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Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category

“My heart is bleeding” – Andrew Mlangeni on how the ANC has diverted from its values

The politics editor of City Press, Rapule Tabane, recently interviewed Andrew Mlangeni after the launch of the account of Mlangeni’s life as political prisoner and Rivonia trialist, The Backroom Boy, written by Mandla Mathebula.

During the interview, Mlangeni discussed his disdain with South Africa’s current political climate.

“I am sad. My heart is bleeding when I see what is happening in the country. People have become so greedy that money is the most important thing. They have lost the values the ANC stood for.

“People have died for this revolution, this freedom. Some went into exile and died there. Others died here internally during the apartheid years, fighting for freedom. They were shot and killed by the apartheid regime. It is sad. Very sad.

“Today, the ANC is deeply divided. Everybody wants a position. People no longer do things on a voluntary basis – they want to be paid for everything that they do. That was not the ANC position,” Mlangeni asserted.

Read Tabane’s complete interview here.

Watch a video of Mlangeni at home in Dube, Soweto speaking about his heartache of how the ANC has diverted from its values:

The Backroom Boy

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Joint book launch – Urban Revolt & Southern Resistance in Critical Perspective

Join the University of Johannesburg Library and the Centre for Social Change for the launch of two books focused on protests and resistance in the Global South: Urban Revolt and Southern Resistance in Critical Perspective.

Speakers will include contributors to the books: Trevor Ngwane, Immanuel Ness and Marcel Parett.

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Book launch – The Backroom Boy: Andrew Mlangeni’s Story by Mandla Mathebula


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Join the June and Andrew Mlangeni Foundation and Wits University Press for the launch of The Backroom Boy: Andrew Mlangeni’s Story on Thursday 11 May at Melrose Arch. Former president Kgalema Motlanthe will be in conversation with Mathebula. RSVP by Tuesday 9 May.

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Grahamstown launch of The Unresolved National Question: Left Thought Under Apartheid

TheThe Labour Studies Seminar Series, in partnership with Wits University Press, the Institute for Social and Economic Research, and the Research Office, will launch The Unresolved National Question in South Africa: Left Thought under Apartheid edited by Eddie Webster and Karin Pampallis.

THE BOOK: Debates on the decolonisation of knowledge has revived interest in the National Question, which began over a century ago and remains unresolved. What “nation” means in a South Africa riven by race, class, colour, ethnicity and gender forged under capitalism has posed major challenges to progressive nationalist, liberal, socialist and feminist thought for over a century. Tensions suppressed and hidden in the past are now being openly debated again. The goal of one united nation living prosperously under a democracy remains elusive.

SPEAKERS: Mazibuko Jara (discussant), Basil Brown, Mallet Giyose, Nicole Ulrich, Robbie van Niekerk, Lucien van der Walt, Edward Webster

THE EDITORS: Eddie Webster, founder of the Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) at Wits University, has played a key role in South African labour studies. An award-winning scholar, with eight books and hundreds of papers and reports, he has a long history of work with the unions. He was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by Rhodes University.

Karin Pampallis is an editor and publications manager of the Hidden Voices Project located in the SWOP, supported by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS). She authored Nelson Mandela: They Fought for Freedom (2000) and Lilian Ngoyi: They Fought for Freedom (1996, with Dianne Stewart). She worked at the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College in Tanzania in the years of exile.

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Nigel Gibson on Lenin, Workers’ Day and national liberation

In the light of Workers’ Day, Nigel Gibson, the author of Fanonian Practices in South Africa: From Steve Biko to Abahlali baseMjondolo, wrote an opinion piece on communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin for online publication, The Con Mag.

An extract from Gibson’s article reads:

The centenary of the Russian Revolution of 1917 is being marked in the dark days of a seemingly global counter-revolution. In the time of Recep Erdoğan, Theresa May, Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin, Michel Temer, Donald Trump, Jacob Zuma, and all the rest, communist confidence in the future often appears as a form of faith unhinged from reality.

The philosophical foundations of that confidence lie in a reading of Hegelian dialectics considered as a triadic system of thesis-antithesis-synthesis moving toward a definite end. Marxism, it is often said, repeats the logic of this abstract system in the material realm with each epoch of production understood to be laying the basis for its negation on the march to communism.

But if there is a general sense of movement in 2017 it is in a very different direction. Amid the gloom of the present it is perhaps a propos to return to the bleak period when Lenin faced the holocaust of the First World War, and the betrayal of European social democracy. In 1914, after the Marxist parties across Europe voted in support of the imperialist war, Vladmir Lenin spent a year reading Hegel in the public library in Bern.

He discovered a critical conception of dialectic that had appealed to Marx. Rather than a synthesis of opposites, Lenin now underscored the transformation into opposite as a moving principle. He emphasized that dualities within every social formation were not only products of external pressures but also, and more importantly, internal contradictions.

Lenin wanted to understand how radical political movements and parties transform into their opposites and become chauvinist, conservative and authoritarian. The Russian revolution is not the only moment of rupture with oppression that transformed into a totalitarian society. On the contrary counter-revolution from within the revolution has been so commonplace that it almost seems like an iron law of history.

