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Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Launch – Writing the Ancestral River: A biography of the Kowie by Jacklyn Cock (23 April)

Jacklyn Cock has penned a love letter that is as hopeful as it is elegiac. Drawing on family connections to the Kowie that go back to the 1820 settlers, Cock asks big questions about the relationship between nature and culture, between humans and other forms of life, and about the place of rivers in human history. It is only by rethinking our relationship to nature that we can save ourselves.
JACOB DLAMINI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

Jacklyn Cock has made the story of a small and fairly insignificant river into a metonym of the biological glories of South Africa and the ecological devastation they have endured, and continue to endure. The result is at once lyrical and trenchant. As a history rooted in the landscape of South Africa, it has few peers, and no superiors.
ROBERT ROSS, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF AFRICAN STUDIES, LEIDEN UNIVERSITY

Writing the Ancestral River is an illuminating biography of the Kowie River in the Eastern Cape. This tidal river runs through a formative meeting ground of peoples who have shaped South Africa’s history: Khoikhoi herders, Xhosa pastoralists, Dutch trekboers and British settlers. Their direct descendants in the area still interact in ways that have been decisively shaped by their shared history.

This is also a natural history of the river and its catchment area, where dinosaurs once roamed and cycads still grow. The natural world of the Kowie has felt the effects of human settlement, most strikingly through the development of a harbour at the mouth of the river in the 19th century and a marina in the late 20th century, which have had a decisive and deleterious impact on the Kowie.

People are increasingly reconnecting with nature and justice through rivers. Acknowledging the past, and the inter-generational, racialised privileges, damages and denials it established and perpetuates, is necessary for any shared future. By focusing on this ‘little’ river, the book raises larger questions about colonialism, capitalism, ‘development’ and ecology, and asks us to consider the connections between social and environmental injustice.
 
Jacklyn Cock is a professor emeritus in the Sociology department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She has written extensively on environment, gender and militarisation issues and is best known for Maids and Madams: A Study in the Politics of Exploitation (1980).
 
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Read – Business Day reviews Linda Chisholm’s Between Worlds: German Missionaries and the Transition from Mission to Bantu Education in South Africa

The transition from apartheid to the post-apartheid era has highlighted questions about the past and the persistence of its influence in present-day South Africa. This is particularly so in education, where the past continues to play a decisive role in relation to inequality. Between Worlds: German Missionaries and the Transition from Mission to Bantu Education in South Africa scrutinises the experience of a hitherto unexplored German mission society, probing the complexities and paradoxes of social change in education. It raises challenging questions about the nature of mission education legacies.

Linda Chisholm shows that the transition from mission to Bantu Education was far from seamless. Instead, past and present interpenetrated one another, with resistance and compliance cohabiting in a complex new social order. At the same time as missionaries complied with the new Bantu Education dictates, they sought to secure a role for themselves in the face of demands of local communities for secular statecontrolled education. When the latter was implemented in a perverted form from the mid-1950s, one of its tools was textbooks in local languages developed by mission societies as part of a transnational project, with African participation. Introduced under the guise of expunging European control, Bantu Education merely served to reinforce such control.

The response of local communities was an attempt to domesticate – and master – the ‘foreign’ body of the mission so as to create access to a larger world. This book focuses on the ensuing struggle, fought on many fronts, including medium of instruction and textbook content, with concomitant sub-texts relating to gender roles and sexuality.

South Africa’s educational history is to this day informed by networks of people and ideas crossing geographic and racial boundaries. The colonial legacy has inevitably involved cultural mixing and hybridisation – with, paradoxically, parallel pleas for purity. Chisholm explores how these ideas found expression in colliding and coalescing worlds, one African, the other European, caught between mission and apartheid education.

Yvonne Fontyn recently reviewed Chisholm’s remarkable book for Business Day. This is what she thought:

Mission schools have a mixed reputation in former colonies. They are lauded for offering a liberal and sound education when the state failed to do so, but they are also considered to have played a large role in colonial conquest.

Many well-known South African leaders attended mission schools, including Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe and Ellen Kuzwayo.

However, in his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela relates the mixed messages he received at mission schools in the Eastern Cape. At his primary school in Qunu, his teacher Miss Mdingane gave the young Rolihlahla his English name Nelson.

“The education I received was a British education, in which British ideas, British culture and British institutions were automatically assumed to be superior,” he writes.

“There was no such thing as African culture.”

Later, he attended the Clarkebury Institute, where, he writes: “For the first time, I was taught by teachers who had themselves been properly educated. Several of them held university degrees, which was extremely rare.”

