Category Archives: South Africa

November 20, 2013, 9:42 am

Letter to the ASA Opposing the Proposed Academic Boycott of Israel

182377754_400x400_FrontTo: John Stephens, Executive Director of the American Studies Association

Subject: Opposition to proposed resolution before the National Council of the ASA for an academic boycott of Israel.

Dear John,

Please count me as an ASA member who opposes the proposed sanctions of Israel’s academic institutions and, by logical extension, the scholars associated with those institutions, that has been put before the Council by the Academic and Community Activism Caucus. Scholars of any nation ought to be free to travel, publish and collaborate across borders: I consider this to be a fundamental human right, and so does the United Nations. We in the American Studies Association cannot defend some of those human rights and disregard others. (more…)

December 24, 2010, 4:28 pm

This Time Last Year We Were In South Africa On The Western Cape

We had just finished one of the most exhausting, exhilarating things we had ever done:  working at a  camp outside Johannesburg for teenagers whose lives have been affected by HIV.  There is not a day we do not talk about what we did or saw there, and probably not a week that goes by without one of us saying: “When we go back…”  I learned so much on our trip, and at camp, that sometimes it felt like my brain was moving faster than I could process the information.

I loved it. 

By the time we landed in Wilderness, we were ready to put our feet up, lay in a store of food at the Pick n’ Pay, buy some new books (I had given away most of mine, including ones I had not yet read, to some of the campers) and rest for a good long time.  I had lost about ten pounds at camp from working hard, and getting dramatically fewer calories, since there was no alcohol and no snacks other than what my friend…

Read More

June 11, 2010, 12:22 pm

Bafana Bafana! Radical World Cup

As those of you who were reading Tenured Radical last fall know, our household (minus the travel-averse Portuguese Water Dog) spent several months living and working in South Africa. Therefore, although work will not be entirely suspended today chez Radical, tasks will be chosen with an eye to their compatibility with World Cup football. I am also wearing my orange National Sea Rescue tee shirt for luck. I haven’t gone mad, however: good wishes aside, Bafana Bafana (which roughly translates from the Zulu as “The Little Guy”) has small hope of beating Mexico today.

Life is not a Matt Damon movie, my friends. And football is not rugby. Thank god.
However, football does offer more options than a Matt Damon movie: if South Africa loses, I will switch hemispheres and root for Brazil, which is easy to do, because I don’t give a rat’s a$$ for the United States team.

In other news, can we…

Read More

January 5, 2010, 9:46 am

Political Football: A Review of Invictus

We are in the last week of our two-month South African adventure. This is the stage of a long trip when the desire to squeeze every last drop out of the experience is in active competition with the urge to just throw away all your filthy clothes, get on a plane and go home. Now.

And at this moment, your favorite Radical got a nasty stomach flu, and was unable to do anything at all.

Except go to the movies, where we saw Invictus. This is the new film directed by Clint Eastwood that stars Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African national rugby squad, the Springboks. It memorializes the year after the historic election in which Mandela took office backed by a resounding majority of South Africans, most of whom had voted for the first time in their lives. It is a self-consciously uplifting movie, in which swelling music cues…

Read More

January 1, 2010, 9:37 am

Happy New Year From Cape Town

For me, January 1 is not only the beginning of a new year, it is when I heave a sigh of relief that the holiday season is over.

Last night, after having drifted off to sleep around 10:15, I woke up as a party at a nearby apartment was chanting “Five! Four! Three! Two! One…..Happy New Year!” I threw on a shirt and stuck my head out the window. Fireworks went off over at the V & A Waterfront and individuals lit Roman candles in the street, sending colorful balls of flame sixty feet into the air. It was about 65 degrees, clear and breezy. I thought about going home soon; about my new South African friends and how I will stay connected to them; about my rowing buddies with whom I have celebrated the last two New Year’s Days by racing in sub-freezing weather; and about the St. Anthony’s Society back in Shoreline, that puts on an outstanding fireworks display outside my bedroom window…

Read More

December 24, 2009, 7:32 am

Is It? Or, On Christmas Eve, A Historian Puzzles Over What Happened At Camp

Several days ago my partner and I completed two weeks working in a South African summer camp for teenagers who have been affected by HIV. A few campers were actually infected and being treated with antiretrovirals (ARVs); most had lost at least one parent and other close relatives to the disease. As our stay progressed, the question of who in South Africa’s mostly black townships and rural villages has not been affected by HIV was very present in my mind. Current statistics are that 1 in 8 South Africans are infected, although this is an estimate that many people will tell you is too low. As South African journalist Jonny Steinberg points out in his recent book, Three Letter Plague: A Young Man’s Journey Through A Great Epidemic (Cape Town: Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2008), the stigma attached to a diagnosis and the erratic quality of health care extended to the poor means that many…

Read More

December 7, 2009, 3:45 pm

Letter From Johannesburg: Bafana Bafana

We arrived in Johannesburg yesterday and, although we did not visit the City Bowl on our first trip to Cape Town three weeks ago, for the first time since we came to South Africa it feels like we are in the Big City with Big City People. We are staying until tomorrow at the Crown Plaza Rosebank, which is in a suburb (think Westwood in LA or Park Slope in Brooklyn, rather than an American-style suburb) developed in the 1950s, as the apartheid regime was in the swing of creating separate living zones for “Europeans” and “non-Europeans.”

On the way into town from the airport I asked the driver why the South African football team is called Bafana Bafana. He replied, “`Bafana’ means a little guy who fights and win against the big guys. People started calling them that because in apartheid we could not compete with other teams around the world so we fell behind. So now we are …

Read More

November 18, 2009, 8:44 am

And Now For Something Completely Different: A Journey To South Africa

Over the next two months, I will be writing you from the other side of the world: the Radical family has decamped to South Africa. It’s what we call travel, as opposed to vacation: a working trip, where time is set aside for study, learning, and writing, as well as relaxation and seeing some sights. For several weeks we will be in the Western Cape, mostly in and around Cape Town. In December, we will head up to the Johannesburg area to work for a few weeks, and then circle back down along the southern coast (what is called “The Garden Route.” ) We will return to Cape Town for several weeks prior to our return to the United States. We will be in South Africa for a total of two months.

In this initial post, and in those to follow, I am trying to guard against sweeping statements and observations. Because I am an academic, and trained to do precisely that, I am sure that I will fail. …

Read More