspapers have taken the country by storm. One of these papers -- the Daily Sun -- is now the largest in the country, but it has generated controversy for its perceived lack of respect for privacy, brazen sexual content, and unrestrained truth-stretching. Herman Wasserman examines the success of tabloid journalism in South Africa at a time when global print media are in decline. He considers the social significance of the tabloids and how they play a role in integrating readers and their daily struggles with the political and social sphere of the new democracy. Wasserman shows how these papers have found an important niche in popular and civic culture largely ignored by the mainstream media and formal political channels.

Tonga Religious Life in the Twentieth Century Cover

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Tonga Religious Life in the Twentieth Century

The religious life of the Tonga-speaking peoples of southern Zambia is examined over the last century, in the sense of how they have thought about the nature of their world, the meaning of their own lives, and the sources of good and evil in which their cosmology and society have been transformed. The twelve chapters cover Time, Space and Language; Basic Themes, Tonga Religious Vocabulary and its Referents; the Vocabulary of Shrines and Substance; Homestead and Bush; Ritual Communities and Actors; Rituals of the Life Course; Death and its Rituals; Evil and Witchcraft; and Christianity and Tonga Experience. The author has drawn on dairies by research assistants, and field notes and research of fellow anthropologists, but above all from her own interaction with Tonga people since 1946. The older people gave first hand memories of Ndebele and Lozi raids, David Linvingstone encamped near their villages in 1856 and 1862, the arrival of colonial administrators, traders, missionaries and European and Indian settlers, and in some cases, the end of colonial rule. Their experience and that of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren provides the basis for understanding Tonga religious experience. Elizabeth Colson is an American anthropologist who is widely published on the Tonga. Her research interests have particularly concentrated on the Gwembe Valley.

The Tongue is Fire Cover

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The Tongue is Fire

South African Storytellers and Apartheid

Harold E. Scheub

     In the years between the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 and the Soweto Uprising of 1976—a period that was both the height of the apartheid system in South Africa and, in retrospect, the beginning of its end—Harold Scheub went to Africa to collect stories.
     With tape-recorder and camera in hand, Scheub registered the testaments of Swati, Xhosa, Ndebele, and Zulu storytellers, farming people who lived in the remote reaches of rural South Africa. While young people fought in the streets of Soweto and South African writers made the world aware of apartheid’s evils, the rural storytellers resisted apartheid in their own way, using myth and metaphor to preserve their traditions and confront their oppressors. For more than 20 years, Scheub kept the promise he made to the storytellers to publish his translations of their stories only when freedom came to South Africa. The Tongue Is Fire  presents these voices of South African oral tradition—the historians, the poets, the epic-performers, the myth-makers—documenting their enduring faith in the power of the word to sustain tradition in the face of determined efforts to distort or eliminate it. These texts are a tribute to the storytellers who have always, in periods of crisis, exercised their art to inspire their own people.

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Cover

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The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

Farmersí Voices from Zimbabwe

The history of colonial land alienation, the grievances fuelling the liberation war, and post-independence land reforms have all been grist to the mill of recent scholarship on Zimbabwe. Yet for all that the countryís white farmers have received considerable attention from academics and journalists, the fact that they have always played a dynamic role in cataloguing and representing their own affairs has gone unremarked. It is this crucial dimension that Rory Pilossof explores in The Unbearable Whiteness of Being. His examination of farmersí voices ñ in The Farmer magazine, in memoirs, and in recent interviews ñ reveals continuities as well as breaks in their relationships with land, belonging and race. His focus on the Liberation War, Operation Gukurahundi and the post-2000 land invasions frames a nuanced understanding of how white farmers engaged with the land and its peoples, and the political changes of the past 40 years. The Unbearable Whiteness of Being helps to explain why many of the events in the countryside unfolded in the ways they did.

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The Uncoiling Python

South African Storytellers and Resistance

Harold Scheub

The oral and written traditions of the Africans of South Africa have provided an understanding of their past and the way the past relates to the present. These traditions continue to shape the past by the present, and vice versa. From the time colonial forces first came to the region in 1487, oral and written traditions have been a bulwark against what became 350 years of colonial rule, characterized by the racist policies of apartheid. The Uncoiling Python: South African Storytellers and Resistance is the first in-depth study of how Africans used oral traditions as a means of survival against European domination.

Africans resisted colonial rule from the beginning. They participated in open insurrections and other subversive activities in order to withstand the daily humiliations of colonial rule. Perhaps the most effective and least apparent expression of subversion was through indigenous storytelling and poetic traditions. Harold Scheub has collected the stories and poetry of the Xhosa, Zulu, Swati, and Ndebele peoples to present a fascinating analysis of how the apparently harmless tellers of tales and creators of poetry acted as front-line soldiers.

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Visions of Freedom

Havana, Washington, Pretoria, and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991

Piero Gleijeses

During the final fifteen years of the Cold War, southern Africa underwent a period of upheaval, with dramatic twists and turns in relations between the superpowers. Americans, Cubans, Soviets, and Africans fought over the future of Angola, where tens of thousands of Cuban soldiers were stationed, and over the decolonization of Namibia, Africa's last colony. Beyond lay the great prize: South Africa. Piero Gleijeses uses archival sources, particularly from the United States, South Africa, and the closed Cuban archives, to provide an unprecedented international history of this important theater of the late Cold War.
These sources all point to one conclusion: by humiliating the United States and defying the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro changed the course of history in southern Africa. It was Cuba's victory in Angola in 1988 that forced Pretoria to set Namibia free and helped break the back of apartheid South Africa. In the words of Nelson Mandela, the Cubans "destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor . . . [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa."

