In June 1976 political demonstrations in the black township of Soweto exploded into an insurrection that would continue sporadically and spread to urban areas across South Africa. In their assault on apartheid the youths who spearheaded the rebellion attacked and often destroyed the state institutions that they linked to their oppression: police stations, government offices, schools, and state-owned liquor outlets. In Soweto alone during the first days of the revolt protestors smashed and burned eighteen beerhalls and a similar number of bottle stores; as the rebellion spread more were destroyed. This study sets out to demonstrate that liquor outlets were not simply convenient symbols of oppression. The anger that launched gasoline bombs into beerhalls across South Africa had specific origins in deep and complicated struggles over the control of alcohol production and consumption in South Africa.
Conflict over alcohol has continuously intruded upon the lives of the black residents of southern African towns, cities, and labor compounds and upon the rural communities to which these people traced their origins. Yet the subject has received little systematic scholarly attention until now. In Liquor and Labor in Southern Africa scholars explore the complex relationship between alcohol use and the emergence of the modern urban-industrial system. In examining the role of alcohol in social control and the state, they also reveal the vibrant subcultures nurtured in beerhalls and underground shebeens and expose the bitter conflicts over alcohol that run along the fault lines of age, gender, class, and ethnicity.
Jonathan Crush is a Canada Research Fellow and an associate professor of geography at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. He is the author of The Struggle for Swazi Labour, 1890-1920, and coauthor of South Africa’s Labor Empire: A History of Black Migrancy to the Gold Mines. More info →
Charles Ambler is an associate professor and chair of history at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is the author of Kenyan Communities in the Age of Imperialism and articles on the history of eastern and central Africa. More info →
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One of South Africa’s most serious problems is the large number of youths in the black townships who have been exposed to an incredible depth and complexity of trauma. Not only have they lived through severe poverty, the deterioration of family and social structures, and an inferior education system, but they have also been involved in catastrophic levels of violence, both as victims and as perpetrators. What are the effects of the milieu? What future is there for this generation?
Katutura, located in Namibia’s major urban center and capital, Windhoek, was a township created by apartheid, and administered in the past by the most rigid machinery of the apartheid era. Namibia became a sovereign state in 1990, and Katutura reflects many of the changes that have taken place. No longer part of a rigidly bounded social system, people in Katutura today have the opportunity to enter and leave as their personal circumstances dictate.
A Burning Hunger shows the human catastrophe that plagued generations of black Africans in the powerful story of one religious and law-abiding Soweto family. Basing her narrative on extensive research and interviews, Lynda Schuster richly portrays this remarkable family and in so doing reveals black South Africa during a time of momentous change.
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