The college was founded on land donated by the Thembu king Ngubengcuka, illustrating the close ties that existed before apartheid between missions and traditional leaders.

One of the aims of a new book by Prof Linda Chisholm of the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Education Rights and Transformation is to point out these binary perceptions of mission schooling.

Continue reading Fontyn’s review here.

Between Worlds

Book details

  • Between Worlds: German Missionaries and the Transition from Mission to Bantu Education in South Africa by Linda Chisholm
    EAN: 978-1-77614-174-6
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Jon Soske’s Internal Frontiers places India and the Indian diaspora at the center of the ANC’s development of an inclusive philosophy of nationalism

“This paradigm-shifting book locates a radical strain of South African nationalism in the political firmament of postwar Durban. Deeply researched and beautifully written, Internal Frontiers reveals how insurgent intellectuals such as Anton Lembede and Albert Luthuli, influenced by India’s independence movement and the challenges of building solidarity with Natal’s Indian diaspora, conceived a vision of the nation ‘from below’ that affirmed African agency while also embracing a diverse, multi-ethnic political community.”
- Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

In this ambitious new history of the antiapartheid struggle, Jon Soske places India and the Indian diaspora at the center of the African National Congress’s development of an inclusive philosophy of nationalism.

Even as Indian independence provided black South African intellectuals with new models of conceptualizing sovereignty, debates over the place of the Indian diaspora in Africa forced a reconsideration of South Africa’s internal and external boundaries, not least by the ANC thinkers – led by Albert Luthuli – centered in Durban.

There, they developed a new philosophy of nationhood that affirmed South Africa’s simultaneously heterogeneous and fundamentally African character.

In describing this process, Soske makes a major contribution to postcolonial and Indian Ocean studies and charts new ways of writing about African nationalism.
 
 
 
 
Jon Soske is an associate professor of history at McGill University and research associate at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, University of the Witwatersrand. He has coedited three books, One Hundred Years of the ANC: Debating Liberation Histories Today, Apartheid Israel: The Politics of an Analogy, and Ties That Bind: Race and the Politics of Friendship in South Africa.

Book details

  • Internal Frontiers: African Nationalism and the Indian Diaspora in Twentieth-Century South Africa by Jon Soske
    EAN: 978-1-77614-210-1
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These Oppressions Won’t Cease not a mere ‘collection of documents’ but a powerful statement of the adaptation of indigenous thought and knowledge to colonialism

Internationally renowned Robert Ross is arguably the pre-eminent historian of the preindustrial Cape, acclaimed for the meticulousness of his archival research and the expressive clarity of his prose … this is a highly pioneering study; there is really nothing like it in the field …
- Bill Nasson, distinguished professor at the University of Stellenbosch, historian and author of History Matters: Selected Writings 1970-2016 (2016).

This is the first book to allow indigenous inhabitants of the Cape to express their own voices … it unearths material little known both to specialists and to the general public. It is thus not a mere ‘collection of documents’ but a powerful statement of the adaptation of indigenous thought and knowledge to colonialism … This book will swiftly become a classic.
- Nigel Worden, professor in the Department of Historical Studies, University of Cape Town and author of The Making of Modern South Africa: Conquest, Apartheid and Democracy.

The Khoesan were the first people in Africa to undergo the full rigours of European colonisation. By the early nineteenth century, they had largely been brought under colonial rule, dispossessed of their land and stock, and forced to work as labourers for farmers of European descent.

Nevertheless, a portion of them were able to regain a degree of freedom and maintain their independence by taking refuge in the mission stations of the Western and Eastern Cape, most notably in the Kat River valley. For much of the nineteenth century, these Khoesan people kept up a steady commentary on, and intervention in, the course of politics in the Cape Colony.

Through petitions, speeches at meetings, letters to the newspapers and correspondence between themselves, the Cape Khoesan articulated a continuous critique of the oppressions of colonialism, always stressing the need for equality before the law, as well as their opposition to attempts to limit their freedom of movement through vagrancy legislation and related measures.

This was accompanied by a well-grounded distrust, in particular, of the British settlers of the Eastern Cape and a concomitant hope, rarely realised, in the benevolence of the British government in London. Comprising 98 of these texts, These Oppressions Won’t Cease – an utterance expressed by Willem Uithaalder, commander of Khoe rebel forces in the war of 1850-3 – contains the essential documents of Khoesan political thought in the nineteenth century.

These texts of the Khoesan provide a history of resistance to colonial oppression which has largely faded from view. Robert Ross, the eminent historian of precolonial South Africa, brings back their voices from the annals of the archive, voices which were formative in the establishment of black nationalism in South Africa, but which have long been silenced.