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We Are Fighting the World

A History of the Marashea Gangs in South Africa, 1947-1999

Gary Kynoch

Since the late 1940s, a migrant African criminal society, known as the Marashea has operated and around South Africa's gold mining compounds. Comprising thousands of members involved in extensive criminal networks, the Marashea were more influential in the day-to-day lives of many black South Africans than were the agents of the apartheid state. These gangs remain active in South Africa. Much has been written about the problems of violent criminality and the historical roots of South Africa's urban criminal culture. In We Are Fighting the World: A History of the Marashea Gangs in South Africa, 1947?1999 Gary Kynoch points to the combination of coercive force and administrative weakness that characterized the apartheid state. As long as crime and violence were contained within black townships and did not threaten adjacent white areas, township residents were largely left to fend for themselves. The Marashea's ability to prosper during the apartheid era and its involvement in political conflict are critical to an understanding of the violent crime epidemic that today plagues contemporary South Africa.Highly readable and solidly-researched, We Are Fighting the World is critical to an understanding of South African society, past and present. This pioneering study effectively challenges many of the orthodoxies that have guided social history research on resistance, ethnicity, urban spaces, and gender in South Africa. Kynoch's interviews with many current and former gang members gives We are Fighting the World an energy and a realism that is unparalleled in any other published work on gang violence in southern Africa.Gary Kynoch is an assistant professor of History at Dalhousie University. He is the author of numerous articles on crime, policing and violence in urban South Africa.

When a State Turns on its Citizens Cover

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When a State Turns on its Citizens

60 years of Institutionalised Violence in Zimbabwe

Lloyd Sachikonye traces the roots of Zimbabwe's contemporary violence to the actions of the Rhodesian armed forces, and the inter-party conflicts that occurred during the liberation war. His focus, however, is the period since 2000, which has seen state-sponsored violence erupting in election campaigns and throughout the programme of fast-track land reform. The consequences of this violence run wide and deep. Aside from inflicting trauma and fear on its victims, the impunity enjoyed by its perpetrators has helped to mould a culture within which personal freedoms and dreams are strangled. At a broader social level, it is responsible - both directly and indirectly - for millions of Zimbabweans voting with their feet and heading for the diaspora. Such a migration 'cannot simply be explained in terms of the search for greener economic pastures. Escape from authoritarianism, violence, trauma and fear is a large factor behind the exodus'. Sachikonye concludes that any future quest for justice and reconciliation will depend on the country facing up to the truth about the violence and hatred that have infected its past and present.

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Women's Organizations and Democracy in South Africa

Contesting Authority

Shireen Hassim


The transition to democracy in South Africa was one of the defining events in twentieth-century political history. The South African women’s movement is one of the most celebrated on the African continent. Shireen Hassim examines interactions between the two as she explores the gendered nature of liberation and regime change. Her work reveals how women’s political organizations both shaped and were shaped by the broader democratic movement. Alternately asserting their political independence and giving precedence to the democratic movement as a whole, women activists proved flexible and remarkably successful in influencing policy. At the same time, their feminism was profoundly shaped by the context of democratic and nationalist ideologies. In reading the last twenty-five years of South African history through a feminist framework, Hassim offers fresh insights into the interactions between civil society, political parties, and the state.

 

 

    Hassim boldly confronts sensitive issues such as the tensions between autonomy and political dependency in feminists’ engagement with the African National Congress (ANC) and other democratic movements, and black-white relations within women’s organizations. She offers a historically informed discussion of the challenges facing feminist activists during a time of nationalist struggle and democratization.

 

 


Winner, Victoria Schuck Award for best book on women and politics, American Political Science Association


“An exceptional study, based on extensive research. . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice

“A rich history of women’s organizations in South African . . . . [Hassim] had observed at first hand, and often participated in, much of what she described. She had access to the informants and private archives that so enliven the narrative and enrich the analysis. She provides a finely balanced assessment.”—Gretchen Bauer, African Studies Review

 

 

The World and the Word Cover

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The World and the Word

Tales and Observations from the Xhosa Oral Tradition

Nongenile Masithathu Zenani

A master storyteller of the Xhosa people of South Africa, Nongenile Masithathu Zenani gives us an unprecedented view of an oral society from within. Twenty-four of her complex and beautiful tales about birth, puberty, marriage, and work, as told to the renowned collector of African oral tradition, Harold Scheub, are gathered here. Accompanying the stories are Zenani’s detailed commentaries and analyses and Scheub’s striking photographs of her in performance.  The combination of these historical and cultural observations with a richly symbolic collection of tales from a single traditional storyteller make The World and the Word a remarkable document.
    “The storyteller’s materials are simple,” Zenani told Scheub, “the world, and the word.” She presents to us the entire world of the Xhosa people, how they first came to be, the origins of their customs, how they order their world and deal with transgressors, how they manage all of life’s transitions from birth to death. She depicts both the world as it exists and as it is shaped in the words of the storyteller. Inheriting tales from the Xhosa tradition, Zenani has transformed them into imaginative new stories marked by her own artistry.
    Scheub’s introduction to The World and the Word discusses Xhosa oral tradition and Zenani’s particular characteristics as an artist within that tradition; Zenani’s personal history and her work as both a storyteller and a healer; and Scheub’s friendship with her and his role in recording her legacy.

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