This week we host a very timely joint seminar with African Studies and Anthropology, welcoming historian Saul Dubow. Professor Dubow will be speaking on ‘South Africa, 1960-1: From ‘Wind of Change’ to ‘Armed Struggle’ this Wednesday 22 January at 5:00 pm in the Danford Room. All are welcome, and there will be drinks.
Nelson Mandela burning his pass book, which the apartheid government required all black South Africans to carry (c. 1952). Click image for source.
Abstract of Professor Saul Dubow’s talk:
The recent death of Nelson Mandela has occasioned an extraordinary outpouring of public media comment, much of which accords weakly with the existing historical scholarship. In his career, Mandela made two very big decisions: the first, in 1960, was to embark on the armed struggle in South Africa; the second, in the mid-1980s, was to enter into a process of political negotiations with the apartheid government. This talk focusses on Mandela’s first decision, and suggests that the ANC’s decision to embark on revolutionary change might have delayed rather than hastened achievement of a political solution. My talk focusses on the year 1960-1 when Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, was formed. Much of the historiography of this period has represented the decision as unavoidable in the wake of the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960. In doing so, the relentless tempo of events over the course of 1960-1 is tidied up and telescoped into a narrative arc so as to occlude other possibilities. My talk seeks to integrate two increasingly divergent historiographies – one African nationalist, the other Afrikaner nationalist – which mirror each other to the extent that neither sees any alternative to armed resistance (in the case of the former) and state crackdown (in the case of the latter). By reading both across and against the grain of these historiographic traditions, I shall point to other possible outcomes. In particular, I highlight the political fluidity of this moment and ask whether there were any serious prospects of some form of `national convention’ taking place – particularly if prime minister had died at the hands of his attempted assassin in April 1960.
More information on Saul Dubow’s research can be found at:
Saul Dubow’s forthcoming book, to be published by Oxford University Press this spring/summer is Apartheid, 1948-1994