“Don’t Squeeze a South African Dry!”

28 May

object archives

HUGH CROSFIELD

“Each trade agreement, each product bought, each bank loan, each new investment is another brick in the wall of our continued existence.” (South African Prime Minister John Vorster in the Johannesburg Star 26.8.72)

The snow rolled up six feet on either side of the road. As the car swept into a cleared driveway it was as if a giant white blanket had dropped from the sky and feathered itself upon the land for as far as eyes could see. But the land, it seemed, would not be subdued. Timber, trunks, glass and tiles pushed their way upwards to emboss their form on the darning and rip vertical holes filled with colours, textures and reflections invisible to Google Earth. It was here, in one of these holes under the snow, that I began to learn some of the historical geographies of the above image. I wanted to understand how…

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Introducing ‘racism here apartheid there’

17 Mar

Europe, by Mazisi Kunene

apocalypse fire

Europe, your foundations

Are laid on rough stone.

Your heart is like cobwebs

That dry in the desert.

Your children fill us with fear:

They are like the young of the puff adder

Who devour the flesh of their parent.

Once I believed the tales.

Once I believed you had breasts

Over-flowing with milk.

I saw you rushing with books

From which the oracles derive their prophecies.

I heard you in the forest

Crying like wolves,

Breaking the bones of your clans.

I know the hardness of your visions:

You closed the doors

And chose the bridegroom of steel.

You chose her not to love

But because she alone remained

Dedicated to silence.

From her you made your prophecies

And summoned the oracles:

You laughed at the blind men

But you yourself were blind,

Struggling in this great night.

Children have inherited the fire.

They blow its flames to the skies

Burning others in their sleep.

What will the sun say?

The sun will laugh

Because it burnt out cradles from age to age.

Image

 Mazisi Kunene, (1930-2006) and Mathabo Kunene

Poem translated from Zulu. Kunene, M (1975) ‘Europe’, in Soyinka, W (Ed.), Poems of Black Africa. Ibadan: Heinemann, pp. 20

Margaret Thatcher and ‘Constructive Engagement’: Buying into Apartheid

22 Apr

(Un)constructive Engagement

Over the next few months I will publish a series of posts on anti-apartheid grassroots activism in South Africa and Europe from 1978-91. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll probably guess that the anti-apartheid and antiracist organization, Boycott Outspan Action, will figure somehow. But for now I’d like to introduce the series with a discussion on what was in many ways the counter-position to these forms of activism; the policy of ‘constructive engagement’. And through implementing this policy, I show how a historiography of Margaret Thatcher’s war on trade unions and labour movements might be extended from the UK to South Africa. By steadfastly adhering to ‘constructive engagement’, Thatcher actively pursued an influential international agenda of undermining South African trade unionism and supporting racial oppression and subjugation.  Anti-apartheid activists across Europe and the USA were incensed by this vote of confidence from various governments and multinationals for apartheid, and they were quick to hone in on capitalist motives. In Holland, Boycott Outspan Action’s lawyer, Willem van Manen, took no prisoners in satirizing Thatcher’s rather compromised position in ‘constructive engagement’:

'Constructive Engagement'. Van Manen 1988. Courtesy of du Plessis

‘Constructive Engagement’. Van Manen 1988. Courtesy of Boycott Outspan Action

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‘What Does Apartheid Mean To You?’: Video Interview with BOA Leader Esau du Plessis

23 Feb

In this brief video extract the former leader of Boycott Outspan Action communicates some personal meanings of apartheid:

Review of Michael Carolan’s ‘Embodied Food Politics’

24 Jan

Happy 2013 folks.  May the year bring lots of warmth and happiness to you all.

Apologies for my recent inactivity on this site. This PhD thing has been calling out for maximum attention. But to tie things over until I can get out of my slippers and dressing gown, here are some extracts from a book review that I’ve recently published in Social & Cultural Geography. The subject is embodied food politics and the author is Michael Carolan, an environmental sociologist – currently Professor at Colorado State University.

Carolan Image

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Social Politics and the ‘Home Front’ of Consumer Boycotts

3 Dec

During a recent BBC radio four program that hosted Rob Harrison, the editor of the ethical consumer magazine, I was left feeling a little frustrated as people phoned in to talk about  consumer boycotts (Call You and Yours – 21st November). The host, Julian Worricker, did a fine job in covering plenty of ground in the time allocated. However, there seemed to be a skepticism over what consumer boycotts could actually achieve. This became particularly apparent when Worricker suggested that it might be impossible to know if anti-apartheid boycotts achieved tangible success. Admittedly the show was tailored to fit the consumer topic de rigueure* (boycott action and divestment over tax evasion, by the likes of Google, Amazon and Starbucks), but I felt that a little bit of history would have gone a long way. Sarah Emily Duff, a South African historian,  does an innovative job summarizing some of this history on her website on food and power – tangerineandcinnemon.

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From Outspanning to Inspanning: Outspan Citrus and the Remarkable Inspan Girls

5 Nov

Late nineteenth century print of an outspan expedition in the Traansvaal. (Hullmandel & Walton’s Patent Lithotint)

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Jennifer McLaren

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