Yet we are shocked every time.

Critique is often little more than new cycles of denunciation of ‘the treason’ of new parties of liberation. There is an urgent imperative to move beyond this moralism and develop a properly philosophical-political critique of why revolution after revolution has come to mirror much of what it initially set out to oppose.

April Days

On 3 April 1917, Lenin stepped off a train, sealed by the Germans who did not want him fermenting revolution on the way, and gave a speech at the Finland Station in St Petersburg. Standing on top of an armoured car, and illuminated by a searchlight, Lenin greeted the revolutionary Russian proletariat, and the revolutionary Russian army, commending them on starting a social revolution.

He added that the proletariat of the whole world needed to turn the imperialist war into civil war.

The next day he presented what came to be called the April Theses at two meetings of the All-Russia Conference of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Some members of his party thought he had become an anarchist. Apparently his wife thought he had succumbed to madness. But he continued to dismiss the mentality of the ‘old Bolsheviks’ and to upset vanguardist assumptions and dogmatic concepts. Lenin underscored the revolutionary role of the peasantry.

He insisted that the workers and peasants were vastly more revolutionary than the Marxists in the party. This was, in Marcel Liebman’s arresting phrase, the time of ‘libertarian Leninism’. Lenin insisted that the revolution could only be the product of mass insurrection and certainly not the work of a self-appointed vanguard: “we don’t want the masses to take our word for it,” Lenin argued, “we want the masses to overcome their mistakes through experience.

Continue reading ‘The Libertarian Lenin’ 100 Years On: A May Day Reflection here.

Gibson’s latest book, Fanon: Psychiatry and Politics, co-authored with Roberto Beneduce, will be published by Wits University Press later this year.


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Co-editor of Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa discusses the book on Africa Past and Present

Janet Remmington, Regional Director, Africa for Taylor & Francis/Routledge, recently discussed Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa on the African Studies Association podcast, Africa Past and Present.

First published in 1916, Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa was written by one of the South Africa’s most talented early 20th-century black leaders and journalists. Plaatje’s pioneering book arose out of an early African National Congress campaign to protest against the discriminatory 1913 Natives Land Act. Native Life vividly narrates Plaatje’s investigative journeying into South Africa’s rural heartlands to report on the effects of the Act and his involvement in the deputation to the British imperial government. At the same time it tells the bigger story of the assault on black rights and opportunities in the newly consolidated Union of South Africa – and the resistance to it.

Originally published in war-time London, but about South Africa and its place in the world, Native Life travelled far and wide, being distributed in the United States under the auspices of prominent African-American W E B Du Bois. South African editions were to follow only in the late apartheid period and beyond.
 
 
 
 
The aim of this multi-authored volume is to shed new light on how and why Native Life came into being at a critical historical juncture, and to reflect on how it can be read in relation to South Africa’s heightened challenges today. Crucial areas that come under the spotlight in this collection include land, race, history, mobility, belonging, war, the press, law, literature, language, gender, politics, and the state.

Listen to the podcast here.

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Roger Southall reviews The Rise of Africa’s Middle Classes: Myths, Realities and Critical Engagements

Roger Southall, based at the Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, and a Research Associate in Political Studies at the University of Cape Town, recently reviewed The Rise of Africa’s Middle Classes: Myths, Realities and Critical Engagements edited by Henning Melber, for Pambazuka News.

An extract from Southall’s review reads:

Institutions such as the World Bank and African Development Bank regularly propagandise that as a product of ‘Africa Rising’, the African middle class is also rising. Albeit spread unevenly across different countries, this new version African middle class is said to be becoming more prominent, more visible and more influential with the spread of market capitalism. In turn, Africanist scholarship has built upon this narrative, placing heavy emphasis upon such key issues as definition, consumption and the fragility of the ‘new’ middle classes across the continent. This book, the latest such offering amidst a burgeoning literature, confirms this trend, and is set to become a standard work of reference.

It would seem from the title of the book that the African middle class is unambiguously ‘rising’, yet that assertion is questioned by at least three of the authors. Henning Melber, in both his introduction and conclusion, takes strong issue with the rather curious income or expenditure definitions of middle class-ness adopted by the global institutions, some of which label Africans living just above the poverty line as ‘middle class’. He queries whether it is growing as fast as is usually implied, suggests that it may have declined in size since the global crisis in 2008, and wonders whether it is meaningful to refer to it as ‘middle class’. Even so, he concludes that the current engagements with ‘the phenomenon called the African middle classes(es) is anything but obsolete’ as ‘they signify modified social relations in African societies which deserve attention’ (p9). That rather lukewarm endorsement must be taken as the justification for the collection, even if the editor might usefully have impressed upon the publishers the need for a question mark in the book’s title.

The outstanding chapter in the book is offered by Carola Lentz (Ch. 1) who provides a superb overview of the literature, historical and contemporary, dealing with those groups in African societies today customarily referred to as ‘middle class’. She too bewails the poverty of definitions provided by the global institutions. However, she moves beyond that to explore the rich troves of literature dealing with the African middle classes while urging the necessity of relating this to the vast body of work dealing with middle class formation in Europe, America and the global South.