Book details

  • These Oppressions Won’t Cease: The Political Thought of the Cape Khoesan, 1777-1879 An Anthology by Robert Ross
    EAN: 978-1-77614-180-7
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Read: Vishwas Satgar discusses The Climate Crisis with the Daily Maverick

Capitalism’s addiction to fossil fuels is heating our planet at a pace and scale never before experienced.

Extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels and accelerating feedback loops are a commonplace feature of our lives. The number of environmental refugees is increasing and several island states and low-lying countries are becoming vulnerable. Corporate-induced climate change has set us on an ecocidal path of species extinction. Governments and their international platforms such as the Paris Climate Agreement deliver too little, too late.

Most states, including South Africa, continue on their carbon-intensive energy paths, with devastating results. Political leaders across the world are failing to provide systemic solutions to the climate crisis.

This is the context in which we must ask ourselves: how can people and class agency change this destructive course of history?

Volume three in the Democratic Marxism series, The Climate Crisis investigates ecosocialist alternatives that are emerging. It presents the thinking of leading climate justice activists, campaigners and social movements advancing systemic alternatives and developing bottom-up, just transitions to sustain life.

Through a combination of theoretical and empirical work, the authors collectively examine the challenges and opportunities inherent in the current moment. This volume builds on the class-struggle focus of Volume 2 by placing ecological issues at the center of democratic Marxism. Most importantly, it explores ways to renew historical socialism with democratic, ecosocialist alternatives to meet current challenges in South Africa and the world.

Vishwas Satgar is a democratic ecosocialist and has been an activist for over three decades. He is an associate professor of International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He edits the Democratic Marxism series for which he received the distinguished contribution award from the World Association of Political Economy.

Kevin Bloom recently discussed this necessary work with Satgar for the Daily Maverick:

I. Collusion

What’s a techno-fix?

For starters, according to The Climate Crisis, a new book that exposes (among other things) how the United Nations is committing the most egregious act of ecocide in the history of our species, a techno-fix is not a change in the status quo. It is not a system change, a foundational change, or in any way an authentic change. A synonym for techno-fix, in this context, would be “carbon trading”. Another would be “offset mechanism”. At the far end of the scale, there would of course be “greening”.

A techno-fix, in other words, is a clever way of deflecting blame for the collapse of the natural world.

“So, contrary to Anthropocene theory, which suggests that we are all responsible for the climate crisis,” writes Vishwas Satgar, the editor and compiler, in the book’s introduction, “it is actually the capitalist system and its class champions that are responsible for the climate crisis. A system that has produced a systemic problem cannot solve the problem, given that this is a carbon-based capitalist civilisation. Nothing short of the fundamental decarbonisation of production, consumption, finance and every life world on this planet will save human and non-human nature.”

If the first two sentences of this passage betray the book as a socialist’s take on the approaching catastrophe, that’s because it is. The title, in fact, is The Climate Crisis: South African and Global Democratic Eco-Socialist Alternatives. For the elite South African reader, this double publishing faux pas (i.e., the ideology and the inelegance of the title) will most likely be seized upon as a reason not to bother. But the elite South African reader, not for the first time in his life, will be missing out. Because, as this book makes clear, while the elite are busy consoling themselves with techno-fixes, the world’s (and South Africa’s) eco-activists are attempting to give us a fighting chance.

Satgar, an associate professor at Wits University and a leading voice in the burgeoning South African food sovereignty movement, has assembled a list of local and international contributors who are well-equipped to divide this “problem” into tolerable, digestible chunks. He opens the volume by acknowledging the “failures of twentieth century socialism”, most notably the anthropocentrism of Marxism – which has led directly to the poisoning of vast swathes of Russia and China – and goes on to note, provocatively, that a renewed democratic eco-socialism faces squarely the suicidal logic of capitalism “through a radical practice and conception of democracy as people’s power, mediated by an ethics to sustain life.”

How this plays out in real terms is the subject of the book’s cascading series of essays.

Continue reading here.

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Launch: New South African Review 6 edited by Gilbert M Khadiagala et al. (27 March)

Despite the transition from apartheid to democracy, South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. Its extremes of wealth and poverty undermine intensifying struggles for a better life for all.

The wide-ranging essays in this sixth volume of the New South African Review demonstrate how the consequences of inequality extend throughout society and the political economy, crippling the quest for social justice, polarising the politics, skewing economic outcomes and bringing devastating environmental consequences in their wake.

