Hippies, radicals and sounds of silence : cultural dialectics at two South African universities, 1966-1976.
This study explores the impact of the counter culture on students at two Anglophone universities in the 1960s and 70s. It focuses on the social and historical differences that predisposed English speaking youth to metropolitan based cultures. It explores this in the context of a lack of identity with the dominant culture of apartheid. The study examines the method of transmission, absorption, translation and incorporation of the counterculture and the New Left. The factors that highlighted the differences between South African students and their counterparts abroad are seen not only in their access to technology but also in the nature of their relationship to power both political and educational. The importance of understanding what bred different responses to similar stimuli assists in understanding the process in which the global became local. It is argued here that the attraction of the counterculture lay in the broader cultural scope it gave to expressions of difference and resistance as a response to the rigid and continuous expansion of punitive measures by the apartheid government. The persistence through the 1960s of a liberal framework is examined in the context of a response to these measures as well as a failure to move beyond the racial foregrounding of the political system. The influences of events in the USA, UK and France in 1968 are seen in the context of their importance in South Africa as a catalyst to practical and theoretical change. The significance of individuals as translators of the discourses of the New Left is paralleled in examinations of South African musicians whose lyrics and compositions carried both the ideas of the counter culture as well as expressed responses and issues shared by their audiences. The importance of the coalescing of both the New Left and the counterculture are evident in the early 1970s. Students adopted a Marxist framework within which to analyse South Africa, and the methods of the New Left in France in seeking alliances with workers. This practical approach was an example of the global becoming local and introduced those with access to privileged white education into a reexamination of the role of education in changing society. The counterculture expressed itself in the adoption of both cultural and educational methods of focusing on change as a response both to students relationship to power as well as to the emphasis of the 1960s on a broader more individually expressed ability to embrace change and new values. The study concludes that the framework of the New Left when employed in redefining South African history was central to a process of both economic and cultural change within the country. The absence of a strongly expressed identity suggests the widespread appeal of the central values of the counterculture which emphasized distance and disaffiliation from the dominant culture. The opportunity offered by this position is seen as a response to the political expressions of a racially defined student body against a less obvious but significant change in the definition and role of tertiary education and cultural institutions.