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Launch: Mothers by Jacqueline Rose (4 December)

Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty is guided by a simple argument: that motherhood is the place in our culture where we lodge – or rather bury – the reality of our own conflicts, of psychic life, and what it means to be fully human.

Mothers are the ultimate scapegoat for our personal and political failings, for everything that is wrong with the world, which becomes their task (unrealisable, of course) to repair.

To the familiar claim that too much is asked of mothers – a long-standing feminist plaint – Rose adds a further dimension.

She questions what we are doing when we ask mothers to carry the burden of everything that is hardest to contemplate about our society and ourselves.

By making mothers the objects of licensed cruelty, we blind ourselves to the world’s iniquities and shut down the portals of the heart.

To demonstrate this vicious paradox at work, Rose explores a range of material: investigative writing and policies on motherhood, including newspaper reports, policy documents, and law; drama, novels, poetry, and life stories past and present; social history, psychoanalysis, and feminism.

An incisive, rousing call to action, Mothers unveils the crucial idea that unless we recognise what role we are asking mothers to perform in the world, and for the world, we will continue to tear both the world and mothers to pieces.

Event Details

Dan Wiley's Intimate Lightning is the first book-length study of the difficult and elusive poet, Sydney Clouts

About the book:

Intimate Lightning is the first book-length study of a poet who, though still frequently anthologised, has fallen into some obscurity.

Yet Sydney Clouts (1926-1981) was acknowledged by many during his lifetime as the strongest poet of his generation, albeit a difficult and elusive one.

His Cape Town-inspired poetry fizzes with energy, an adventurous vivacity of image, a capacity for delight, an authentic humility, yet an authoritative sense of cerebral depth.

Reading Clouts attentively is still both a poetic delight and a heady intellectual challenge.

This study is biographically-framed, but is centrally an appreciation of the poetry: “The work is the thing!” Clouts himself urged.

The exploration is supported by interviews with family, friends and colleagues, but draws most importantly on archival sources: his letters, notebooks, and some 1700 pages of drafts that illuminate his methods.

It unpacks his essential themes, follows up his wide and eclectic reading, explores his relation to the troubled politics of the apartheid era, and offers an explanation of the poetry’s philosophical underpinnings. Intimate Lightning finally pays proper attention to a man who devoted himself unremittingly to poetry.

“It is politically and intellectually inappropriate to publish this book”

- Anonymous reviewer

About the author

Dan Wylie is Professor of English at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa.

Book details

Township Violence and the End of Apartheid studies the conflicts between the ANC and the IFP that took place in SA's industrial heartland surrounding Johannesburg

A powerful re-reading of modern South African history following apartheid that examines the violent transformation during the transition era and how this was enacted in the African townships of the Witwatersrand.
— Roger Southall, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

In 1993 South Africa state president F.W. de Klerk and African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime’.

Yet, while both deserved the plaudits they received for entering the negotiations that led to the end of apartheid, the four years of negotiations preceding the April 1994 elections, known as the transition era, were not ‘peaceful’: they were the bloodiest of the entire apartheid era, with an estimated 14,000 deaths attributed to politically related violence.

This book studies, for the first time, the conflicts between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party that took place in South Africa’s industrial heartland surrounding Johannesburg. Exploring these events through the perceptions and memories of combatants and non-combatants from war-torn areas, along with security force members, politicians and violence monitors, offers new possibilities for understanding South Africa’s turbulent transition.

Challenging the prevailing narrative which attributes the bulk of the violence to a joint state security force and IFP assault against ANC supporters, the author argues for a more expansive approach that incorporates the aggression of ANC militants, the intersection between criminal and political violence, and especially clashes between groups aligned with the ANC.

Gary Kynoch is Associate Professor of History at Dalhousie University. He has also written We are Fighting the World: A History of the Marashea Gangs in South Africa, 1947-1999 (2005).

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Touched by Biko investigates the lives of key men and women who were part of Biko's political sphere

Touched by Biko: The interviews by Andile M-Afrika investigates the lives of key men and women who were part of Biko’s political sphere.

It reveals common traits in the lives of the young black thinkers who were university students in the 1960s and 1970s. These interviews offer personal insights on their interactions with Biko, on what Biko meant to each of them and the deep sense of loss they were left with when Biko was killed.

Contributions represent the trends and tendencies of a political generation that Biko led. The interviews reflect a Black Consciousness viewpoint of direct relevance to our current political environment in South Africa. There is a sense of how a part of who Biko was, continues to reside in the minds and the hearts of those who worked closely with him.

