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Women's Organizations and Democracy in South Africa Cover

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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.

A World of Their Own Cover

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A World of Their Own

A History of South African Women’s Education

Meghan Healy-Clancy

The politics of black education has long been a key issue in southern African studies, but despite rich debates on the racial and class dimensions of schooling, historians have neglected their distinctive gendered dynamics. A World of Their Own is the first book to explore the meanings of black women’s education in the making of modern South Africa. Its lens is a social history of the first high school for black South African women, Inanda Seminary, from its 1869 founding outside of Durban through the recent past.

Employing diverse archival and oral historical sources, Meghan Healy-Clancy reveals how educated black South African women developed a tradition of social leadership, by both working within and pushing at the boundaries of state power. She demonstrates that although colonial and apartheid governance marginalized women politically, it also valorized the social contributions of small cohorts of educated black women. This made space for growing numbers of black women to pursue careers as teachers and health workers over the course of the twentieth century. After the student uprisings of 1976, as young black men increasingly rejected formal education for exile and street politics, young black women increasingly stayed in school and cultivated an alternative form of student politics. Inanda Seminary students’ experiences vividly show how their academic achievements challenged the narrow conceptions of black women’s social roles harbored by both officials and black male activists. By the transition to democracy in the early 1990s, black women outnumbered black men at every level of education—introducing both new opportunities for women and gendered conflicts that remain acute today.

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Zimbabwe: Mired in Transition

Zimbabwe: Mired in Transition

Three years after the advent of Zimbabwe's Inclusive Government in February 2009, the country still awaits the elections that people hope will lead to a more enduring political settlement. Zimbabwe: Mired in Transition reviews the experience of recent years assesses the progress that has been made. What is the public mood, and how has it changed? What steps have been taken to reform the media? How important is a new constitution. Although the economy has stabilised to some extent with the adoption of a multi-currency regime, industrial and agricultural production are depressed, and investment inflows are limited; what spaces exist for fiscal reform? Are local authority structures and the state bureaucracy equipped to handle the tasks that will ne asked of them? In terms of two important areas, the book extends its analysis further back than 2009. First, is the issue of emigration. Estimates of the number of Zimbabweans in the diaspora range from three to four million; what impact us this having on national development, and to what extent might the trend of migration be reversed? The second concerns young people, the chapter on which concludes: 'We already have a "lost generation" - those who were once called the "born frees". Unless positive changes are made, we will still have another'. This collection of eleven essays examines in detail some of the pressing questions which Zimbabweans must ask as they chart a way forward.

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Zimbabwe's Cultural Heritage

Zimbabwe's Cultural Heritage won first prize in the Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association Awards in 2006 for Non-fiction: Humanities and Social Sciences. It is a collection of pieces of the culture of the Ndebele, Shona, Tonga, Kalanga, Nambiya, Xhosa and Venda. The book gives the reader an insight into the world view of different peoples, through descriptions of their history and life events such as pregnancy, marriage and death. "...the most enduring book ever on Zimbabwean history. This book will help people change their attitude towards each other in Zimbabwe." - Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association Awards citation

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Zimbabwe's Lost Decade

Politics, Development and Society

Zimbabwe occupies a special place in African politics and international relations, and has been the subject of intense debates over the years. At independence in 1980, the country was better endowed than most in Africa, and seemed poised for economic development and political pluralism. The population was relatively well educated, the industrial and agricultural bases were strong, and levels of infrastructure were impressive. However, in less than two decades, Zimbabwe was mired in a deep political and economic crisis. Towards the end of its third decade of independence, the economy had collapsed and the country had been transformed into a repressive state. How can we make sense of this decline? How can we explain the ëlost decadeí that followed? Can the explanation be reduced to the authoritarian leadership of Robert Mugabe and role of ZANU-PF? Or was something defective about in the institutions through which the state has exercised its authority? Or was it the result of imperialism, the West and sanctions? Zimbabweís Lost Decade draws on Lloyd Sachikonyeís analyses of political developments over the past 25 years. It offers a critique of leadership, systems of governance, and economic strategies, and argues for democratic values and practices, and more broad-based participation in the development process.

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