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Black South African writing against apartheid, 1959–1983

Philden Ndlela, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation seeks to argue that the vast majority of Black South African writers were no neutral sitters on the fence under apartheid rule. Each generation of Black writers assiduously and consciously deployed different genres and techniques in recording the plight of their people during years and years of subjugation under Nationalist rule. However, for each generation of committed Black South African writers the objectives were essentially consistent: to inspire, record and aid revolt against an unjust system which had been universally condemned as a crime against humanity. This dissertation is a story about the engagement of Black South African writing with its political context. It is also a journey back of sorts, because the Black writers who are at its core take us back to different phases and seasons of our shameful past as a fractured society. They take us through the consequences of the Land Act of 1913, which is universally regarded as one of the world's infamous acts of social engineering; they take us back to the notorious Bantu Education Act and its tragic consequences. In the early years of consolidating democracy in South Africa, there must be a galvanizing and self-critical vision of the goals of our society. Such a vision in turn requires a clear-sighted grasp of what was wrong in the past. It is indeed a blind progeny that acts without indebtedness to the past. The composition and orientation of Black writers who constitute this dissertation are eclectic. The dissertation draws heavily on the writings of world-renowned luminaries such as Es'kia Mphahlele, Wally Serote, Mbulelo Mzamane and Njabulo Ndebele. This dissertation falls squarely under the Citizenship Studies rubric and seeks to argue further that the Nationalists' vision of citizenship was seriously flawed because it was exclusive, violent, sectional and rooted in bigotry and racism. The task of reconstructing the post-apartheid society is going to involve massive acts of interpretation in which the historical memory will be a crucial factor.

Subject Area

African literature|African history|African Americans

Recommended Citation

Ndlela, Philden, "Black South African writing against apartheid, 1959–1983" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3136759.