Continue reading the review here.

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Wits Univeristy Press triumphs with 3 book awards at the Humanities and Social Sciences Book Awards 2017

Three Wits University Press’ publications won awards in their categories at the annual Humanities and Social Sciences Book Awards. The HSS awards were presented last night at a lavish event at the offices of the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences in Parktown, Johannesburg.

In the category best Creative Collections in the Visual Arts, Penny Siopis and Gerrit Olivier won with Penny Siopis: Time and Again, a monograph on Siopis’ work; Changing Space, Changing City: Johannesburg after Apartheid, edited by Phil Harrison, Graeme Gotz, Alison Todes and Chris Wray won the award for the best Non-fiction Edited Volume, and Gabeba Baderoon’s Regarding Muslims: From slavery to post-apartheid was joint winner in the category best Non-fiction Monograph.

Veronica Klipp, publisher at Wits University Press, expressed her appreciation to the NIHSS for the recognition and celebration of scholarly books that these awards provide.

The National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences’ (NIHSS) Annual Book, Creative Collection, and Digital Contribution Awards are open to all academics, curators and artists who are based at participating South African universities working to advance the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). A key aim of the annual Awards is to give special recognition and celebrate outstanding, innovative and socially responsive works that enhance and advance post-apartheid and post-colonial forms of scholarship, creative and digital humanities productions.

The other Wits University Press books that were finalists for these awards were Susan Booysen’s Dominance & Decline: The ANC in the Time of Zuma and Beadwork, Art and the Body – Dilo tse Dintsha/Abundance, edited by Anitra Nettleton.

Penny Siopis

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Changing Space, Changing City

 
 

Regarding Muslims


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Read an excerpt from Michael Neocosmos’s Thinking Freedom in Africa

Thinking Freedom in Africa The Mail & Guardian has shared an excerpt from Thinking Freedom in Africa: Toward a theory of emancipatory politics by Michael Neocosmos.

The book, published by Wits University Press and the recipient of the 2017 Frantz Fanon Outstanding Book Award, explores the politics of emancipation via the study of the global history of African peoples’ struggles for liberation.

The excerpt reads:

How are we to begin to think about emancipation in Africa today after the collapse of the Marxist, the Third World nationalist and the neoliberal visions of freedom?

How are we to conceptualise an emancipatory future governed by a fidelity to the idea of a universal humanity in a context where humanity no longer features in our ambit of thought and when previous ways of thinking emancipation have become obsolete?

In the formulation made famous by Frantz Fanon on the last page of The Wretched of the Earth, how are we to “work out new concepts” for a new humanism?

Thinking Freedom in Africa: Toward a Theory of Emancipatory Politics seeks answers to these questions in the light of what has become apparent, namely the absence of a thought of politics in all three of these conceptions of universal history today.

You can read the coverage of the launch of Thinking Freedom in Africa here.
 
 

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Lauding a “superhuman effort”: Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present launched at Wits

Lauding Sol Plaatje “superhuman effort”: Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present launched at Wits

 
Sol Plaatje's Native Life in South AfricaSol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present, a new book looking at Sol Plaatje’s most famous work, was recently launched at Wits University.

Authored by various South African academics and edited by Janet Remmington, Brian Willan and Bhekizizwe Peterson, the book is a selection of essays. Khwezi Mkhize and Peter Limb are among the contributors.

Plaatje was a journalist and founding Secretary General of the African National Congress, then the South African Native National Congress.

Lauding Sol Plaatje “superhuman effort”: Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present launched at Wits

 

Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa was published during World War I, at a time when the country was under British rule, said Willan, editor and contributor to the current book. Native Life had been written in response to the Natives Land Act passed in 1913, Willan said. In the ensuing years, Plaatje would write the book during a state of emergency and time of duress.

Lauding Sol Plaatje “superhuman effort”: Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present launched at Wits

 
Plaatje had published the book despite many obstacles stacked against him, Willan said. Little money, travelling on horseback to record the impact of the Natives Land Act on black people, and facing critics who didn’t want the book published were just some of the challenges in Plaatje’s way.

Willan called Plaatje’s determination a “superhuman effort”.

“We should think of the story behind the book,” Willan said. “It’s amazing, what Plaatje had to do to publish a book. It could easily not have happened.”

Lauding Sol Plaatje “superhuman effort”: Sol Plaatje’s Native Life in South Africa: Past and Present launched at Wits

 

Mkhize said he had at first been disappointed in reading Native Life, finding the book “longwinded” and “weird”. But after getting over the initial disappointment, Mkhize said he believes Native Life could be useful “to figure what other kind of thoughts and imaginaries” are possible.

And while Plaatje’s efforts to convince the British government to repeal the Act failed, Mkhize said they inspired him regardless.

Mkhize’s essay in the book is titled “African Intellectual History, Black Cosmopolitanism and Native Life in South Africa”.

2016 marks Native Life’s first centennial.

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