Contributors survey the extent and consequences of inequality across fields as diverse as education, disability, agrarian reform, nuclear geography and small towns, and tackle some of the most difficult social, political and economic issues. How has the quest for greater equality affected progressive political discourse? How has inequality reproduced itself, despite best intentions in social policy, to the detriment of the poor and the historically disadvantaged? How have shifts in mining and the fi nancialisation of the economy reshaped the contours of inequality? How does inequality reach into the daily social life of South Africans, and shape the way in which they interact? How does the extent and shape of inequality in South Africa compare with that of other major countries of the global South which themselves are notorious for their extremes of wealth and poverty?

South African extremes of inequality reflect increasing inequality globally, and The Crisis of Inequality will speak to all those – general readers, policy makers, researchers and students – who are demanding a more equal world.

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Raphaël Botiveau provides a compelling narrative of NUM’s powerful history and the legacy of its leadership in Organise or Die?

This is a vivid, lively account … focusing on the agency of real human actors and the events impacting on the South African labour landscape post Marikana. It will both deepen scholarship and provoke much debate.
- Andries Bezuidenhout, associate professor, Department of Sociology, University of Pretoria

A splendid effort, Organise or Die? is a path-breaking new account of the history of NUM. No-one will be able to write about unionisation in South Africa, especially in the mining sector, without engaging with Botiveau’s thoughtful insights and provocative argument.
- T. Dunbar Moodie, author of Going for Gold: Men, Mines and Migration

Organise or Die? Democracy and Leadership in South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers is the first in-depth study of one of the leading trade unions in the country. Founded in 1982, the trade union played a key role in the struggle against white minority rule, before turning into a central protagonist of the ruling Tripartite Alliance after apartheid. Deftly navigating through workerist, social movement and political terrains that shape the South African labour landscape, this book sheds light on the path that led to the unprecedented 2012 Marikana massacre, the dissolution of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) federation and to fractures within the African National Congress (ANC) itself.

Working with the notions of organisational agency and strategic bureaucratisation, Raphaël Botiveau shows how the founding leadership of NUM built their union’s structures with a view to mirror those of the multinational mining companies NUM faced. Good leadership proved key to the union’s success in recruiting and uniting mineworkers and NUM became an impressive school for union and political cadres, producing a number of South Africa’s top post-apartheid leaders. An incisive analysis of leadership styles and strategies shows how the fragile balance between an increasingly distant leadership and an increasingly militant membership gradually broke down.

Botiveau provides a compelling narrative of NUM’s powerful history and the legacy of its leadership. It will appeal to a broad readership – including journalists, students and social sciences scholars – interested in South Africa’s contemporary politics and labour history.

Author bio

Trained in the social sciences (political sociology, African and postcolonial studies) in four countries (France, South Africa, the United States and Italy), Botiveau first worked as a journalist before devoting himself to research and teaching. He received his PhD from the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (France) and La Sapienza Università di Roma (Italy) focusing on trade unionism and negotiation in South Africa’s post-apartheid gold and platinum mining industries.

Book details

  • Organise or Die? Democracy and Leadership in South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers by Raphaël Botiveau
    EAN: 9781776142040
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Launch: The Climate Crisis edited by Vishwas Satgar (15 March)

This volume reminds us that fossil fuel corporations, petro states and ruling elites are the key forces deepening the climate crisis.

Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma have once again demonstrated the ways that extreme weather events disproportionately impact working people, the poor and Black lives. The wealthy, meanwhile, take cover in their wine cellars on private islands. Only systemic change, led from below, holds out the hope for a safe and sturdy future.

This volume features some of the best thinking we have from the climate justice forces who are already mapping the way to that next world.’
— Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough, This Changes Everything, The Shock Doctrine and No Logo

Capitalism’s addiction to fossil fuels is heating our planet at a pace and scale never before experienced.

Extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels and accelerating feedback loops are a commonplace feature of our lives. The number of environmental refugees is increasing and several island states and low-lying countries are becoming vulnerable. Corporate-induced climate change has set us on an ecocidal path of species extinction. Governments and their international platforms such as the Paris Climate Agreement deliver too little, too late.

Most states, including South Africa, continue on their carbon-intensive energy paths, with devastating results. Political leaders across the world are failing to provide systemic solutions to the climate crisis.

This is the context in which we must ask ourselves: how can people and class agency change this destructive course of history?

Volume three in the Democratic Marxism series, The Climate Crisis investigates ecosocialist alternatives that are emerging. It presents the thinking of leading climate justice activists, campaigners and social movements advancing systemic alternatives and developing bottom-up, just transitions to sustain life.

Through a combination of theoretical and empirical work, the authors collectively examine the challenges and opportunities inherent in the current moment. This volume builds on the class-struggle focus of Volume 2 by placing ecological issues at the center of democratic Marxism. Most importantly, it explores ways to renew historical socialism with democratic, ecosocialist alternatives to meet current challenges in South Africa and the world.

