Year: 2010
Author: Seekings, Jeremy
Unit: SSU
Journal: South African Historical Journal
Volume: 62
Issue: 1
Pages: 7 - 28
DOI: 10.1080/02582471003778300


The study of the 'liberation' struggle in South Africa is unusual in that, with respect to the final phase of struggle in the 1980s, the literature was dominated by an 'indigenous' scholarship produced in whole or in part inside the country and, initially, during rather than after the period of struggle. This article examines three phases in this indigenous scholarship, beginning in the 1970s and 1980s with a phase of research that emphasised the local sources of political protest. In the early 1990s this gave way, partially at least, to a phase of 'critical indigenous' scholarship, focused primarily on the (mis)conduct of the 'youth'. Finally, beginning in the late 1990s and continuing into the early 2000s, there was a phase of 'activist-oriented indigenous' scholarship, focused on political leadership and networks. Each phase was defined in large part by the political context, which substituted for a theoretical or comparative framework for analysis. They were also distinguished by shifting methodologies and sources. While the 'voices' of participants in protest and organisation were emphasised in these three phases, different voices were given prominence in each of these. The challenge for scholars now is to integrate diverse voices into an overall picture, whilst recognising that voices are incomplete, that some potential voices are likely to remain silent, and that making sense of voices requires going beyond them.

Keywords: Liberation; historiography; African National Congress; United Democratic Front