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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volume 38, Issue 1, 2014

South Africa Special Edition

Issue cover
Cover Caption: "The People Shall Govern"



[no abstract]

Essays / Articles Part I: Re-understanding Biko, Mandela and Memory

Stephen Biko and the Torture Aesthetic

Stephen Biko’s death in South Africa in 1977 under the apartheidregime has become an iconic event for the global human-rightscommunity for whom he is an international symbol. In the aestheticrealm—in works of art in a wide variety of forms including poetry,drama, popular song, film, and visual arts—his memory has beenkept alive for over three decades. This essay focuses on three popular,transnational works of art that lay claim on global audiencesto participate in an idealized universal citizenship founded on anobjection to torture that is both the assumption and motivation fortheir art. Peter Gabriel’s 1980 song “Biko,” Richard Attenborough’s1987 film “Cry Freedom,” and Saira Essa and Charles Pillai’s 1985documentary play Steve Biko: The Inquest each in its own formalregister (song, film, play), memorializes torture to produce an iconographyof political martyrdom that I will call the torture aesthetic.Biko iconography stands here as a particularly potent example of alarger trend within aesthetic practices in which a historical exampleof brutality is invoked to activate audiences and to raise concernswithin human rights discourse itself.

Communism and the Tutelage of African Agency: Revisiting Mandela’s Communist Ties

African liberation movements and Communist parties often collaborated in their efforts to remove the yoke of colonialism and imperialism from the African continent. This cooperation is not evidence of Communist parties dictating the affairs and decisions of these liberation movements. This inference may be applied to the African National Congress (ANC), Nelson Mandela, and the South African Communist Party (SACP). While the ANC and Mandela worked with Communists and the SACP, Mandela himself was not a Communist, nor did the SACP manipulate or dictate his actions. Mandela worked with Communists, and Communists joined the  ANC, where they assumed high positions within that party. Both the ANC and SACP came to realize that their goals of removing colonialism and imperialism were identical and that they thus needed to work together. This essay looks at the relationship and symbioses between Mandela and the SACP, as well as popular media’s perceptions of this relationship.

Essays / Articles Part II: Understanding Post-Apartheid South Africa

Youth: “Born Frees” and the Predicament of Being Young in Post-Apartheid South Africa

If South Africa’s intellectual history is defined in generational terms then it is possible to speak of a “generation gap” in the history of political and social ideas. Whereas in the 1940s, the elitist and quiescent leadership of the African National Congress was jostled into action by the “Young Lions” of the Youth League; and whereas the literary opposition to apartheid was led from within the Afrikaner/Afrikaans community by the Sestigers—“the Generation of theSixties”—“youth” in South Africa today is not synonymous with political and philosophical innovation. This paper will explore the problems of “youthfulness” and “rejuvenation” in South African political thought by describing the ways in which the “Born Frees” could conceive an intellectual “manifesto,” as both an alternative to the post-apartheid “death of ideas” and as a revision of the historiography on “youth” that has been the foundation of narratives about the young since the 1976 Soweto uprising.

The South African Woman and the Immigrant Lover: Myths and Dynamics of Cross-Border Love Relationships in a Post-Apartheid South African Community

Love relationships between black South African women and immigrant men have not been given adequate attention by researchers of migration, refugee studies, and those concerned with anti-immigrant attitudes and violence. In this paper, based on ethnographicr esearch conducted in the Alexandra township of Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2009, I argue that cross-border love relationships provoke sexual and racial jealousies between the two sets of manhood: South African and black African immigrant. These are eventually expressed in anti-immigrant violence, such as the events that occurred in May 2008 mainly perpetrated by men, exhibit characteristics of masculinisation, racialisation and sexualisation. Intermittent poverty and unemployment also play a role in this drama. Incidents of hatred based on competition for women and resultant resentment by men who lose out deepen. I contend that in order to fully comprehend this kind of violence, one needs to understand the dynamics of love relationships between black South African women and black African immigrant men and pervasive myths like immigrants stealing jobs and taking women, that are common in the community.