The South Africa Reader is an extraordinarily rich guide to the history, culture, and politics of South Africa. With more than eighty absorbing selections, the Reader provides many perspectives on the country's diverse peoples, its first two decades as a democracy, and the forces that have shaped its history and continue to pose challenges to its future, particularly violence, inequality, and racial discrimination. Among the selections are folktales passed down through the centuries, statements by seventeenth-century Dutch colonists, the songs of mine workers, a widow's testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and a photo essay featuring the acclaimed work of Santu Mofokeng. Cartoons, songs, and fiction are juxtaposed with iconic documents, such as "The Freedom Charter" adopted in 1955 by the African National Congress and its allies and Nelson Mandela's "Statement from the Dock" in 1964. Cacophonous voices—those of slaves and indentured workers, African chiefs and kings, presidents and revolutionaries—invite readers into ongoing debates about South Africa's past and present and what exactly it means to be South African.
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Clifton Crais is Professor of History and Director of African Studies at Emory University. He is the author of Poverty, War and Violence in South Africa; Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography (with Pamela Scully); and The Politics of Evil: Magic, Power and the Political Imagination in South Africa.
Thomas V. McClendon is Professor of History at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. He is the author of White Chief, Black Lords: Shepstone and the Colonial State in Natal, South Africa, 1845–1878 and Genders and Generations Apart: Labor Tenants and Customary Law in Segregation-Era South Africa, 1920s to 1940s.Review:
"Clifton Crais and Thomas V. McClendon have put together a fascinating and informative book. From the earliest voices of colonial times through the struggle against apartheid and current efforts to find a genuinely democratic, nonracial, diverse identity, the voices are here: the colonizers and the despoilers, the powerful and the powerless, the dissenters and the resisters, the determined and the courageous, the destroyers of hope and the dreamers of dreams. South Africans cannot but recognize themselves. This is a book to study, reference, and return to again and again." (Allan Aubrey Boesak, South African liberation theologian and anti-apartheid activist)
"This incredibly thorough volume reveals the complex history of South Africa. Through compelling first-person narratives, fiction, and other historical accounts, The South Africa Reader offers a picture of a complicated and often confounding country that is a study in 'trauma and resilience.' It grapples with the legacy of the past in ways that can help present and future generations build a more promising tomorrow." (Charlayne Hunter-Gault, award-winning journalist, former CNN Johannesburg Bureau Chief, and author of New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa’s Renaissance)
If there’s one book that succeeds in drawing the many strands of South Africa’s rich political history together into a single volume, this is it. . . . The South Africa Reader makes for gripping reading and a comprehensive treatment of the country’s exciting past and tumultuous present – a must for any eager student of South Africa.” (Jason Hickel LSE Review of Books)
“Crais and McClendon masterfully provide a comprehensive understanding of the history, culture and politics of South Africa. Many of the selected texts and accounts were written by prominent persons who had a lasting impact in South Africa. However, what makes this book a real gem is the inclusion of less-known authors and the many cross-references. Hidden within the numerous personal accounts, the reader will find references to the larger historical context and transnational connections beyond the thematic focus of a particular text. This makes it a must- read for students interested in South Africa and a useful sourcebook for scholars working onSouth Africa.” (Sarah Hanisch African Studies Quarterly)
“The South Africa Reader is a remarkably rich collection of primary and secondary material that will make an excellent textbook for courses in South African studies classes and an immensely handy and valuable reference work for teachers of South African literature." (Simon Lewis Research in African Literature)
“This important book ... brings together primary sources covering a wide range of South African history and culture. Instructors and students will find much to consider. They will also discover why South Africa and South Africans represent such a fascinating microcosm of our world.” (Kenneth Wilburn Journal of African History 2015-11-01)
"In a nutshell, there are many good things in this book which force the reader to commend and applaud the two editors who organised it, as well as the various authors who contributed chapters.... I unreservedly recommend this book to historians, political scientists, politicians, cultural experts, and policymakers, as well as legal and sports practitioners. Each of these professions would find something valuable from this manuscript." (Bheki R. Mngomezulu South African Historical Journal 2016-01-22)
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