The voices brought together are those of

  • Dr Chapman Palweni
  • Dr Goolam “Geez” Abram
  • Dr Saths Cooper
  • Adv Chris Mokoditoa
  • Bokwe Mafuna
  • Prof Ranwedzi Nengwekhulu
  • Bishop Manas Buthelezi
  • Dr Nthato Motlana
  • Sumboornam Moodley
  • Hester Joseph
  • Prof Fatima Meer
  • Mrs Sally Motlana
  • Rev Basil Manning
  • Khaya Biko
  • Sonwabo Yengo
  • Hlaku Rachidi
  • Rev Pat Ncaca
  • Harry Mashabela
  • Duma Ndlovu
  • David Thebehali
  • Dr Ali Mazrui
  • Voti Samela
  • Thabo Ndabeni
  • Zithulele Cindi
  • Nkutsoeu Motsau

Author Andile M-Afrika was born and raised in a small township in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. In Touched by Biko he writes about his memories of Ginsberg, the black township across the Buffalo River from central King William’s Town which was also home to Steve Bantu Biko. In 2011 he published The Eyes That Lit Our Lives.

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Wits University Press announces Open Access Programme

It’s international Open Access week 22-28 Oct 2018 and Wits University Press’ Open Access Programme is well under way.

In accordance with Wits University’s commitment to Open Access and showcasing publicly financed research, Wits University Press is making some publications freely available for downloading.

Titles in subject fields ranging from African history, (These Oppressions Won’t Cease: An anthology of the political thought of the Cape Khoesan, 1777-1879: A selection of source documentation in Dutch), film studies, (Gaze Regimes: Film and Feminisms in Africa), economic law (Competition Law and Economic Regulation: Addressing Market Power in Southern Africa), to psychology (Traumatic Stress in South Africa), urban geography and planning (Changing Space, Changing City: Johannesburg after apartheid – Open Access Selection) and other scholarly fields can now be downloaded for free by any researcher on the planet with an internet connection.

A full list of Wits Press OA (Open Access) titles can be seen here. The list includes monographs as well as multi-authored and edited volumes.

A report in July this year from one of our Open Access partners, Knowledge Unlatched, provided very interesting information on where in the world Wits Press’ books are downloaded. In Africa, scholars from Nigeria and South Africa are leading the way. Globally most downloads, according to this early report, were of The African National Congress and the Regeneration of Political Power and Remains of the Social: Desiring the Post-Apartheid.

Wits University Press also partners with OAPEN and is the most recent and only African publisher to be invited to participate in Project MUSE’s new Open Access (OA) Books Program, launched in October 2018.

Andrew Joseph, Digital Publisher at Wits University Press, commented on the statistics reported: “In general there’s a steady increase in usage with the most downloads in Europe, Australia, Canada and the US; and interestingly not that much (yet) in the global south.”

According to the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) by the end of 2017 there were already 10 000 books listed as Open Access.

Wits University Press will expand and develop this programme with further Open Access titles due in 2019.

Death and Compassion - an original & highly informative study of scientific and nonscientific accounts of elephant ethics and ontology

Dan Wylie combines a lifetime of experience and meditation with specialist knowledge of debates in ecocriticism and animal studies.
— F. Fiona Moolla, Department of English, University of the Western Cape

Death and Compassion is an original and highly informative analysis of scientific and nonscientific accounts of elephant ethics and ontology.
— Kai Horsthemke, Chair of Philosophy of Education and Systematic Pedagogy, KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Germany

Elephants are in dire straits – again.

They were virtually extirpated from much of Africa by European hunters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but their numbers resurged for a while in the heyday of late-colonial conservation efforts in the twentieth. Now, according to one estimate, an elephant is being killed every fifteen minutes.

This is at the same time that the reasons for being especially compassionate and protective towards elephants are now so well-known that they have become almost a cliché: their high intelligence, rich emotional lives including a capacity for mourning, caring matriarchal societal structures, that strangely charismatic grace.

Saving elephants is one of the iconic conservation struggles of our time. As a society we must aspire to understand how and why people develop compassion – or fail to do so – and what stories we tell ourselves about animals that reveal the relationship between ourselves and animals.

This book is the first study to probe the primary features, and possible effects, of some major literary genres as they pertain to elephants south of the Zambezi over three centuries: indigenous forms, early European travelogues, hunting accounts, novels, game ranger memoirs, scientists’ accounts, and poems.

It examines what these literatures imply about the various and diverse attitudes towards elephants, about who shows compassion towards them, in what ways and why.

It is the story of a developing contestation between death and compassion, between those who kill and those who love and protect.

Dan Wylie is a lecturer in the English Department at Rhodes University, Grahamstown. He has published three books on the Zulu leader Shaka; a memoir, Dead Leaves: Two Years in the Rhodesian War; two books in the Animal Series for Reaktion Books, Elephant and Crocodile, and several volumes of poetry.

Book details