Young Women against Apartheid
Title Details

15th January 2021

242 Pages

15.60 x 23.40 cm

1 line. Illustrations

Imprint: James Currey

Young Women against Apartheid

Gender, Youth and South Africa's Liberation Struggle

by Emily Bridger

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
Provides a new perspective on the struggle against apartheid, and contributes to key debates in South African history, gender inequality, sexual violence, and the legacies of the liberation struggle.
While there have been many books on South Africa's liberation struggle during the 1980s and early 1990s, the story of the involvement of African girls and young women has been all but missing. This book tells their story, analysing what life was like for African girls under apartheid, why some chose to join the struggle, and how they navigated the benefits and pitfalls of political activism. These were women who, as teenagers and secondary school students,made an unconventional choice to join student organizations, engage in public protest, and take up arms against the state. They did so against their parents' wishes and in contravention of societal norms that confined girls to the home and made township streets dangerous places for female students. They participated in both non-violent and violent forms of political action, including attending marches and rallies, throwing stones or petrol bombs at police, and punishing suspected informers and other offenders, and even joining underground guerrilla armies. Thousands of these young women were eventually detained, interrogated, and tortured by the apartheid state. At the heart of this book lie the life histories of the female comrades themselves, who in interviews construct themselves as decisive actors in South Africa's liberation struggle.
Primarily a work of oral history, this book is not only concerned with what female comrades did, but equally with how these women remember and narrate their time as activists: how they reconstruct their pasts; relate their personal experiences to collective histories of the struggle; and insert themselves into a historical narrative from which they have been excluded. Through exploring these women's memories, this book serves as an important corrective to South Africa's male-centric literature on violence, and provides a new gendered perspective on the wider histories of township politics, activism, and conflict.

Emily Bridger is a Senior Lecturer in Global and Imperial History, University of Exeter. A social and cultural historian of modern South Africa, her work has been published in the Journal of Southern African Studies, Journal of World History, and Gender & History.
Introduction
African Girlhood under the Apartheid State
The School: Becoming a Female Comrade
The Home: Negotiating Family, Girlhood and Politics
The Meeting: Contesting Gender and Creating a Movement
The Street: Gendering Collective Action and Political Violence
The Prison Cell: Gender, Trauma and Resistance
The Interview: Reflecting on the Struggle
Conclusion
""Where were the girls and young women?" asks Emily Bridger in this powerful and timely revision of the historiography of South Africa's liberation struggle. As Bridger shows so vividly, girls and young women were everywhere in the struggle against apartheid. They were at the school, in the home, at the meeting, on the street, and in the prison cell. They were in the struggle. While standard accounts of the struggle for liberation are content to depict it as a male-only affair, with women playing nothing more than a supportive role, Bridger takes the reader past those sterile accounts to show us women as activists, leaders and risk-takers. But this was no easy task for girls and young women. For girls and women to participate in the struggle for freedom, they had to fight against both their elders and apartheid. They had to fight first against their fathers for the right to be involved in the struggle before they could take on the apartheid state. These girls and women, presented here in their own voices, made an unconventional choice. But they needed to do that to fight for their liberation and to be in a position today to help Bridger re-imagine the history of the liberation struggle. As Bridger shows so brilliantly, this book is not yet another account of what happened in the past; it is much more important than that. It is about girls and young women making history in the past and then narrating that history in the present. A truly remarkable book." Jacob Dlamini

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Title Details

15th January 2021

242 Pages

1.56 x 2.34 cm

1 line. Illustrations

Imprint: James Currey