Vishwas Satgar is a democratic ecosocialist and has been an activist for over three decades. He is an associate professor of International Relations at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He edits the Democratic Marxism series for which he received the distinguished contribution award from the World Association of Political Economy.

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“Few peers, and no superiors” – Jacklyn Cock’s Writing the Ancestral River a lyrical and trenchant biography of the Kowie river

Jacklyn Cock has penned a love letter that is as hopeful as it is elegiac. Drawing on family connections to the Kowie that go back to the 1820 settlers, Cock asks big questions about the relationship between nature and culture, between humans and other forms of life, and about the place of rivers in human history. It is only by rethinking our relationship to nature that we can save ourselves.
JACOB DLAMINI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

Jacklyn Cock has made the story of a small and fairly insignificant river into a metonym of the biological glories of South Africa and the ecological devastation they have endured, and continue to endure. The result is at once lyrical and trenchant. As a history rooted in the landscape of South Africa, it has few peers, and no superiors.
ROBERT ROSS, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF AFRICAN STUDIES, LEIDEN UNIVERSITY

Writing the Ancestral River is an illuminating biography of the Kowie River in the Eastern Cape. This tidal river runs through a formative meeting ground of peoples who have shaped South Africa’s history: Khoikhoi herders, Xhosa pastoralists, Dutch trekboers and British settlers. Their direct descendants in the area still interact in ways that have been decisively shaped by their shared history.

This is also a natural history of the river and its catchment area, where dinosaurs once roamed and cycads still grow. The natural world of the Kowie has felt the effects of human settlement, most strikingly through the development of a harbour at the mouth of the river in the 19th century and a marina in the late 20th century, which have had a decisive and deleterious impact on the Kowie.

People are increasingly reconnecting with nature and justice through rivers. Acknowledging the past, and the inter-generational, racialised privileges, damages and denials it established and perpetuates, is necessary for any shared future. By focusing on this ‘little’ river, the book raises larger questions about colonialism, capitalism, ‘development’ and ecology, and asks us to consider the connections between social and environmental injustice.
 
Jacklyn Cock is a professor emeritus in the Sociology department at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She has written extensively on environment, gender and militarisation issues and is best known for Maids and Madams: A Study in the Politics of Exploitation (1980).

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Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics a “marvelous work of political psychology”

The historical nuance and meticulous analysis make Gibson and Beneduce’s Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics more than a work on Fanon’s psychiatric thought. It’s a political history of psychiatry both as a colonial and anti-colonial practice. The former is its unfolding under colonial conditions. The latter is the fact of agency among psychiatrists and psychologists from below … It’s a marvelous work (in its own right) of political psychology and even better: it addresses the lacunae in other works – namely, their failure to address colonization, race, and sexuality.
— Lewis R. Gordon, Professor of Philosophy and Africana Studies, University of Connecticut

The revolutionary and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon was a foundational figure in postcolonial and decolonial thought and practice, yet his psychiatric work still has only been studied peripherally. That is in part because most of his psychiatric writings have remained untranslated.

With a focus on Fanon’s key psychiatry texts, Frantz Fanon, Psychiatry and Politics considers Fanon’s psychiatric writings as materials anticipating as well as accompanying Fanon’s better known works, written between 1952 and 1961 (Black Skin, White Masks; A Dying Colonialism, Toward the African Revolution, The Wretched of the Earth).

Both clinical and political, they draw on another notion of psychiatry that intersects history, ethnology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. The authors argue that Fanon’s work inaugurates a critical ethnopsychiatry based on a new concept of culture (anchored to historical events, particular situations, and lived experience) and on the relationship between the psychological and the cultural. Thus, Gibson and Beneduce contend that Fanon’s psychiatric writings also express Fanon’s wish, as he puts it in The Wretched of the Earth, to “develop a new way of thinking, not only for us but for humanity.”

Nigel C. Gibson is Associate Professor of Postcolonial Studies at Emerson College. He is author of Fanon: The Postcolonial Imagination (2003) and Fanonian Practices in South Africa (2014), and the editor of Rethinking Fanon (1999) and Living Fanon (2011). He is the editor of the Journal of Asian and African Studies.

Roberto Beneduce is Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of Turin. He is the founding director of the Frantz Fanon Center in Turin. His recent publications include a collection of Fanon’s psychiatric writings in Italian, Decolonizzare la follia, Scritti sulla psichiatria coloniale (2011), and L’histoire au corps (Embodying History) (2016).

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